Makerspaces: New Way to Recruit Talent?

If you don’t already know, “makerspaces” are one of the newest things in education. Taking a page from punk’s DIY (do-it-yourself) handbook, makerspaces have recently popped up in libraries, schools and community centers across the nation. While they are sometimes back-to-basics workshops complete with metal works and woodshops, most are equipped with 3-D printers, computers and the latest software programs. The idea is that when you give people tools, innovative ideas come to life.

advenAccording to Makerspace.com, a website dedicated to spreading news about makerspaces:

A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools.  These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, cnc machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.  A makerspace however doesn’t need to include all of these machines or even any of them to be considered a makerspace.  If you have cardboard, legos and art supplies you’re in business.  It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that’s at the core of a makerspace.  These spaces are also helping to prepare those who need the critical 21st century skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

But makerspaces aren’t just for kids and crafty teachers and librarians. They are popular with post-college age workers and in some sectors, with managers and recruitment specialists too.

Hipsters and Makerspaces

In New York, makerspaces have taken off citywide and it is no surprise. With limited apartment space, creators often lack the space to mess around with even the most microscopic tools. Among the city’s many offerings is NYC Resistor, based in Brooklyn, where makers can learn a variety of tech skills from building their own circuit board to encryption. To keep it fun and light, the makerspace hosts special events, like their recent CryptoParty in late July. Other options include Hack Manhattan, which hosts “tech Tuesdays” for people wishing to learn more about subjects ranging from ethical hacking to programming. But these NYC examples are just a small selection. From Seattle to San Francisco to Austin, however, makerspaces continue to take off, especially with post-college age young adults.

How to Bring a Makerspace to Your Workplace

sawNot surprisingly, a growing number of researchers are asking questions about makerspaces: What makes them work? Why are they popular? Can they be adapted to the workplace?

What makes these spaces work, many observers suggest, is more than what’s in them. Yes, makerspaces work because they offer tools (often expenses ones) to regular people, and they work because they tend to bring together smart and creative thinkers and doers. But they also work for other reasons.

  • Workspace: Open, raw and undefined space appears to work best. This is a space that is well equipped but not predefined.
  • Walkspace: In New York City, it’s no surprise that the city only has one workspace in Manhattan. Most of the city’s workspaces are in less expensive neighborhoods where there’s ample space and time to explore. This means some of the best makespaces are not in large cities (small cities with big and inexpensive spaces are ideal).
  • Community: People matter a great deal in makerspaces. It’s about who is there or nearby and who the space may attract over time. In short, these spaces are about community, as much as they are about buildings and tools.

Makerspaces and Talent Recruitment

The advantage of bringing makerspaces to the workplace is obvious. They are a way to foster innovation and harness raw energy from one’s existing talent pool. The question or challenge is how to do this without simply letting one’s employees run wild all day long with little or no direction. While it may sound a bit perilous, consider the impact a makerspace can have on employee recruitment.

6H.O. Maycotte, founder of the Austin-based tech company Umbel, explains: “While makerspaces may be great first homes for startups, the converse is true, too: Startups can also be great homes for makerspaces. For example, Umbel, the company I run, regularly hosts ‘Build Nights’ during which employees and their friends and families take over the Umbel Labs facility to work on maker projects.” Umbel’s VP adds, “Given that the average tenure at a startup is around 10.8 months, and how competitive it is to recruit new employees, outfitting your start up with a makerspace can have a measurable effect on retention and recruitment, especially when it comes to engineers.”

While you may not agree, at least some business leaders are jumping on a new bandwagon in recruitment and it appears to start with soldering irons, leg bricks, 3D printers and some might say, a sort of DIY hacker attitude about innovation and design.

August 31, 2016   Updated :November 16, 2016   hiring, Makerspace, millennials   

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