Pittsburgh colleges graduate more than 40,000 students each year but around half of them leave the city in search of jobs elsewhere.  One reason? Students aren’t aware of the city’s many professional and cultural attractions.  

The Pittsburgh Passport program, now in its third year, aims to resolve that issue with a six-week calendar of events that show off the region and its employment opportunities, the arts and outdoor recreation. The program was created by the Allegheny Conference as a result of their research that showed how many local college grads were leaving the area. 

“If you graduated in the last couple of years and are job-searching, this is a great opportunity for you to connect,” says Alison Treaster, who runs the program. 

Because of the pandemic, this year’s program is being done in a hybrid fashion — some events are virtual, while others are in-person. Last year, it was completely virtual. 

Camryn Simpson, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, is taking part in the program and has already begun to make connections. 

Jeff Remark, a junior marketing major at Robert Morris University, found out about the program through a friend who suggested it to him to make connections in his field. 

“Coming into college I knew I needed to get ahead because I’m in a competitive field,” Remark says. His friend said he would be introduced to companies that he didn’t even know were in Pittsburgh. “And he was absolutely right.” 

One that sticks out in my mind is Astrobotic, Remark says. “And they have a contract with NASA, and if you had told me that was in Pittsburgh, I mean I never would have known until the Passport.” 

Both students agree that the most valuable part of the program is the connections that are made at the events. 

“Not only are you making professional connections with people who have already started their career in Pittsburgh, you’re also connecting with college students,” Remark says. “They’re obviously your peers, and you never know who’s going to end up where, and you get to meet a lot of great people.”

A bonus for Simpson is getting to know the area and what Pittsburgh has to offer. 

“Since I’ve started with this program I’ve learned so much that I’ve never known,” says Simpson says who likes the in-person events such as kayaking and yoga. Remark loves the tech talks. 

Organizers expect around 1,700 people will participate in the Pittsburgh Passport program. Registration is still open for all college students and recent college grads. 

The roster of participating employers includes American Eagle Outfitters, BNY Mellon, Bosch, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Duquesne Light, FedEx Ground, Giant Eagle, Highmark Health, Kelly Strayhorn Theater, PNC Financial Services Group, Schell Games, Uber, UPMC, Venture Outdoors, The Andy Warhol Museum and all three professional sports teams.