How The Allegheny Conference Plans To Attract, Retain Young Talent In The Pittsburgh Region

Belong. Become. Be. campaign launches to appeal to young professionals in hopes they build their futures here.
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James Myers, senior director for business investment with the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, summed up the new Belong. Become. Be. initiative by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development in five words.

“Our talent is the future.”

The Allegheny Conference is building upon its mission of improving the economic future and quality of life in the Pittsburgh region with its new campaign that was launched Wednesday, 412 Day, after a year of research and collaboration.

The organization has worked closely with nearly 100 employers, colleges, arts and cultural organizations, outdoor recreation and nonprofits “for a full-on approach to change the course of the region’s trajectory when it comes to population growth,” according to the campaign’s background.

The initiative kicked off on 412 Day Wednesday in Oakland’s Schenley Plaza with free T-shirts, popcorn and other Belong. Become. Be. swag. A 412 marquee for photo ops was also set up in the plaza, an idea brainstormed by Olivia Benson, COO of the Forbes Funds.

Linda Topoleski, vice president of talent strategy and programs with the Allegheny Conference, says the campaign is an expansion of the Pittsburgh Passport, a summer program launched by the Allegheny Conference in 2019 to retain more college students and recent graduates. 

“We are collaborating with employers in the region to better connect them with college students,” she explains. “There are 40,000 graduates in the region, and half of them race to live and work in another city.”

Eric Boughner, chairman of BNY Mellon Pennsylvania, says as a major employer in the region, BNY Mellon is invested in attracting and retaining top talent.

“We want future employees to build careers, not just have jobs,” he adds. “They can do that and make a global impact right here in Pittsburgh. BNY Mellon touches roughly 20% of the world’s investable assets and our Pittsburgh teams play important roles in that work. Doing business in over 100 countries and with colleagues from a wealth of cultures, we come together to develop inventive solutions to modern-day problems for our clients. While we’re our country’s oldest bank, we’re also proud that Fortune just named us one of America’s Most Innovative Companies. Our wealth of open roles in Pittsburgh offer the region’s talent opportunities to start a career and make their mark in our company and our community  — while enjoying Pittsburgh’s uniquely livable lifestyle.”

He notes BNY Mellon felt it was important to support the initiative because of its career opportunities in leading edge sectors.

“Additionally. the region is perceived as eclectic with a vibrant arts and food scene and a wide range of neighborhoods and things to do.  And finally, it’s a place that is large enough to be of significance, but small enough that young talent can make an impact in the community — and that’s very important to them,” he says.

Topoleski adds the conference has learned that college graduates are looking for three key themes in their search for employment and settling down — they want to control their career trajectories, an eclectic community with a range of cultures, amenities, experiences and neighborhoods and want to be in a place where they can have community impact.

“We want them to know that the area has plenty of jobs and is a vibrant community; we just haven’t been selling ourselves as aggressively to this young talent,” Topoleski says.

“Pittsburgh needs people – more people – to grow into its future as an even more dynamic and thriving region. Attracting newcomers to the region and retaining talent with roots already here is at the core of this new campaign. For natives and newcomers alike, the message we’re driving home is that the Pittsburgh region is your community – a place where you can belong and feel connected, personally and professionally,” adds Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Stefani Pashman.

The campaign launch comes on the heels of a report released last month by Pittsburgh Works Together, based on data by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, that shows Allegheny County has lost more than 50,000 jobs over the last five years. The county has also experienced a population drop of more than 12,000 residents between July 2021 and July 2022.

“It’s important to emphasize that we are a regional organization, so our talent attraction and retention initiative extends to all of southwestern Pennsylvania (the 10-county region) — not just Allegheny County, Topoleski says.

“The county experienced job losses in most industries; three-fourths of this happened in industries paying less than the county average with most of it occurring in retail, accommodation and food service, administrative and support services, other services and health care. For the most part, these are not industries we are targeting with our talent attraction and retention initiative, with the exception of health care, which is being challenged by labor shortages,” she adds.

Topoleski notes the population decrease has been a trend for the last two decades.

“That is part of the reason why we are doing this. It takes a whole community to turn this around, and part of it will be keeping people here and bringing people here.”

Katie Nagy Allegheny Conference Intern Poses With 412 Marquee In Schenley Plaza

Katie Nagy, a junior economics and political science major at the University of Pittsburgh, serves as an intern with the Allegheny Conference and has worked extensively with the Pittsburgh Passport program.

“Our summer series of events has reached college students from all over the world,” she says. “It’s aimed at engaging college students and young professionals. We have a database of students that we communicate with regularly and the program is sponsored by employers in the region (like BNY Mellon and PNC Bank).”

Pittsburgh Passport hosts a kickoff at Stage AE on the North Shore and holds a number of free events through the summer, including Pirates games, yoga classes and volunteer opportunities to help college students meet and network with others.

The program also will host Golden Hour events this summer that include free outdoor excursions and museum admission, as well as other events to showcase the arts community.

“It really helps to connect them with potential employers and showcase what the region has to offer,” Nagy adds.

Pittsburgh Passport even hosts virtual events that have reached students across the globe in countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Kenya, Italy and Spain. 

Topoleski notes Pittsburgh Passport participants have expressed how beautiful the Pittsburgh area is, and are excited about the vast opportunity to get outdoors. She said kayak adventures on the three rivers, along with the many hiking and biking trails, are a major draw for participants.

Nagy, a South Fayette native, says she plans to stay in the region and work in banking or finance.

“I like the community here and I like that there is a lot to do in the city that isn’t exclusive to just being on campus,” she adds.

One of her favorite activities is attending Pirates games at PNC Park.

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Sara Holzer, senior director of business engagement with the Allegheny Conference, notes, “We’ve never had a marketing campaign for college students and young professionals before. We want to reach them about the opportunities that are in the region, and let them know that this is a place where they can reach their full potential.”

Joe Zeff, president of Joe Zeff Design, says while he grew up in Pittsburgh, he left and lived in New York City for 30 years.

“I came back and had no idea Pittsburgh had so many great things going on,” he says. “I made it my goal to tell people about it and hopefully, I can help people find their next place and I hope they realize Pittsburgh is it.”

Benson, the Forbes Funds COO, adds she is excited for the initiative.

“The more people we can get excited to stay here, work here and start their families here, the better it is for all of us,” she says.

Michael Harding, vice president of business investment for the Allegheny Conference, says the region hasn’t been proactive enough in reaching young professionals and promoting the opportunities the area has.

“There’s been so much disconnect, especially post-pandemic,” he says. “A lot of students have shared that they didn’t know some of these opportunities existed. We’re too humble as a region; it’s time to step center stage and start talking about it more.”

Categories: The 412