2018.05.07

Makerspace Autodidact

Typically an autodidact is described as a self-learner, and sometimes seen as “education without the guidance of masters or institutions”. An autodidact is an individual who chooses the subject he or she will study, his or her studying material, and the studying rhythm and time. I think makers and those who follow the DIY ethic are often autodidacts. I don’t think autodidacts have to work in solitude though, and can learn from others, but in a self-paced and more unstructured setting than what is typically seen in a classroom.

I’m proposing that membership to a makerspace can be considered “Job Training for the Autodidact”. If you’ve got the desire to learn, and you are willing to put in the time, the environment of a makerspace might be exactly what you need to gain the skills needed for your next job.

Milwaukee Makerspace currently has over 300 members. Among those members are people who are experts in woodworking, metalworking, digital fabrication, electronics, sewing, textiles, costuming, photography, film making, leather working, ceramics, casting and forging, and CNC. Want to learn to use a lathe, mill, table saw, sewing machine, or even write code? There’s probably people there who can teach you, and equipment for you to use. I guarantee I’ll probably never have a Bridgeport mill or Southbend lathe at my house, but I can learn to use both of them at Milwaukee Makerspace.

Pumping Station: One has over 400 members, and if you’re interested in embedded system development you could join their NERP meetup and start learning. If instead you’re interested in some of the things I mentioned above when talking about Milwaukee Makerspace, don’t worry, PS:1 has almost all the same equipment, and most likely members with similar expertise. Also, it’s worth mentioning that at Milwaukee Makerspace we have some members who have worked in an industry for their whole lives and then retired, and joined the space. I’ve heard at least half a dozen new members say “I’m a retired machinist, and I live right down the street, and this place is awesome!”

Now, not every space will have all of the same tools or expertise, but they are typically filled with people that possess a great desire to learn new things, and as someone who has hired people, that’s one of the most valuable skills a potential employee can possess.

A friend of mine mentioned that his son was interested in carpentry, or some other job that involved “working with his hands” and I suggested that joining the makerspace might be a great way to learn about different jobs and trades and get hands-on with some different tools and equipment and making and see what really interests him.

(That said, I always warn people who are all fired up and ready to learn that it can take time… Training on equipment doesn’t always happen as quickly as people would like, and occasionally things are broken or not working at 100%, but some patience goes a long way.)

I’ve personally benefited from the knowledge and skills I’ve learned at Milwaukee Makerspace and hold my current position in part due to my $40 a month membership and doing all I could to learn new skills the first few years I was a member. (And yes, I continue to learn new things every day!)

I’m considering doing a survey, because I’d really like to see who has been hired due to new skills they’ve learned at Milwaukee Makerspace. Even if you’re not interested in a new job, or advancing in your career, I think a makerspace membership can help make you a more well rounded person, who perhaps knows more than just the skills needed to get by each day. And to be honest, you never know when a new skill might come in handy.

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