With graduation season comes scary thoughts of career paths and jobs. It has become very apparent that 3D Printing is going to be the next job boom and filling those skilled jobs will be a big challenge. Where are all these potential employees going to get their 3D Printing Design Education?
As if the US education system didn’t have enough problems falling behind other countries in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) education, China is about to make the education gap turn into a skilled labor gap. They are buying and installing 400,000 3D Printers into all their elementary schools by end of 2016. There certainly won’t be a shortage of skilled Chinese labor able to fill jobs in new additive and hybrid manufacturing factories. But is a 3D Printer in every classroom enough to provide all the skills needed?
In our experience working closely with Chinese engineers, “designers” and factories for over 20 years, early exposure to 3D Print Design Education and Technology will produce skilled labor, but not skilled designers.
China’s 3D Printing Design Education Gap
Every time we visit a Chinese factory, the first question we get is always about the what…What should we make? What do US consumers want? What do women want to buy? The “design” in Chinese 3D Printing Design Education does not mean learning design principles and innovative design thinking. In China, 3D Design really means learning CAD, modeling and rendering. Additionally, we have found that the lack of women in design/engineering positions, blocking and censoring internet views, and failure to question enough make understanding US consumers and developing the right products extremely difficult.
But any flaws in the Chinese cultural and education system doesn’t let the US off the hook for its own lack of a plan for 3D Printing Design Education. Slashing art budgets at elementary schools across the country has cut out the basic art and design principles we need to teach 3D Printing Design.
If both the US and China doesn’t start working on converting the definition of design to include the “A” for Art in STEAM, there will be no one to create all the original and desirable designs to be downloaded and 3D Printed. It would be a shame if a technology that could let you manufacture whatever you want is held back by the fact that you don’t have the imagination or the creative design thinking required to design whatever you want. Support STEAM in your community and schools today – it is good for the future of our next generation and it is essential for our business and industry growth.
Note from Tracy & Tom – In addition to pushing our local school district, colleges and universities, we’re not letting our girls fall behind. Our college age daughter is interested in 3D Printing food as a Nutrition/Culinary major, so she plans to learn CAD this summer. Luckily she already has a good art/design foundation because she attended the Orange County High School of Arts. Our 6-year old started the 3D Printing design education curriculum called TinkerCAD Launchpad developed by our WTFFF Podcast Guest John Bokla from i3D Creatives. Follow us on social media to follow their progress.