Though afternoon rain threatened to cancel the scheduled softball game, it did not dampen the spirits of the Pittsburgh Promise staffer at PNC Park. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl threw out the first pitch, the Pirate Parrot made faces, the game went on—and Direct Energy gave $100,000 to the Promise.
The company, North America’s largest supplier of electricity, natural gas and energy related services, recently began operations in the area. And, with its support of the Pittsburgh Promise, it quickly lived up to its reputation for commitment to community involvement.
“This is a huge deal because those funds have already been partially matched with an additional $67,000 by UPMC,” said Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril. “Direct Energy seems to be interested in a long term relationship, and to see a company that’s a relative newcomer, and of that size, taking an interest in the Promise is particularly gratifying.”
Direct Energy Vice President and General Manager Cory Byzewski said he is delighted to support the community and its future.
“Direct Energy is truly committed to supporting the communities in which we live and work, and that includes helping our home grown scholars grow and succeed right here in the City of Pittsburgh,” he said. “Companies like Direct Energy are here and thriving, not just thriving but growing, as the pool of talent right here in our own backyard continues to expand. This is a huge part of what is making Pittsburgh an emerging Energy City.”
Since being established with a 10-year, $10 million grant from UPMC, the Pittsburgh Promise has awarded $24.5 million in scholarships to more than 2,500 students throughout the Pittsburgh Public School system beginning with the class of 2008.
“We don’t have the final numbers for this year because all the bills haven’t come in, but we think the total will be up to about 3,200 students,” Ghubril said. “When you think that, after Pittsburgh, the next largest school district in the area is only one-third the size, the ability of our graduates to impact the region is huge. People like Direct Energy want to help make that appositive impact.”
Toward that end, Ghubril is currently planning an employment fair for the spring, when the Promise’s first class of college graduates will be entering the workforce. He plans to have representatives of 200 regional companies participating.
“So we’re not only trying to move kids to secondary education, but to connect them to jobs locally,” he said. “They get jobs, the employers get talented workers, and the city gets more people living and working here and paying taxes.”
He is also meeting with the Allegheny Conference on Economic Development this week to get a better idea of what regional employers need in terms of workforce skills.
Though he says Promise staff are not pushing scholarship recipients to pursue specific jobs in the energy, medical or high-technology fields, they are making sure students are aware that those are the growth sectors regionally.
“We are trying to remain neutral, but we are putting the information out there,” he said. “We are having percolating conversations with other energy companies about supporting the promise. If anything comes of that, I’ll be sure to let you know.”
Enough is already known about the Promise’s success that it is being highlighted as the host of a national education conference running from Oct. 19-21 at the Renaissance Hotel Downtown.
It’s an honor to be the host,” said Ghubril. “We have folks coming from 30 states; mayors, superintendents, councilmen from as far away as Hamilton, Ontario and San Diego, Calif.”
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