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Fostering learning opportunities to design and make a better future for all

Labor shortages, systemic inequality, and climate change are three of our most pressing global challenges. At the intersection of these issues is the opportunity to promote learning and workforce development as one of the solutions. To help do its part, Autodesk is collaborating with programs that give teachers, students, and members of underserved communities the tools and skills to design and make a more sustainable world.

Creating opportunity in high-demand jobs

Nearly a million manufacturing jobs went unfilled in July, according to federal reporting. The gap between demand for goods and people who can fill that demand is growing. A recent Deloitte study estimates the lack of skilled labor in manufacturing will cost the US economy $1 trillion over the next decade. It sounds like a tough nut to crack, but not when you partner with innovators who have big ideas and doable solutions.

Innovators like Humanmade — home to San Francisco’s first advanced manufacturing training center. 

To help upskill Bay Area residents for local manufacturing jobs, they offer a three-month advanced manufacturing training program. Participants learn CAD/CAM software and gain hands-on manufacturing experience to land entry-level positions in CNC machining and advanced manufacturing. Autodesk partners with Humanmade to align the training with Autodesk Certifications, a learning and credentialing program that validates the participants’ skills to potential employers. 

Humanmade’s training not only prepares people for the future of work; it also opens access to those who need and deserve it most. In each training program, around 90% of participants identify as LGBTQ, BIPOC, women, refugees, immigrants, and English language learners. Many come into the program while on city services or earning minimum wage and emerge from it to secure positions with significantly higher pay. 

With the collaboration’s first cohort, 30% of the participants in the CNC Machining track had already been hired for new jobs before graduation day. And graduates with Autodesk certificates have been earning as high as a 50% increase in salaries negotiated.

Humanmade’s approach is a unique blend of workforce development, soft skill training and barrier mitigation, connecting members of the community to the good-paying manufacturing jobs that desperately need to be filled.

Teaching teachers to foster the next generation of green builders

Like the manufacturing sector, the construction industry is facing significant challenges. Unprecedented labor shortages are making it nearly impossible to staff job sites and keep projects on time. Meanwhile, the buildings and infrastructure that make up the “built environment” are responsible for almost 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Each challenge is significant on its own, which makes it even more rewarding to develop solutions that tackle both.

Solutions like the Boston Teacher Externship Program. Autodesk is partnering with Boston Public Schools to help teachers light career paths for students to a more sustainable architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. Since the program began four years ago, Autodesk has hosted nearly 70 Boston educators to develop their environmental sustainability literacy in the AEC industry.

And just like real-world AEC projects, it takes cross-industry collaboration from start to finish. That’s why the program has grown to include Gilbane Building Company, Elkus Manfredi Architects, Nitsch Engineering, and the United Way, each contributing their unique perspectives on how the industry operates and what’s needed to address its carbon footprint.

It’s no coincidence that the Boston community has rallied behind this effort. A waterfront city already facing rising sea levels, Boston has been ranked the world’s eighth most vulnerable to floods among major coastal cities, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the most at risk to the effects of climate change are the under-resourced communities where many Boston Public School students live. It’s under this backdrop that the city has developed aggressive plans to become carbon-neutral by 2050.

This year’s externship got right to the heart of these realities, as each educator participated in a hands-on design challenge based on a new lesson plan about designing flood solutions. The program also included field trips to green construction sites and buildings led by the architects and engineers who helped design the projects. 

Bernadine Lormilus-Henry, a middle school English Language Arts teacher who participated in this year’s externship, plans to put her learnings into practice. She’s considering new curricula like designing for wellness in the post-COVID built environment and building structures that can withstand sea-level rise, all with the hope of spurring her students’ interest in the industry and a desire to solve critical global problems.

At the end of the externship, Lormilus-Henry told program leaders that she walked away feeling “more powerful.” She said, “I feel like I have so much more to give my students this year.”

Tapping into talent at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Designing solutions that address the world’s most pressing challenges requires the best and brightest minds. But too often, those with the potential to unlock innovative new ideas are overlooked. Consider the underfunding that has long plagued Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Recognizing this imbalance, Congress launched an initiative known as the HBCU Partnership Challenge, and one way Autodesk is fulfilling its commitment through the Autodesk HBCU Tech Program

Now in its second year, the seven-month Tech Program offers paid externships to talented computer science and engineering students at HBCUs. For the first cohort, Autodesk partnered with Morgan State University, Howard University, North Carolina A&T University, and Morehouse College. In close collaboration with professors from each school, participants work with Autodeskers on specially curated projects like streamlining workflows for a more efficient machine shop process and robotics security. The faculty members help bring forward participants for the program. They also act as consultants to the process, attending weekly meetings, advising students, and helping them develop skills to complete projects successfully.

The ultimate aim of the Tech Program is to provide a conduit to an early career program at Autodesk. And just like all of Autodesk’s workforce development programs, from Humanmade to Boston Public Schools, there’s an even larger mission at work: igniting the innovation that can foster a more just and sustainable world. 

“You can’t think about labor shortages without thinking about the diversity pipeline. And you can’t think about social justice without also thinking about climate change,” said Mary Hope McQuiston, Vice President of Autodesk Education Experiences. “Now more than ever, we know our world—and its challenges—are interconnected. Through investments in education and reskilling initiatives, we can help prepare and elevate the innovators who are going to unlock the solutions.”

A combination of automation technology, skilled employees, and commitment from the business community is needed to help industry and society meet the global challenges of the future. And Autodesk is committed to doing its part, helping workers adapt, thrive, and create the new possible.

Learn more about how Autodesk is building a diverse workforce and empowering lifelong learners for the future of work.