Mill 19 at Hazelwood Green, home of Catalyst Connection and other companies.

A new program meant to help manufacturers rebound from the coronavirus pandemic will also assist graduate students who otherwise may not have the opportunity to do workplace internships.

Catalyst Connection says it will utilize a $150,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to assist as many as 60 students between now and June by connecting them with manufacturers who need help overcoming pandemic-related business challenges.

“The goals are twofold — one is to help manufacturing companies recover from Covid and actually grow their business and create jobs,” says Petra Mitchell, president and CEO of Catalyst Connection. “The second part is to engage our business and professional graduate students to provide them with real-life experiences and, ultimately, to keep them in Pittsburgh to work and live here.”

Since March, the nonprofit organization has been assisting the region’s manufacturers with pandemic response and recovery. Manufacturers can fill out an assessment form that provides them with an instant rating of their Covid-19 recovery and resiliency strengths and weaknesses, based on such things as safety practices, employee engagement, cybersecurity, supply chain stabilization and other points.

At no cost to them, company leaders will receive an assessment report that provides actionable recommendations and access to resources — including business and engineering students from the University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business, as well as Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne and Robert Morris universities.

“Our region’s business leaders have shared with us that they need business recovery and resiliency services and support to become fully operational right now and for the future,” says Mitchell. “Our team of industry experts, advisers and consultants has been interacting with companies since the first wave of shutdowns, discovering firsthand the needs that companies are experiencing or expect to experience soon.”

The pandemic created “incredible challenges,” Mitchell says, but also “significant opportunities when manufacturers are empowered with the right support, resources and strategic partnerships.”

The grant funding will enable Catalyst to enact programming that matches graduate students with meaningful, paid workplace learning experiences. Many paid internships were canceled or rescinded indefinitely because of the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, 2,801 regional manufacturers employed more than 93,000 workers and directly supported another 220,000 jobs, according to Catalyst, which aims to position manufacturers at the forefront of a local and national recovery when the crisis ends.

“The pandemic has exacted a tremendous economic toll,” says Sam Reiman, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation. “We know that smart, data-based support and interventions will be critical if we are to speed the recovery of key economic sectors such as manufacturing.”

Catalyst Connection, which recently relocated to Hazelwood Green, has provided support such as consulting and training services to southwestern Pennsylvania’s small and mid-sized manufacturers for more than 30 years.

Sandra Tolliver

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.