- Pittsburgh launched its third Pittsburgh Passport Summer Program to engage and retain young professionals by showing college students and alumni in the area what it is like to work and live in the city and helping them connect to local resources.
- The organizers highlighted the increasing racial diversity among the program participants. During the kick-off program in 2019, 32% of the 1,500 participants identified themselves as color students. Last year that number rose to around 46% from 1,700 participants.
- Pittsburgh Passport is one of many programs that have popped up across the country in recent years to help prevent the brain drain when students and young professionals leave in what they think are more attractive cities. Unlike initiatives in cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Savannah, Georgia, Pittsburgh’s talent retention program does not offer any financial incentives.
Pittsburgh Passport aims to motivate young professionals to stay in the area based on economic, social, and lifestyle opportunities. It helps college students connect not only with potential employers, but also with other students, community members, and social opportunities. Social and recreational activities contribute to a person’s general wellbeing and happiness and can influence the decision to live in a particular place.
“We realized that we were losing more college students than we should, and that was mainly because they didn’t know what the opportunities were,” Alison said Treasurer, Senior Director of Talent at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the nonprofit behind Pittsburgh Passport. “What we found from focus groups and surveys was that, unsurprisingly, the students spent most of their time on campus. We really wanted to help them get into town and explore and understand what it would be like to live, work and play here as a pro. “
The free program includes tech talks, job networking, art exhibitions, and outdoor recreational activities. Although last year’s program was completely virtual due to the pandemic, there will be both face-to-face and virtual events this year.
“This program gives interns the opportunity to meet other people who may not work in their industry,” said Eric Boughner. Chairman of the Board of Directors of BNY Mellon Pennsylvania and Global Head of Treasury Services Business Development, Chair of the Talent Steering Committee of the Allegheny Conference. “It gives them a richer and better college experience that I think matches the vibrancy of the entire Pittsburgh business world.”
The program’s numerous stakeholders set it apart, Boughner said. First, a few dozen companies got together and decided not to apply for individuals who would stay in the Pittsburgh area after graduation, but to work together to keep more college talent in the area. A case study by PwC finds that 40,000 students graduate from colleges and universities in the Pittsburgh area each year, but half of them move to other cities after school.
“The battle for talent, the battle for the best and brightest, is tough,” said Boughner. “Every city and region needs to figure out what their edge is in this competition. In Pittsburgh, we believe it is collaboration between the corporations, universities, foundation, art community, sports teams and everything in Pittsburgh.”
Some cities try monetary incentives or advertising campaigns to attract workers. Last fall, GO Topeka launched an initiative to offer teleworkers up to $ 10,000 for a home purchase or $ 5,000 for a one-year lease in the Topeka, Kansas area. Northwest Arkansas Council has promised to invest $ 1 million within six months to build attractions Remote STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) talents through a pilot program that offered participants a $ 10,000 scholarship and a choice of a bike or free membership in local cultural institutions. And Las Vegas launched a multimedia campaign to attract remote workers, particularly technicians from San Francisco and Seattle. move there.
Other cities – including Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Atlantic City, New Jersey – that lost young professionals during the pandemic have reached out to Pittsburgh for best practices on how to start their own retention programs. “It made us realize that we had a unique program that worked and involved college students,” said Treaster.
Pittsburgh’s population has been declining for years. A recent Wall Street Journal article notes that these losses were almost entirely due to the number of black residents, while the city’s white population has weakened. PwC’s case study suggests that Pittsburgh is less diverse than other cities – around two-thirds white, according to recent data from the US Census Bureau – and that makes it difficult for some students from different backgrounds to imagine a future there. Pittsburgh Passport seeks to foster connections that reflect a variety of identities, and organizers are touting the program’s commitment to various student groups.
“We see this as a really important pipeline for our employers to access diverse talent and help our workforce become more regionally diverse,” said Treaster.