Prototype: Developing Pittsburgh Workers and Building New Businesses

Prototype Group

As lawyers representing injured people, we are excited by organizations that train and develop workers to improve safety and increase job opportunities. Meet Prototype, a local organization whose mission is to build gender and racial equity in tech and entrepreneurship by providing affordable access to high tech tools and equipment, offering workshops that center on the experiences of women and underestimated communities, and cultivating a professional support network.

The original inspiration for Prototype came from Founder and Director Erin Gatz’s youth. “When I was in high school, the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild would send buses to the Pittsburgh public schools and bring kids to their facility to take classes in subjects like Photography, Ceramics, and Printing. When the kids were done, they’d give them bus tickets to get home.” Gatz would go every day after school to work on her photography. “It was where I learned to make things on my own and it was the first time making mistakes was encouraged. It’s been my gold standard ever since.” 

Erin Gatz

Prototype’s Three-Pronged Approach to Equality

In many ways, Prototype models itself after the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, but it does so with much more structure. Instead of working with underserved children after school, Prototype delivers life-changing professional development opportunities through workshops, co-working spaces, and the Prototype incubator.

Prototype Workshops and Training Opportunities

Although Prototype has a suggested donation for each of its workshops, attendance is free and open to the public. Workshops in the past have focused on a variety of topics and skills, including:

  • Salary negotiation
  • Financial planning
  • How to buy a house
  • Adobe Illustrator for logo design
  • CNC vinyl cutting
  • CNC laser cutting
  • 3D modeling

With such a wide selection of classes, Prototype develops the entire individual so that she can be successful in her personal life and professional life. 

For even more training opportunities, Prototype has formed valuable partnerships with organizations throughout Pittsburgh. In its partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Manufacturing Assistance Center, Prototype members can go through a free six-week training course in manufacturing. Once completed, students who graduate from the course benefit from a 95% job placement rate with local employers. By constantly exploring new relationships with Pittsburgh organizations, Prototype delivers new, exciting employment opportunities for its members.

Prototype Training Session

Prototype Co-Working Spaces

Available at a sliding price scale depending on individual needs, the Prototype co-working space offers professionals a place to work with all of Prototype’s industrial equipment available for use. Members can access even more space and resources at the University of Pittsburgh Manufacturing Assistance Center. While the extra room and technology are valuable, Gatz believes there are other factors that make their co-working space so impactful.

“Our co-working spaces are as much for forming community as they are for providing a space to work,” she says.

Prototype Co-Working Space

Prototype Incubator: Women’s Work

“Women’s Work is a Prototype incubator that challenges the work traditionally expected of women,” Gatz explains. The Prototype incubator works with women-owned companies very early in their development, often while the founders are still in the idea stage and before they have formed as a legal entity. After selecting five founders, Prototype provides numerous professional development workshops in topics ranging from accounting, marketing, and legal issues. The ultimate goal, however, is for these founders to develop themselves and their companies until they are ready to deliver their pitch to investors. 

Many of the companies that have come out Women’s Work have joined some of Pittsburgh’s hottest accelerators. One of Gatz’s favorites is a company founded by Gabriel Haywood called Virginia Dere, the designer of the KneeKini. A bathing suit for women, the KneeKini gives women a flattering, stylish option for the pool and beach. Virginia Dere is now at AlphaLab Gear, a local accelerator, and plans to move into the market this Spring. 

Join Prototype

Gatz is inviting our readers to attend upcoming workshops and recommend future sessions. Anyone is eligible to teach their own class, and Prototype pays its instructors $25 an hour. Review upcoming workshops and propose new classes on the Prototype website.

At Dugan & Associates, we care about the health, safety, and well-being of the workers within our community. If you’d like to learn more about our community engagement or our legal work, contact us

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