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Catalyst Connection, an economic development and manufacturing consulting organization that advances the performance of manufacturing companies, has unveiled a new program that will connect young people to careers in manufacturing.  Any manufacturing company or high school in the 12-county Pittsburgh region that Catalyst Connection engages is now eligible to participate.

Funded by the Benedum and Alcoa Foundations, Explore The New Manufacturing gives employers a pathway and specific tools to connect with youth.  Based on their needs, a company can engage with youth through short or long-term opportunities like plant tours, job shadowing, mentoring or e-mentoring, paid summer internships, sponsor-a-project opportunities or long- term apprenticeships that often lead to jobs.  Catalyst Connection is now sharing the concept with students to encourage their involvement.

“Throughout our region, the manufacturing sector is strong, but its future will depend on the availability of talented workers,” explained Petra Mitchell, president and CEO of Catalyst Connection.  “To allow this industry to continue to flourish, efforts must be made now to change the mindset of young people who view manufacturing as an industry of old, replacing it with a vision of jobs that are high-paying, innovative and in great demand.”

The new program has a short-term goal of directly connecting hundreds of youth with companies in the Pittsburgh region.  Long term, its goal is to help change perceptions about the kinds of manufacturing careers that exist today.

Explore the New Manufacturing is an extension of the success Catalyst Connection has had with programs like Adventures in Technology.   “Since 2002, the Adventures in Technology program has been connecting youth with local companies to work on specific, hands-on improvement projects,” explained Mitchell.  “We see companies accessing fresh perspectives and ideas from student teams, while they save time and costs for talent. The programs are a great way for companies to build relationships in their communities.  Most importantly, company managers find a pipeline of talent for future jobs.”

Since 2002, Adventures in Technology has helped to engage more than 2,400 students from 60 high schools and technical schools at more than 60 companies throughout the Pittsburgh region.  The students have worked in teams supervised by mentors in industries that include information technology, biotechnology and manufacturing. The team at Catalyst Connection serves as project managers, matching employers to schools and providing tools to support employers.

“For a high technology manufacturing company like Dawar, it is critical to have employees with the basic technical skills that will allow them to be trained to run automated and semi-automated equipment,” stated Dennis Fitzgerald, senior vice president of Dawar Technologies, which manufactures touch screens and interface technology. “Programs like this connect us with future workers who have math skills, mechanical aptitude and critical thinking skills.  Without access to this type of talent, yield rates and productivity will not allow us to compete with lower wage regions.”

Schools interested in learning more or having a presentation made to their students or companies interested in how they can participate should contact Scott Dietz at [email protected] or 412-918-4227.