Humanmade Brings Manufacturing to San Francisco’s Underserved Communities

Along with a makerspace, Humanmade is offering a Next Generation Manufacturing Training Program to upskill Bay Area residents for the future of work.

(Image courtesy of Humanmade.)

(Image courtesy of Humanmade.)

Humanmade is San Francisco’s first Advanced Manufacturing Training center that also houses the city’s largest open-access makerspace. Located in the heart of the Bay Area’s Design District, Humanmade’s extensive design, fabrication and prototyping facility is equipped with wood and metal shops, laser and 3D printing areas, and industrial sewing and electronics stations.

In addition to providing a space for manufacturers to develop products, Humanmade offers a range of training programs—from entry-level and advanced to afterschool STEAM. The Next Generation Manufacturing Program (NGMT) is Humanmade’s latest workforce development training course, with the aim to train low-income Bay Area residents for entry-level careers in manufacturing. caught up with Ryan Spurlock, founder and executive director of Humanmade. Spurlock’s experience in the manufacturing industry stems from having worked at TechShop, one of USA’s largest and most well-known pay-to-play in makerspace models.

“While running two of the Bay Area’s TechShop locations, we had firsthand experience in seeing the barriers that underserved communities have faced when entering the industry,” said Spurlock. “With that in mind, we wanted to reshape the way makerspaces serve their communities by fostering an equitable and inclusive manufacturing center. In an environment as diverse as the Bay Area, we felt we could cater to not just individuals that have the means or network, but really open this opportunity up for all.”

In each cohort of Humanmade’s NGMT program, around 90 percent of participants identify as LGBTQ, BIPOC, women, refugees, immigrants and English language learners. Approximately 80 percent are low-income workers, with 60 percent earning less than $36,500 a year. But Humanmade is looking to change that.

“One statistic we’re proud of is that individuals who were formerly on city services, or in minimum-wage jobs in the service industry, are now working in a resilient industry like manufacturing—where they’re getting between $18 and $35 an hour, with the average being $25 to $35 an hour,” conveyed Spurlock. “Another important metric is that roughly eight to 10 percent of individuals will go on to post-secondary learning opportunities, whether it’s college or another CTE-style program. These individuals, prior to their experience at Humanmade, didn’t quite have that interest.”

Inside Humanmade’s training facility. (Image courtesy of Humanmade.)

Inside Humanmade’s training facility. (Image courtesy of Humanmade.)

Humanmade’s 12-week NGMT program offers two distinct cohorts: additive manufacturing and CNC machining. The additive program covers the fundamentals of CAD/CAM and 3D printing, and progresses to advanced operations, maintenance and troubleshooting. The CNC operator program includes CAD/CAM and entry-level CNC machining, advancing to complicated machining techniques, tool changes and materials science. Much of the CAD is centered around Autodesk Fusion 360 and SOLIDWORKS.

“Since we focus the majority of the time on general shop training and CAD, individuals are qualified for many entry-level manufacturing jobs,” said Spurlock. “For example, previous placements include not only opportunities like 3D printing technicians and CNC operators, but CAD specialists, assembly technicians, quality control, rapid prototyping, and overall general entry-level design jobs as well.”

(Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

(Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Once training is completed, SFMade—a Humanmade partner—connects participants with their network of 600 local manufacturers in San Francisco.

“Humanmade has also brought several companies to the table and increased opportunities by just word of mouth,” added Spurlock.

Along with job placement assistance, Humanmade supports participants through a holistic approach by ensuring that external factors do not inhibit success.

“We actually found soft skills and barrier mitigation to be the most critical component of the work that we do,” revealed Spurlock. “We work with about 100 different community-based organizations to help people resolve issues like housing and unemployment. There’s quite a broad spectrum of challenges that people face. We could be helping folks that are undocumented. It could be something as simple as not having the means to get to the facility. They might not have childcare. Sometimes it’s mental health issues, drug and substance abuse, or domestic violence. Recently, we’ve even included daily meal deliveries to help participants who are facing food insecurities.”

Through collaborative partnerships with nonprofit community organizations, government, and corporate and philanthropic support, such issues can be tackled at the source, helping people reach their potential without being held back by their circumstances.

