The Pittsburgh Robotics Network today announced the appointment of Jenny Sharpe as the organization’s new senior program manager of workforce development. “In this role, Sharpe will draw on her vast experiences in entrepreneurship, talent management, and community building to strengthen the dynamic nexus of robotics, education, and community that is rapidly transforming Pittsburgh,” it said.
This role is in support of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s “Expanded Pathways to New Economy Careers” program, which is dedicated to expanding training and placement opportunities and eradicating barriers to employment. It is part of the comprehensive effort to drive regional economic growth, made possible by the $62.7 million in federal funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant.
“At Aurora, we’re proud to help foster Pittsburgh’s growing robotics sector,” stated Matt Blackburn, senior manager of government relations at autonomous vehicle developer Aurora and a Pittsburgh Robotics Network (PRN) board member.
“In order to develop and deploy safe self-driving technology, we’re investing in the tremendous talent in the Pittsburgh area,” he added. “Jenny and the Pittsburgh Robotics Network have been doing incredible work to cultivate our region’s robotics workforce, and we look forward to continued collaboration that brings the benefits of autonomous vehicles to our communities.”
Sharpe brings entrepreneurial experience
Originally from Wisconsin, Sharpe’s own entrepreneurial journey brought her to Pittsburgh via Venture for America, a fellowship program that places recent graduates at startups in cities across the U.S. that are building thriving business communities. Sharpe learned more about talent management and workforce development at Rivers Agile, a tech consultancy firm, before taking on her current role at PRN.
“What really attracted me to the PRN was its ability to get a lot of organizations and partners to focus on what’s really important, which is creating a Pittsburgh that works for everyone,” said Sharpe. “I welcomed the opportunity to really build something.”
Sharpe said she also gained valuable insights from her tenure at EKTO VR, a Pittsburgh robotics startup that is developing an immersive and novel way to experience virtual reality. She noted that all of her experiences have helped her understand the complexities of attracting and retaining a highly-skilled workforce.
In addition, Sharpe said her goal is “not just to build bridges between the workforce and the robotics ecosystem, but also to ensure that these connections empower individuals and contribute to a Pittsburgh that works for everyone.”
“I love watching the individual transformation that can happen when you give someone the economic opportunity of a job, and not just any job, but a dream job,” she said. “I’m just really open. I’m here to learn. I’m here to listen and I’m here to create opportunities for more folks to collaborate.”
The PRN said Sharpe’s vision, plus her dedication to create opportunity and foster collaboration, will also help identify new ways to address community needs.
PRN to build more bridges
The Pittsburgh Robotics Network said it looks forward to Sharpe’s leadership in helping to advance Pittsburgh’s position as a world-leading cluster for robotics talent and industry growth. Already known as a city of bridges, Pittsburgh can build on its connections between academia, industry, and community, acccording to the PRN.
“We at the University of Pittsburgh are committed to supporting this important initiative, as it aligns with our own vision of fostering a culture of innovation and preparing our students for cutting-edge careers in technology and robotics,” said Bruce Childers, dean of the School of Computing and Information at the University of Pittsburgh and a PRN board member. “We believe that this effort will not only drive regional economic growth, but also further solidify Pittsburgh into a global hub for robotics talent and innovation.”
The Pittsburgh Robotics Network represents the companies and leaders who make up the Pittsburgh robotics ecosystem, which is anchored by Carnegie Mellon University and driven by 130+ robotics organizations, including the world’s leaders in autonomous vehicle development. The organization said its mission is to accelerate the adoption of robotics by bridging this large and dynamic community and the world. The PRN make connections, expands collective knowledge, and works to positively influence the advancement of robotic and artificial intelligence.
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