Monday, July 6, 2009

Where The Jobs Are

I can't stress enough the energy boom going on in Western Pennsylvania. Both conventional and alternative companies are thriving. News about new Marcellus Shale investments are streaming in on a daily basis:

“Given the increased competition in the Appalachian basin’s Marcellus shale region from a number of well capitalized publicly traded oil and gas companies, we chose a capital provider that has both relationships and skills that could add value to East Resources,” said Terrence M. Pegula, founder, president, and chief executive officer.

East Resources has one of the top acreage positions—more than 650,000 net acres—in the southwestern and northeastern regions of the Marcellus shale trend, particularly in northeastern Pennsylvania where it is focused on ramping up development.

Company officials said Marcellus shale represents the most promising gas opportunity in North America, extending from the southern tier of New York through western Pennsylvania into the eastern half of Ohio and south through West Virginia. These deposits are close to existing interstate pipelines supplying US population centers in the Northeast.

A big problem for energy companies is finding enough skilled labor to do the job. Creative uses of available talent is informing a boomerang migration:

One thing most older workers have that younger rivals lack, however, is a network of contacts, said Bill Byham, CEO of the Kirwan Heights office of global human resources firm Developmental Dimensions International.

"That's their big advantage," said Byham, author of the book "70: The New 50."

"They have a solid network of people that can help get them get jobs. You just don't want them to be too proud to use it."

Such connections are what brought Dan Soroka, 60, back to the Pittsburgh area. A Youngstown native who worked for Westinghouse in the 1970s, he moved onto a machine tool company in Elmira, N.Y. But the erosion of U.S. manufacturing and the company's downsizing made it an increasingly difficult place to work.

"No matter how much you want to get involved in your work, when you have people walking out the door, it's hard to carry on," he said. His work as a global sourcing manager for Westinghouse "is invigorating. It's dynamic. ... They've hired more people here than my old company did in 10 years."

He realizes his situation is unique. He has friends and former colleagues who have been job hunting for months and even years. Their unwillingness to relocate is curtailing their chances.

"If you're not willing to move, then your number of possible employers is very small," he said.

While manufacturing in the Southern Tier of New York is struggling, Westinghouse in Southwestern PA is hiring. But the "unwillingness to relocate" is exacerbating the worker shortage. For Greater Youngstown, all of this is going on in its own backyard. Now is a good time to move back.


  1. When you use the phrase "labor shortage" or "skills shortage" you're speaking in a sentence fragment. What you actually mean to say is: "There is a labor shortage at the salary level I'm willing to pay." That statement is the correct phrase; the complete sentence, the intellectually honest statement.

    If you start raising your wages and improving working conditions, and continue to do so, you'll solve your “shortage” and will have people lining up around the block to work for you even if you need to have huge piles of steaming manure hand-scooped on a blazing summer afternoon.

    Re: Shortage due to retirees: With the majority of retirement accounts down about 50% or more, people entering retirement age are being forced to work well into their sunset years. So, you won’t be getting a worker shortage anytime soon due to retirees exiting the workforce.

    Okay, fine. Some specialized jobs require training and/or certification, again, raise your wages and improve benefits! You’ll incentivize people to self-fund their education so that they can enter the industry in a work-ready state. The attractive wages, working conditions and career prospects of technology during the 1980’s and 1990’s was a prime example of people’s willingness to fund their own education.

  2. You might find the following article of interest: