Building Thriving Local Economies by Leveraging the Maker Movement to Close the Skills Gap

Authors: Megan Brewster and Stephanie Santoso


Summary 

The Federal Government should further invest in, support and scale four existing approaches to building local skills and vibrant, self-sufficient local economies by coupling localities’ needs with workforce development and small-scale manufacturing. This is achieved by scaling local programs and initiatives which harness the Maker Movement, a community-driven, grassroots effort to enable people to design, prototype and manufacture projects, solutions and products.


Specifically, the Federal Government should:

  • Leverage makerspaces and Fab Labs as local sites for preparing the current and future workforce through real-world maker-centered learning and Employer Validated Training Programs.

  • Build the “MakerNet” to connect employers with skilled talent.

  • Cultivate makerspaces as engines for small businesses.

  • Launch FabCity America to challenge cities to make what they consume.


By harnessing early successes from across the country, these policy solutions can rapidly stand up localized programs to immediately support more American communities grappling with skills shortages. This need is exponentially more critical in the face of COVID-19, as 80% of U.S. manufacturers have articulated that their business will be financially affected by the pandemic and 53% require a change of operations, including the increased use of automation technologies.



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About the Authors

Megan Brewster is a technologist who has worked at the forefront of innovation over the last 15 years across industry, government, and academia. As VP of Advanced Technology, Dr. Brewster is delivering the Internet of Every_Thing with passive RFID technology by bringing clarity and strategy to next-generation capabilities through technology development and partnerships, as well as international standards. Previously, Dr. Brewster served as the Senior Policy Analyst for Advanced Manufacturing at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where she supported the stand-up and sustainable transition of a $3B national network of R&D hubs and coordinated numerous priority technology areas across 13 Federal agencies. Dr. Brewster earned BS from the University of Washington and PhD from MIT, both in Materials Science and Engineering, with a PhD minor in Technology and Public Policy.


Stephanie Santoso is the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Makers + Mentors Network, an initiative of the national non-profit organization, Citizen Schools. As a Senior Program Fellow at Infosys Foundation USA, she supports the Foundation’s maker education portfolio. Stephanie is a founding Board Member of Nation of Makers and received her Ph.D. in Information Science at Cornell University where her dissertation research explored the IP issues related to 3D printing. From 2014-2016, she served as the first Senior Advisor for Making at the White House, where she helped develop President Obama’s Nation of Makers initiative to broaden access to the Maker Movement. This included planning the first-ever White House Maker Faire and the National Week of Making.