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Research Questions

  1. What kinds of jobs are needed for and supported by the strong sectoral growth in Pittsburgh's technology sector?
  2. What investments should be made to continue propelling the region's STF sectors into the future?

Over the past decade, more than 10 billion dollars has been invested in Pittsburgh tech companies, with more than 3.5 billion invested in 2021 alone. With the context of such strong sectoral growth in mind, RAND Corporation researchers set out to characterize the science- and technology-focused (STF) workforce ecosystem in the Pittsburgh region and suggest policy changes and investment opportunities to future-proof the ecosystem.

Researchers sought to define STF occupations in a regionally relevant way, characterize the current state of the STF ecosystem, identify barriers and facilitators to participation in the STF ecosystem, and develop strategies to facilitate the STF ecosystem's continued growth. To achieve these goals, the research team used qualitative and quantitative methods. The research team selected Boston and Nashville as peer regions to further contextualize quantitative findings.

Researchers found that Pittsburgh has a sizable share of STF employment relative to the United States and to Nashville. However, additional investments and changes to policy can safeguard the region's strengths and support Pittsburgh as a flourishing science and technology hub. Recommendations include improving market conditions to support expansion of the STF workforce; supporting and engaging communities of color and other locally underrepresented groups; building out regionally relevant, data-backed career pathways; and crafting and implementing a regional STF strategy.

Key Findings

  • Pittsburgh has a sizable STF workforce (18 percent of regional employment).
  • The counties surrounding Allegheny County are key contributors to the STF ecosystem, but their residents may face some barriers, such as a lack of transportation options.
  • Sub-baccalaureate STF employment plays a vital role in STF sectors and the broader regional economy, creating additional jobs in the region at a higher rate than non-STF jobs in Pittsburgh and STF jobs in peer regions Boston and Nashville.
  • The region's large and highly concentrated health sector may limit spillover benefits and suppress wages. Pittsburgh's health workers make about 10 percent less than the national average for their occupations, which is not offset by a lower cost of living.
  • STF wages in the region allow homeownership, but wage levels fall behind those in other regions, even after adjusting for cost of living.
  • Data challenges hinder communication of career pathways and verification of student outcomes. Pennsylvania lags Kentucky, West Virginia, and Texas in tracking student education and workforce outcomes.
  • The long-term regional implications of remote work in STF jobs are unclear.
  • Regional educational providers are well positioned to prepare students for STF skills that will grow in demand.

Recommendations

  • Create the market conditions needed to expand the STF workforce.
  • Support and engage communities of color and other locally underrepresented groups to expand the local STF workforce and meet the ecosystem's evolving needs.
  • Build regionally relevant, data-backed career pathways.
  • Craft and implement a regional STF strategy.

Research conducted by

This study was supported by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The research was conducted within the RAND Lowy Family Middle-Class Pathways Center, a part of RAND Education and Labor.

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