“What I’ve learned working with underserved communities is that people just want an opportunity,” expressed Spurlock. “They want to work. They want to have a skill. They want to feel valued in the world. I think that’s a right that everyone deserves. A lot of what we do is not just skill-building, but confidence-building. Not only can people come in with hard skills, but have a transformative experience where it literally redefines their life path and self-worth.”

Autodesk Certifications Make a Difference

At the end of the NGMT program, CNC Machining participants gain the “Autodesk Certified Associate in CAM for 2.5 Axis Milling” certification, while Additive Manufacturing participants earn the “Autodesk Certified Associate in CAD for Mechanical Design” credentials.

“We feel very lucky that our programs end with the opportunity to get certification directly through Autodesk,” said Spurlock. “Since we’ve been offering the NGMT program, we’ve had individuals who have—on average—gotten placement opportunities around $5 more an hour. For the first cohort to whom we provided the Autodesk certification opportunity, 30 percent of CNC trainees were hired before graduation. So it’s already increasing our participants’ ability to get well-paying jobs here in the Bay Area.”

Apart from securing employment, several program graduates have been inspired to start their own businesses.

“We have some individuals who have created robust and interesting small businesses, that continue to have access to our space to fulfill their goal of building and growing their brand,” related Spurlock.

(Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

(Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Joe Speicher, executive director of the Autodesk Foundation and Global Future of Work Lead, weighed in on how Autodesk certifications are helping prepare students for future careers in manufacturing.

“Many training programs are focused on tools,” said Speicher. “The certificates we’re offering from Autodesk are role-based, and we’ve actually done the research to say these are growth jobs. Another level to think about is that these certifications are helping folks enter the digital world of work. Previously, when you’d think of a machinist, you’d think of someone using a hand mill. The future is all CNC, which requires familiarity with digital tools. The opportunity to get students on that digital ladder to learn tools that are future growth areas in the manufacturing industry, significantly helps in terms of their future prospects in job placements.”

Autodesk Fusion 360 render at Humanmade. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Autodesk Fusion 360 render at Humanmade. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Speicher was introduced to Humanmade through Kate Sofis, head of SFMade. The collaboration supports the Autodesk Foundation’s Future of Work impact area, which is focused on solutions to help the labor force transition towards an automated future.

“Manufacturing jobs in the United States make up roughly eight to nine percent of the total workforce,” asserted Speicher. “San Francisco actually has a fairly strong manufacturing base. What happens is, the companies become big and then they outsource manufacturing, mostly to East Asia. But San Francisco wanted to replenish that startup community of organizations. Humanmade focuses on the skills necessary to make good on our needs for job creation from a manufacturing perspective.

“One of the first commitments we made was software, in terms of supporting Humanmade on specific CAD/CAM needs. When we were planning to launch our credentialing and certification program, we approached Humanmade and said, ‘There might be interesting opportunities to pilot some of this work with you guys.’ That essentially helped to facilitate the engagement between the Autodesk Education and Humanmade teams.

“We launched our credentials program at the end of last year. The ability to get it to Humanmade learners was an excellent opportunity. They could give us direct feedback on the program, and we could focus on diverse and vulnerable populations. These are the folks that should get first shot at these training programs to help them advance in the labor market. There’s a lot of positive outcome already, and that feedback loop will help improve our offering for the market.”

The Future of Work Is Local

According to Spurlock, the U.S. manufacturing industry is currently facing a $1 trillion skills gap, and 600,000 qualified manufacturers will be needed over the next eight years to fill jobs.

“Instead of a skills deficit, it’s just a skills mismatch,” suggested Speicher. “We are seeing significant growth in jobs, and that growth is more technical and enabled by digital tools. While the challenges are global around the space related to automation and digitization, the solutions—programs, certifications and skilling programs—need to be local in their deployment to address local market and workforce needs.”

Humanmade’s goal is to expand beyond the Bay Area, and demonstrate how bringing a multitude of different organizations together to create holistic coalitions can translate to other industries.

“The work we’re doing at Humanmade can truly have a profound impact on society in that it helps individuals master the skills of advanced manufacturing, while also undertaking the concepts and philosophy of design process,” said Spurlock. “This type of thinking not only helps people address a design problem or solution; it also helps them look at themselves and step outside the box to move forward in a productive way. I think if we were to put more support in domestic manufacturing, we truly are laying the groundwork to help the country deliver upon its goals of building back better.”

To learn more about Humanmade, visit their website.