First Lady Jill Biden stood on the construction site of the new terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport last week and praised the workforce development initiatives underway, calling them “revolutionary” for workers.
Biden flew into Pittsburgh to see firsthand the progress being made on the Terminal Modernization Program and learn about the airport’s innovative PIT2Work workforce development curriculum—launched earlier this month—and on-site childcare center.
“Employers and local leaders are expanding access to childcare here on the site—I had never even heard of that before, so that really is revolutionary—for apprenticeships and workers so they can pursue the careers they want without having to worry about finding care for their kids,” Biden said.
In May, the White House selected Pittsburgh as one of five cities the White House calls the Biden Workforce Hub Initiative. The identified cities have received significant investments from both the federal government and private companies, Biden said.
“Here that means thousands of jobs strengthening and rebuilding Pennsylvania’s infrastructure, including modernizing Pittsburgh’s airport, where we’re standing right now. But in order to keep this progress going, employers need more skilled workers.”
She pointed to Biden administration programs that partner with state and local officials, employers, unions, schools and other stakeholders in those regions to ensure a diverse and skilled workforce can meet the demand for labor. The administration hopes to replicate the models developed in Phoenix; Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; and Augusta, Georgia, as well as Pittsburgh, for other cities in the future, officials said.
The new billion-dollar terminal, funded in part by $23.5 million in federal infrastructure grants as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021, provided a backdrop for Biden, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and others to address nearly 100 guests and media representatives.
“This $1.4 billion investment we’re making in infrastructure to modernize Pittsburgh International Airport is not only going to make us more competitive as a region here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, but the workforce that’s been building it, with PIT2Work, is something that’s really critical,” Fitzgerald said.
‘People are listening’
Biden was joined by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, Rep. Chris Deluzio and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey along with Fitzgerald.
PIT CEO Christina Cassotis greeted Biden as she arrived at the terminal construction site. She and Fitzgerald spoke with Biden and the cabinet secretaries about terminal construction, PIT2Work and the childcare center.
“People are listening and paying attention but it’s also because this is just the next thing we’ve done,” Cassotis said. “We’ve been (focused on) workforce since January 2015 when I came in and said, ‘We need to do more for this community out here at the airport to represent the community we serve.’ And we need to be doing more for the industry. So I think it’s great that we’re getting attention, but we’ve been at this for quite a long time.”
Pittsburgh Technology Council President and CEO Audrey Russo, who attended the event, said it was impressive that PIT has been continuously recognized by the White House for infrastructure and workforce development initiatives.
“Material programs which focus on prosperity for all is a priority for Southwestern Pennsylvania,” Russo said. “We can lead the way. PIT has made a commitment to a wholistic approach to new jobs, which includes childcare on-site, and reminds us that all the support needed to create wealth takes laser focus on the new world of work.”
The PIT2Work program – in conjunction with local nonprofit Partner4Work – provides free training in the skills and certifications needed for jobs in the construction industry to a diverse class of men and women.
“That’s why we’re celebrating the fact that the childcare facility, here at this airport, is available to workers through a project labor agreement that also brings an apprenticeship program,” Buttigieg said. “And soon the collaborations with the president’s workforce hub will bring new people into these careers.”
Upon completion, graduates earn letters of recommendation, connections to local unions and are invited to an on-site career fair for union apprenticeship opportunities.
“Partner4Work is pleased and grateful to have been designated an anchor institution for the White House Workforce Talent Hub Initiative,” said Robert Cherry, CEO, Partner4Work. “This appointment strengthens our status as a premier workforce development organization for the Greater Pittsburgh region. It challenges us to be a shining example of workforce investment in workers, particularly underrepresented workers, that helps them grow in careers and in the community.”