Supporting the Maker Movement is one way to bring back economic growth, manufacturing ecosystems, and decent blue-collar jobs. So say the Brookings Institution’s Mark Muro and Peter Hirshberg, in “Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities.”
In a blog post in January, Muro and Hirshberg write:
“The Maker Movement isn’t just about reviving manufacturing in cities (though it is doing that). In addition, the movement is proving that anyone can be a maker and that genuine progress on the nation’s most pressing problems can be made from the bottom up by do-it-yourselfers, entrepreneurs, committed artisans, students, and civic leaders through what our colleague Bruce Katz calls ‘new localism.’”
The authors call on the Trump administration to provide support in the form of tax credits or competitive grants to support local maker activity and to expand the relationships between makers and larger-scale commercial manufacturers. But absent this support, the authors call on local leaders —mayors, community college administrators, local businesses—to take matters into their own hands. They offer tips on how to do just that. Many of these tips, we should point out, are ones leaders in Pittsburgh are already doing.
Their advice includes:
- Start organically by mapping the local maker community (see this cool map).
- Engage community colleges, universities, and national laboratories.
See our post from earlier this month on how local programs like CodeTN in Tennessee are encouraging local high school students to attend coding programs at community colleges. In Pittsburgh, community colleges are working to better align courses with employer needs and emerging job clusters. “Westmoreland Community College has a whole new facility around advanced manufacturing,” Petra Mitchell, executive director of Catalyst Connection told us back in November.
- Pull in the private sector
Catalyst Connection, an economic development organization focused on small manufacturers in Pittsburgh, runs ten-week programs that have students solving real-world problems the manufacturers identify. Students visit the company, learn about an issue or problem that has arisen, and then go back to the classroom to come up with a solution.
- Experiment with new forms of education and training
The Brookings post highlights work going in Pittsburgh to “give kids access to modern production tools as a way to excite involvement.” They point to work in the Elizabeth Forward school district that led to the creation of the Dream Factory there. The Dream Factory, they write, is “a set of integrated classrooms where middle-schoolers learn how to use computers, 3-D printers, and CNC tools to create robots, drones, or whatever else they want. As a result, drop-out rates have fallen drastically at the school.”
We’re proud as a Network to have helped the Maker Movement thrive in our own community, but we still have work to do. As Gregg Behr and Dr. Lynne Schrum, the founding chairs of the Remake Learning Council, write in the introduction to the Remake Learning Playbook:
“We’ve learned a lot since our first breakfast brainstorms. We’ve tried many things, and we’ve made plenty of mistakes. But ultimately, we’ve seen significant progress in our effort to provide all children and youth with the best available opportunities to learn and be creative. We’re confident that all of us, together, can remake learning all across America.”
And now, if Brookings is right, maybe we can help remake manufacturing as well.