Years ago, I read a Fast Company article in which various futurists predicted the "coolest" jobs that would exist in 2030—among them: body part designer, space architect and time broker.
I'm not sure how one prepares to be a time broker (if it involves punctuality, then most of the people I know in Santa Fe would be singularly ill-suited for such a career). Fortunately, MAKE Santa Fe (2879 All Trades Road, 819-3502) is taking a more practical view of training people for future jobs, ones that also seem "cool."
Maker spaces are proliferating in communities across the US and the world. Simply put, MAKE Santa Fe allows members, for a fee, to use a variety of equipment, from 3-D printers to laser cutters and beyond. The organization compares itself to a gym, except that the monthly fee allows access to hands-on digital fabrication equipment rather than treadmills.
Earlier this fall, MAKE Santa Fe celebrated receiving a $50,000 Outstanding Achievement CommunityWINS grant from the US Conference of Mayors, in recognition of neighborhood revitalization. The award specifically acknowledges MAKE's work in creating The DigiFab Youth Lab, MAKE's partnership with YouthWorks that provides training and experience with the various digital fabrication equipment MAKE also makes available to the larger public.
MAKE Santa Fe Board member Zane Fischer created the partnership with YouthWorks (disclosure: Years ago, Fischer worked for SFR as a writer and editor alongside the writer and editor of this article). He describes himself as an admirer of YouthWorks, and modeled MAKE's program along the lines of YouthWorks' YouthBuild program, in which participants work with Habitat for Humanity to learn how to build houses.
"I thought the maker space was a great opportunity to fill that Habitat for Humanity role," Fischer says. "It's a similarly modeled program to give the kids a broader range for work opportunities and the potential to be hired in digital fabrication and advanced manufacturing."
The maker movement is in part a response to increased access to automated equipment. As Fischer describes it, "a lot of automated equipment that used to be large and expensive and on factory floors has become more accessible and democratized, so whether you're talking about doing manufacturing or production on a small bespoke level, or the future of factory manufacturing jobs, you're still talking about automation."
At the DigiFab Youth Lab, where attendees learn how to use a wide array of MAKE's equipment, such experience could lead to myriad types of work, whether it's operating a metal-cutting table for an HVAC manufacturer doing duct work on a construction project, or someone "who's doing 3-D printing as a baseline for casting bolts for production."
I stopped by MAKE's studios one afternoon and met some of the students working with Andrew Woodard, who runs the education program. Woodard is a sculptor with a construction background who sees the training program in part as an accelerated introduction to the tools they might want to use in the jobs of the future. "If they choose to continue on this path," Woodard says, "they'll have a leg up."
That seems to be the case for Amanda Barber, Amelia Valdez and Alyshia Gutierrez, three friends in who were in a previous educational setting they found less engaging than this one. "It's easier to pay attention," Gutierrez says. "It's a lot of hands-on stuff."
Inspired by the three young women, I decided to return to MAKE Santa Fe on Dec. 16 for its annual Holiday Make and Take event, which, for a small fee, allows one to learn how to use some of the equipment to make various seasonal gifts. As I have a long history with my own clumsiness and lack of spatial reasoning skills, I opted to learn how to make a pop-up holiday card, which involves only scissors and paper. Despite the clear and gentle instructions of the paper arts crew, my card looked like something a parent would have trouble praising a 5-year-old for making. I then moved to the ornament-making station, where, again with help, I assembled wood pieces pre-made by actually talented people in the lab into some semblance of an ornament. Kind of.
Time broker, it is!
MAKE Santa Fe has laser cutter, sewing machine and Lulzbot 3D printer certification programs coming up, as well as training orientations for new members. For more information about memberships and special programs, go to makesantafe.org.