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Manufacturing Leaders Hope Maker Spaces Will Lure Young Workers To The Industry

October 4, 2017

by Kathleen J. Davis, WESA FM 90.5

Pennsylvania manufacturing leaders are hoping that maker spaces can be the entry point for future workers.

According to Catalyst Connection, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit that supports local manufacturers, there's expected to be a shortage of 30,000 manufacturing workers in the Pittsburgh area by 2025.

A new campaign, called “Making Your Future” by the Greater Pittsburgh Metals Manufacturing Community is looking to connect local "makers" to opportunities in the manufacturing industry.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin joined local manufacturing leaders at HackPittsburgh in Oakland to announce the launch of the new campaign. HackPittsburgh is the the city's oldest maker space.

Davin said maker spaces give people the opportunity to try out new skills that would help them succeed in the manufacturing industry.

"Every time you see places like this it gives you a feeling of the things that can be accomplished for people who may not do this on a daily basis," he said. "If they have an idea, there's a place they can come to try it out."

One of Pittsburgh's more prominent maker spaces, TechShop, closed at the end of September. The shop, which was part of a national for-profit chain, offered 3-D printers, laser cutters and other machinery. Some members and staff are opening a new nonprofit maker space in its place, called Protohaven. 

Other efforts to decrease the "skills gap" are apprenticeship programs, such as the Carpenters' Union Training Center in Pittsburgh. U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta visited the center last week to speak about the value of real-world practice in a hands-on career.

"There are opportunities to make good money, to use your hands and make things that are vital for the future of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the country," Davin said.

President Donald Trump has also promised big, nationwide infrastructure projects, which could lead to an increase in demand for manufacturing jobs.

Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association president David Taylor said in March that he was “encouraged” by the president’s pledge.

*This story was modified to reflect an updated projection of the shortage of manufacturing workers by 2025, provided by Catalyst Connections.

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