Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC)

Community College of Allegheny County

03/12/2010 -- CCAC study identifies emerging careers in region

Press Release

PITTSBURGH—A study commissioned by the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) spotlights industries that are expected to show the greatest growth in Greater Pittsburgh in the years to come. The study, conducted by the Hill Group of Carnegie, identified “Nexus Industries” that combine high-growth fields with information technology and manufacturing.

“This study provides a window on the future of Pittsburgh’s workforce,” said CCAC President Alex Johnson, PhD. “CCAC continues to be proactive in seeking out future opportunities and opening them for our students.”

The project arose as part of the mission of the CCAC–Allegheny County Workforce Alliance to strengthen workforce development initiatives in the Pittsburgh region. The Heinz Endowments has generously provided support for workforce development initiatives of the Workforce Alliance.

The Hill Group conducted both qualitative and quantitative research to identify, evaluate, confirm and examine high-growth and emerging industries as well as the skill sets they will require. The three industries identified in the study—healthcare and life sciences; energy; and financial services and insurance—were seen to have the most potential growth and economic impact, especially as they connected with the information technology and manufacturing sectors.

While all three are expected to grow, the study found that the employment outlook was best in the energy and healthcare fields. Energy is expected to grow most quickly, while healthcare is forecasted to generate the greatest number of new jobs. Growth in financial services, the study concluded, is likely to recover lost employment during the economic downturn and will not require significantly more workers.

The Nexus concept means that employers will be looking for workers with skills straddling two worlds. They must be familiar with the terms, concepts and operations of the high-growth industry but also skilled in aspects of information technology or manufacturing. For example, as electronic medical records expand, a medical practice will need employees who understand medical terms and how the healthcare field operates but are also able to configure a server or program a database.

Employers also said that “soft skills”—critical thinking, the ability to learn quickly and work well with others—and work experience were also important in employees’ success. This means that those looking to enter a second career may have an edge over people fresh to the job market.

This kind of hybrid training is becoming increasingly necessary. Someone with experience in manufacturing, for example, may want to return to school for training in energy-related jobs to be able to work where the two fields merge. Someone who has experience in healthcare could train in information technology to fill those emerging jobs.

“The study brings to light the acute need for training programs that prepare students with skills and competencies beyond traditionally defined occupation requirements,” said Chris W. Brussalis, Hill Group CEO and Carnegie Mellon Heinz School professor. “These high-growth, Nexus industries will need workers with a blending of skills that bring both industry-specific knowledge and competency in information technology or manufacturing.  Students trained with this “liaison skill set” will not only bring best practices to their companies, but will be more efficient and effective problem solvers and better equipped to meet the demands of today’s firms and those of tomorrow.”

CCAC already plays a key role as a connector between industry and workers, and it will continue to do so in these emerging fields. Many of the programs that can prepare individuals for the identified emerging industries are already in place. Through the Workforce Alliance, the college will continue to work with employers and organized labor to identify other training opportunities in the Nexus Industries.

“It’s important that people realize that these careers will require an interdisciplinary approach,” said Charles Blocksidge, PhD, executive director of the Workforce Alliance. “Focusing on just one field is not enough. Fortunately, CCAC offers a wide variety of options for students to build their skills in these Nexus areas.”

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About CCAC
The Community College of Allegheny County is the largest institution of postsecondary higher education in Pennsylvania. The college serves 30,000 credit students through 170 degree and certificate programs and offers thousands of lifelong learning non-credit and workforce development courses to 35,000 students annually. Incorporating a learning-centered environment committed to the future of the region, CCAC continues to expand its reach through innovative programming and accessible instruction offered via convenient day, evening, weekend and online courses. With four campuses and six centers serving Allegheny County and surrounding communities, CCAC endeavors to fulfill its mission to provide affordable access to quality education and offer a dynamic, diverse and supportive learning environment that prepares the region’s residents for academic, professional and personal success in our changing global society.