Screenshot from the video "Making Your Future: HackPgh and the Maker Community."

When it comes to employment, it’s important that we mind the gap. A new program in Pittsburgh is doing just that.

Pittsburgh has experienced a massive amount of growth over the past few years, which has left certain industries struggling to keep up. A recently released Brookings report confirmed this theory, citing, among other things, that the city lacks the skilled workforce necessary to fill a growing number of job vacancies in areas like healthcare and IT.

That’s why Catalyst Connection launched Making Your Future, a campaign to recruit established and aspiring makers for jobs in manufacturing.

“We work with a lot of manufacturers in our community, and by far the biggest challenge that they report to us is the lack of a skilled qualified pipeline of workers,” says Catalyst Connection president and CEO, Petra Mitchell. “Manufacturers tell us, ‘We’re hiring, we need workers.’ We’re hoping this will fill that talent gap both in the short term and in the longer term.”

She adds that the creative problem-solving and technical skills makers possess are “what’s needed in manufacturing.”

Developed through a grant from the United States Economic Development Administration, Making Your Future represents one of several initiatives put forth by the Catalyst-led Greater Pittsburgh Metals Manufacturing Community, a partnership of 14 government, university, industry, workforce and economic development organizations seeking to advance manufacturing in the region.

The campaign falls in line with other recent efforts to connect makers with the manufacturing community, including MONMADE and Chatham University’s Entrepreneurship Hub, where the Prototyping and Design Lab introduces women to advanced manufacturing skills and tools.

Mitchell believes Making Your Future could help fill an employment gap left by a lack of skilled workers in manufacturing, which represents the third largest sector of the region’s economy. Drawing on data from the Pennsylvania Center for Workforce Information and Analysis and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Catalyst estimates that 8,500 new manufacturing jobs will open every year in Pennsylvania. That growth, along with a lack of skilled workers and growing number of retirees, could result in 30,000 manufacturing job vacancies over the next 10 years.

The organization also foresees demand increasing when the new Shale Cracker plant opens Beaver County, bringing with it a reported 17,800 new jobs in all.

Mitchell sees making as “a good first step” towards creating a strong manufacturing workforce.

“A lot of job seekers are not aware of what’s possible or what’s available to them,” says Mitchell. “We’re hopeful that this campaign opens a door into a world of possibilities to job seekers and citizens in our community interested in learning about making,”

By working with maker spaces like HackPGH and using a skills assessment test, Making Your Future will identify those with an interest in manufacturing and provide them with access to training, as well as connect them to local manufacturing leaders. It will also make it easier for employers to find skilled talent and for Catalyst’s partners to collaborate on new initiatives focused on regional economic impact.

In addition, the campaign features a video series showcasing the skills sought by manufacturers and how they could be developed in maker spaces throughout the region.

“I think it’s really needed,” says Mitchell. “There are a lot of people out there that could be much more meaningfully employed and I’m hoping that we can help some of them find good jobs.”

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated...