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Linda Topoleski, vice president of Workforce Development and Operations at the Allegheny Conference, at 11 Stanwix in downtown Pittsburgh.

Marshall Drive resident Linda Topoleski is vice president for workforce operations and programs at the Allegheny Conference, where she directs talent attraction and retention initiatives, including the ImaginePittsburgh.com regional jobs portal, and is involved in programs to better align the education and training pipeline to meet demand. Topoleski has provided marketing, communications and strategic planning expertise to corporations, nonprofits and community organizations and has earned regional and national public relations and advertising industry awards.

What jobs will be in demand in Pittsburgh in five years? The Allegheny Conference released a report, Inflection Point: Supply, Demand and the Future of Work in the Pittsburgh Region, where we are projecting a workforce shortage of about 80,000 people between now and 2025 due to Baby Boomer retirements and growth. So that means more opportunity for everyone here.  But certain occupations will be in greater demand, such as Healthcare, IT/Computer Science, Engineering and Production, and Business/Financial Services.

What education/training will be needed for those jobs? It’s surprising to many people that more than half of all jobs that are advertised do not require a four-year degree, but they do require some type of training or certification for the skills that will be in demand.  More parents and students need to think in terms of lifelong learning and skill development so college or a training program are just one part of their path.  In our hottest growth industries, like autonomous vehicles, there is a need for computer scientists and mechanical engineers, but there’s also a need for highly skilled technicians to strip down and rebuild those cars with computer equipment.

What is Pittsburgh’s biggest asset in luring young talent to move here? We’re really a center of global innovation in robotics, healthcare, autonomous vehicles and advanced manufacturing.  Those opportunities naturally attract top talent from around the world.  But this region has so many assets that young talent is interested in:  lower cost of living, biking/hiking trails, easy access around the city, quality schools and great restaurants. 

What is your advice for boomerangers—those who grew up here and would like to return. There’s never been a better time to boomerang back to Pittsburgh.  Housing is still relatively affordable, and the job market is hot.  People who relocate here cite the quality of life for raising a family as a key reason.  And many people who would like to boomerang back say they miss the family aspect and caring neighbor attributes that are really part of who we are as a community.

photography: Martha Rial