imagining a vibrant Pittsburgh

If you read or watch the news, you already know that unemployment is an issue. Or is it? In the 10-county Pittsburgh region, there are more than 30,000 job openings with good pay and no one to fill them. Sound far-fetched?

It’s not, according to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. The problem is, those jobs require a little specialized training that many people don’t have in industries the workers may never have thought of—or even heard of. Thanks to the retirement of many Baby Boomers and continued economic growth, those jobs are multiplying rapidly in such sectors as manufacturing, retail/hospitality, information technology, energy and finance. The challenge is to get the word out, especially to mid-career professionals.

That marketing is the job of, the conference’s website, which has become a hub for recruiting top-notch skilled workers to Pittsburgh. Launched in June, the site includes information on open jobs and details about living in our region. As of now, it has 34,999 jobs in its database.

But it also provides what it calls a “neighborhood” of individuals who represent the various backgrounds of people who could consider calling Pittsburgh home. Those neighbors share from a menu of descriptors—“entrepreneur,” “experienced professional,” “city-centric,” “young professional” and even “outdoor enthusiast.” The key is for the potential new resident to link up with like-minded people in the hopes of realizing the assets they value can be found in Pittsburgh.

“Advance Your Career, Build a Life You’ll Love,” is the slogan of the site, which is divided into three sections: Work, Live and Play. It lists available jobs, one third of which require a college degree and two-thirds of which need some sort of specialized training.

The site, which was a year in development, is original. Some other cities have sites that promote the area and list jobs but none has such a comprehensive database of information, says director Meredith Fahey. Beautiful photography and video are also hallmarks of ImaginePittsburgh.

The site also seeks to increase the diversity of Pittsburgh.

Eleven percent of our population is minorities, compared to 32 percent of the U.S. population, says Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference.

Since ImaginePittsburgh’s inception, Orchard Drive resident and nonprofit consultant Rekha Shukla has been one of those ambassadors, representing “experienced professional,” (she has several decades of work under her belt), “global citizen” (she has traveled and lived abroad extensively) and “relocating partner,” (she moved to Pittsburgh with her family when her husband, Greg Victor, took at job as an editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. All those insights make Shukla, who has lived everywhere from Wisconsin and New York City to Thailand, uniquely suited to helping others realize the benefits of relocating to Pittsburgh.

Selected for the volunteer gig by Mt. Lebanon resident Philip Cynar, the senior communications specialist for the conference, with whom she worked with a decade ago on the Mt. Lebanon Community Relations Board, Shukla was eager to help even if she wasn’t sure what she was getting into at first. “I don’t know that I really quite got it,” she says. But once she started attending some of the events and seeing the video vignettes about other “neighbors,” she realized what a valuable tool the site would grow to be. “There’s just a lot of energy,” she says of the project.

“I think the idea is to maybe re-imagine what it is that you thought Pittsburgh was,” she says, acknowledging if she had ever considered Pittsburgh before living here at all, she likely thought of the smoke and industry of the city’s past.

Rekha Shukla with husband Greg Victor
Rekha Shukla with husband Greg Victor

Rekha, also one of mtl’s crew of volunteer bloggers, enjoys living in Mission Hills, comparing it to a place almost like Brooklyn, where you can walk everywhere you need to go. In fact, the Shukla/Victor household only has one car—Victor takes the T to work. They enjoy museums and parks, sporting events and cultural opportunities.

Cynar says Shukla is a good fit for the project because “she embraces the lifestyle that makes Pittsburgh work,” he says, noting her strong desire to see Pittsburgh become more diverse.

Since it signed on, the website has had 7,000-plus unique users, who have performed 108,000 job searches.

Fahey says over the next year, the site will continue to showcase the region, dispel myths and help analyze supply and demand in the job market. A holiday promotion will encourage ex-pats to “come home” for the holidays and spread the word to others.

Despite living all over the world, Shukla is happy to have lived here for the last 16 years and raised two boys in a city with a heritage of classical arts, nice parks and highly ranked educational institutions as well as plenty of room to grow and develop in the future. “It’s turned out to be a great city.”

To watch Shukla’s video, click here .