October 20, 2021


Auberle is a sprawling Pittsburgh-area social service nonprofit that has been named “Top Workplace” nine times by The Pittsburgh Business Times, and is described by employees as flexible, supportive, comfortable, and safe. In this episode, Rusty speaks with Abby Wolensky and Ashley Pesi, Director and Program Manager (respectively) in Auberle’s workforce development program, about the various ways the organization supports and develops its staff.

Our guests explain how the organization is devoted to breaking cycles of poverty and socio-economic distress not only for their clients but also their staff. To do so, they have continuously raised the floor on wages (without outside incentives or specific external funding for this purpose); hire from internships; offer numerous professional development opportunities; build their strategic plans from within teams; and more. Other topics discussed include:

  • Working through the pandemic and added hazard pay.

  • The Rising Star Academy: an internal training initiative to promote professional growth, crossed-departmental learning, and bottom-up thinking.

  • Auberle’s unique strategic planning process.

  • “Challenging Conversations for Change” and other equity and inclusion efforts.

  • Organizational culture and employee-employer loyalty at Auberle.

Links to resources shared in the episode:

Guest Bios:

Abby Wolensky currently serves as the Director of the Employment Institute at Auberle, a nonprofit human services organization with a mission to “build strong individuals, families and communities.” Auberle serves over 4,000 individuals in Southwestern Pennsylvania through 20+ programs on an annual basis. One of Auberle’s most impactful programs is the Employment Institute, which, under Abby’s leadership, has quickly become the region’s go-to workforce development program. 

The Employment Institute designs training programs from the employer out, directly addressing skills gaps employers face while guaranteeing sustainable-wage jobs for at-risk individuals. Abby currently oversees 14 national certification programs, a Re-Entry Employment Program (STRIVE) funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, a YouthBuild Program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Program funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over 170 business partners, 100+ referring agencies, the region’s only Digital Work Ethics Badge, 600 participants on the Employment Institute’s roster and the Employment Institute’s 12-person staff.  

Abby’s board service includes serving as the Communications Chair for New Leaders Council (NLC) Pittsburgh and Board Member of the Battle of Homestead Foundation. Abby holds a BA in Urban Studies from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA).

Ashley Pesi is Project Manager of the Auberle Northside Employment Institute, which provides workforce development services to Pittsburgh’s Northside communities. She has also done work with the communities of the Mon Valley areas in Pittsburgh. Ashley is an adjunct professor at Chatham University in the Social Work department teaching Juvenile Justice and is currently attending Robert Morris University working towards her Ph.D. in Instructional Management and Leadership. When not at work or in school, Ashley is the chair of fundraising for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s National Youth Alliance and has presented at the National Convention since 2018.

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