PIT CEO: What Drives Pittsburgh’s Economic Engine? It Starts with People

By Christina Cassotis

Published June 16, 2023

Read Time: 3 mins


Editor’s Note: This column first appeared in the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Automation. Digitalization. Efficiency. These are some of the prevailing solutions we’re seeing as the nation, and the global aviation industry, continues to grapple with labor, manufacturing and supply chain shortages, all of which makes sense as long as we’re including a critical component of those solutions: people.

We still need people. And we need them as key inputs to a continuous workforce development pipeline that builds powerful people-driven systems to optimize today’s digitalization and our economy.

As we build the Terminal Modernization Program (TMP), we’re building a smart airport to improve the passenger experience, which means the experience of those working at the airport is key. The design of the building, the systems and the service-delivery are handled by people. And the end-users, the passengers, are people. It is people that enable industries, particularly aviation, to thrive.

Much more than a building, our new, smart terminal is a portal and a platform connecting people to anything and everything that’s important to them. We want everyone to benefit from it – building it, traveling through it, working at it. The heart of it is people. We feel a responsibility to ensure those who are involved in building it represent the entire region.

Pittsburgh has a lot to offer. Organizations like our partners Partner4Work, Builders Guild and Trade Institute of Pittsburgh provide job skills training and opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers. Unions need more skilled workers for the many construction projects, like ours, that are underway in the region.

Workers continue building out the new terminal’s tree columns on its future ticketing level during construction on May 11, 2023. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

On June 26, ACAA will launch a new workforce collaborative, called PIT2Work, a talent development pipeline linking interested workers to on-the-job training, developed according to union trade requirements, and, at the end of the six-week program, providing pre-certification for local union apprenticeships. The entire effort, which is at no cost for participants – in fact trainees receive a stipend – will take place at the TMP, with on-site training provided by our partners. We’re starting with the construction industry while it’s happening on our campus. The goal is to expand into other industries here: hospitality, advanced manufacturing, cargo and logistics, transportation, and more.

PIT2Work is an economic win for the region, creating access to immediate opportunity. Its innovative training-to-work approach will also reduce barriers for people who aren’t as well represented as they could be on our campus, ultimately expanding the regional workforce and the skills provided by that workforce.

Equal access to opportunity is ACAA’s goal. PIT2Work establishes a clear link between prospective workers and jobs. There’s a way for everyone in our region to get involved – employers, educators, community organizations and more.

What’s more, instead of reinventing the wheel and creating a new program that competes with our partners, we’re bringing these resources together so that airport opportunities are accessible to people across the region and can be used across sectors.

PIT2Work complements ACAA’s new childcare center, opening this summer for airport employees. Our work with PRT increases the number of 28X busses serving the airport. Childcare and transportation are the big barriers to work and we’re doing our part to address both.

Without a skilled workforce that represents the region we cannot maximize our opportunity or impact, even with the most advanced technology. I’m thrilled the region is a global research & development leader. ACAA contributes to that. Let’s keep the innovation going to make the region a leader in people development, too.

Christina A. Cassotis is CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority which operates Pittsburgh International Airport and Allegheny County Airport.

Go to Top