Comment on: UK universities forced to innovate in fight for survival

Institutions focus on local business, skills and students to secure their future

In the Universites section of the FT, by Bethan Staton in London and Chris Tighe in Newcastle July 29 2020

Education will adapt to the needs of the boarder economy, it always has. Students are making in investment in time and money, they need to be sure of a return. A badge from a particular institution may no longer be enough. Education resources that are both recognised and relevant offer the most immediate value.

In recent years makerspaces have been launched world-wide by groups looking to share tools and skills in pursuit of both personal and commercial aims. These makerspaces are run by people who are economical active in the local community. They have skills relevant to that economy and have shown leadership in creating learning environments.

Could makerspaces make a contribution to education and keeping workers in
all stages of their careers fresh and employable?

Keeping skills education relevant is a challenge. Technology and business models change rapidly. Education in an active exchange with industry could keep skills fresh and students employable.

In the typical makerspace you will find 3D printers, laser cutters, electronics and prototyping resources. Moreover, you will find digital designers, coders and engineers with the technology management experience which is so critical in a modern manufacturing and service economy.

The digital sphere allows for a wonderful peer-to-peer exchange. If you want to learn how something is done there is likely a video and posted online. However, when you want to actually acquire that skill and make it part of your portfolio, a real place and practice is needed. Often that requires a physical laboratory or workshop and the guidance of experienced people. Makerspaces can fill this role in a very cost-effective way.

Lastly, the communities that grow around makerspace become a recruiting resource for firms looking for skilled and experienced people.

If you are interested in discussing how makerspaces can augment university and secondary education do post a reply and we can start a dialogue.

Link to the orginal posting:

Alan Smitheee’ commented on the above: “Many universities have makerspaces – they were a fad about four or five years ago.”

The conversation continued:

University based makerspaces are very good, but the idea really comes into its own when it is driven by the needs of a broad community of engineers and creatives who value a place to work and exchange.

At Cambridge Makespace training is offered by members to members almost every evening (in normal times anyway). People who have learned how use equipment or design tools run courses for others. The experience imparted is about the particular skill in the context of real experience. Many casual interactions also happen. It is very much about learning new and relevant skills in a social environment.

The courses are delivered by volunteers. They are now working to move as much of the content online as is practical to accommodate social distancing and keep up with demand.

Cambridge Makerspace is not for profit, supported by it members, and not part of a university

Over 1,000 people and 300 companies have used Makespace; individuals, start-ups and well established firms. It continues to grow.

My personal view is that there is a model here that could be applied in situations where there is a skill base and an industrial need for further skills. Manufacturing, biotech, transport and many other industries could benefit.