This month U.S. Reps. Drew Ferguson (R-GA3) and David Scott (D-GA13) joined up to co-sponsor H.R. 2518, the Making Advances Kinetic Education, Research, and Skills Act or The MAKERS Act.
The legislation would direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award grants to colleges and universities to develop ‘makerspaces.’ Makerspaces are collaborative work spaces within a school that provide tools and resources, particularly within the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to the local community. They are meant to foster entrepreneurship, acting as incubators and accelerators for business startups. In essence, they are supposed to help foster the sort of environments and conditions necessary for early stage entrepreneurial business ventures – something common in say Midtown Atlanta, but not so much outside of Columbus.
The MAKERS Act specifically directs the NSF to prioritize community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and other minority-serving institutions that do not have as much of access to makerspaces (or similar) as larger schools. The legislation also gives priority to rural and high-need, low-income school districts and communities.
STEM related employment opportunities have historically been highly underrepresented by certain minority groups, including women, African-Americans, and Latino-Americans. The MAKERS Act seeks to give those groups more opportunities to get into the STEM field, both increasing its diversity and helping grow a modern 21st century workforce.
“I am proud to introduce the historic and bipartisan MAKERS Act along with Rep. Drew Ferguson, a member from the Georgia delegation, and Rep. Mark Takano, a leader in the national movement for makerspaces,” said Scott on the legislation. “HBCUs play a pivotal role in preparing minority students for the workforce and my home-state of Georgia hosts ten HBCUs where thousands of African-American students graduate annually. All Americans, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, should have the opportunity to partake in the increasing demand for a STEM-capable workforce and makerspaces are where that demand is met. The MAKERS Act bridges the gap between HBCUs and the increased demand for STEM capable employees by providing grants to develop and hone both hard and soft skills in students.”
Said Ferguson on the bill, “Our students must be prepared to succeed in the STEM-capable careers of tomorrow. But too often the educational resources students need to enter these fields aren’t as easily accessible by underrepresented communities. We should be ensuring that students from every community and walk of life have the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century job market. That’s why I’m proud to join Congressman Scott to introduce the MAKERS Act to provide the hard and soft skills students need to enter STEM careers. The MAKERS Act is a direct investment in the future of countless students in rural communities, community colleges and historically black colleges and universities across the United States.”