Lessons Learned Creating Youth Jobs in an Afterschool Maker Space
Real-world problem solving through Making is a popular technique to engage youth in STEM education. Since it is often difficult to infuse Maker curriculum into students’ school schedules, this frequently occurs in after-school programs. Unfortunately, not all youth are able to participate in these enriching after-school activities due to financial pressures. Due to the lack of variety of youth jobs, findings a technical job may be difficult and youth may instead take jobs in non-technical fields such as food service or retail. These non-technical jobs take time away from Making, designing, and tinkering, which can leave them behind their peers who are developing valuable technical skills.
We are working to identify strategies and techniques to help youth who have been engaged in after-school maker programs transition to after-school jobs that leverage and encourage these skills. We are particularly interested in teaching youth that creative problem solving, independent learning, and collaboration are employable skills. We believe that Maker Jobs will enable youth to continue to be active in a community of youth makers, continue learning technical skills, see the applicability of these skills in their future careers, and hone crucial soft skills that are necessary to enter the technical workforce.
In this paper we discuss some of the design decisions and challenges we have encountered creating a “living laboratory” 3D print shop. This work is being done in a youth makerspace in Baltimore City that has seen attrition in their after-school programs once youth are old enough to apply for a work permit. Our 3D print shop employs youth who have completed the center’s foundational classes to perform technical jobs ranging from 3D printer operation, 3D printer repair, and managing client work. We present lessons learned in selecting and training youth for these jobs, and report on the experiences of youth transitioning from participants in an after-school maker program to employees in a technical job.