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PNC Taps High Schools for Talent

PartnerUp program aims to invest in talent, fill entry level positions and lessen the skills gap in the Pittsburgh region.

The statistics sound bleak: 70 percent of employers cite a skills gap between what they need and what’s available in the talent pool and 22 percent of workers in the Pittsburgh region will be retiring within 10 years with no comparably-sized group to replace them.[1] 

This data is what drove PNC, with the help of the Consortium for Public Education, to spearhead PNC’s PartnerUp program with schools and major employers in southwestern Pennsylvania. “This program represents a shift in how PNC and others view the labor market. PNC is investing in talent in new ways, rather than just consuming it,” says Brianna McMeekin, a development program manager at PNC.

From a business perspective, the goal of the program is simple: create a talent pipeline of early career professionals ready to enter the workforce after high school graduation to fill entry level roles. But it goes beyond that, McMeekin says. “PNC’s PartnerUp empowers high school graduates to enter, and thrive in, a job market that’s in need of their skills. When employers partner with teachers and parents to provide committed guidance, real-world opportunities and ongoing assistance, graduates will take the first step on a road that leads to a proud, flourishing and secure future — for themselves and the place they call home,” she explains.

Brianna McMeekin speaks at front of a room of high school students
Brianna McMeekin, development program manager, speaks to high school seniors who visted PNC as part of their involvement in the PartnerUp program.

The Curriculum

The program caters to 11th and 12th grade students. In 11th grade, the program focuses on general post-high school readiness and teaches students about career decision making, financial literacy and overall professionalism, among other topics. 

The 12th grade program zeroes in on developing resumes, prepping for interviews and identifying skills students can use to market themselves to employers. This level of the program is only for students who have determined they want to start their career right out of high school rather than going on to post-secondary education. Roughly 39 percent of Pittsburgh high school grads head straight into the workforce, so PartnerUp is helping them start out on the right foot.[1] 

Success Story 

The program, which began as a pilot in February 2018, already has celebrated successes. Of the 93 students who participated in 2018, 21 candidates submitted applications to PNC and of those, 11 interviewed and 10 were offered and accepted jobs. Other graduates of the program landed at the partner companies as well. 

Robert Williams II is one such employee and program alum who started as a bank teller at a PNC branch in Penn Hills, just outside of Pittsburgh. 

He started working for PNC just a month after he graduated from high school. “I’m liking it so far,” he said, “I like the people I work with. I’m good with people, so this is the perfect fit for me.” 

Williams’ guidance counselor recommended him to PNC’s PartnerUp program because she knew he had experience working at a convenience store for several years and managing his own lawn care company while he was in high school. He believes his experience in retail has made him succeed at his job at PNC. 

“I get good customer feedback. A lot of customers tell my manager they had a good experience with me. I try to establish a relationship with the customers, remembering things they came in for and what they tell me about. I get a lot of business customers for my manager, too.” Once he’s ready, Williams plans to take advantage of PNC’s tuition reimbursement offerings to pursue a degree. 

This year, PNC has partnered with 10 schools to expand the program to 2,400 students. Williams was happy to hear that the program is reaching more students like him now. “I highly recommend the program to current high school students. If you don’t know what you want to do, these are good jobs for coming right out of high school. Rather than wasting time somewhere else, you can be working a good job and figuring out what you want to do at the same time.” 

A Hands-on and Holistic Approach

Although other companies may be doing similar work, PNC is addressing the issue of work readiness head-on by being in the schools and providing real opportunities post-graduation. 

PNC sees this as a hands-on program. “We are creating content to match career education standards to help fill in the gaps for high school students and offering real pathways to success for students who may have otherwise not had direction,” says McMeekin. 

In addition to the in-school curriculum, the program focuses on ways to support students in their transition from school to work, including manager-readiness workshops, and resources for professional dress and transportation. The program looks for ways to support partner districts as well. In the pilot year, PNC contributed more than 400 pieces of office furniture to schools in the program. 

Just the Beginning

After just the first year, the demand for the program has increased significantly. Immediate plans are to stabilize the current offering and deepen partnerships with existing schools. The vision for the program from inception was always to be able to transpose the work in Pittsburgh to other regions. But first, “we want to be sure that we have a scalable model that can be deployed in any region before moving toward that vision,” says McMeekin. 

“Ultimately, our goal is to invest in communities to ensure our high school graduates have a clear understanding of all the opportunities available to them post-graduation and are ready to productively apply their talents to one of those opportunities,” she says.


Learn more about talent and recruiting at PNC »

Robert Williams II
Robert Williams II is an alum of the PartnerUp program and a teller at a PNC branch in Penn Hills.

“This program is a long-term investment in building the bench strength for our company and our region.” –Brianna McMeekin

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Important Legal Disclosures and Information

  1. Inflection Point: Supply, Demand and the Future of Work in the Pittsburgh Region, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, 2016

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