Why Making?

We Don’t Know the Careers of the Future

It is impossible for us to predict what the future will look like, yet, as educators, we have the responsibility to prepare our youth for it. We have to develop their skills for careers that do not exist yet and navigate rapidly changing technology.

Kids starting school now will graduate in 2030. Can you imagine what 2030 will be like? It is impossible for us to know what careers might exist that far in the future. Even current high school students face a rapidly changing technology landscape as they look toward finding their first jobs in the next few years.

At Digital Harbor Foundation (DHF), we focus on developing creative problem solving skills and confidence. Our youth learn how to learn instead of what to learn, which builds confidence in their own abilities to overcome challenges. This confidence allows them to become an active advocate for their own learning rather than passive participant. Through this process, they develop a love of learning, putting them on the pathway to becoming lifelong learners. When students know how to learn and love to learn they will be able to adapt to any career field of today or tomorrow.

How do we prepare youth for careers that don’t yet exist? By teaching them how to learn and to love learning. By creating accessible community environments where youth can be valued and develop self-worth based on their skills and learning. If we can equip youth with these critical skills and mindsets, then they will be prepared for whatever the future holds.

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Moving from Rec Centers to Tech Centers

Community Rec Centers were created and experienced great support throughout the past century, which in the context of the industrial era actually makes a lot of sense. Factories needed lots of physically fit, able-bodied folks to be able to work in them, and Rec Centers helped with that. These factories also needed extended daycare options for second-shift workers; again, a great fit.  Additionally, the role of Rec Centers as physical locations for community gatherings galvanized the political will to support them. However, as factories have shut down, closed their doors, and auctioned off their equipment, Rec Centers have failed to re-imagine themselves, and are being shuttered all across this country as government budgets are being cut.


At the same time, the recent release of internal demographic information by numerous tech companies underscores the massive and systemic disparities that exist in this country. The data makes painfully clear that all populations do not have equal access to opportunities, and therefore do not have equal technical skill attainment. For example, at companies like Facebook and Google, African-Americans make up just 2% of the total company workforce. At the same time, tens of thousands of tech-sector jobs lie vacant in Baltimore alone, simply because there are not enough local tech professionals to fill them; tech companies are starving for individuals with the appropriate skills and mindsets. Our nation’s current system of public schools and Rec Centers is failing to prepare our youth for the needs of today’s rapidly-changing and increasingly more tech-focused economy.

Reimagining Rec Centers

If you re-image a Rec Center as a Tech Center, however, the equation suddenly changes. It goes from being an expense item on a budget to being an investment. In this new vision, a Tech Center is directly linked to the future health of a city’s future workforce, and becomes an economic imperative as a key component in a robust pipeline for high-growth sector jobs. At the Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center, we offer camps and programs that give local Baltimore youth the opportunity to engage in new technologies such as 3D printing and programmable electronics. We also have a semester-long afterschool program that helps youth discover passions that they may not have otherwise developed, and helps them build computer skills and technology experience that prepares them for successful careers after graduation.

The Digital Harbor Foundation is dedicated to fostering learning, creativity, productivity, and community through education. In 2013 we transformed a closed-down rec center in Baltimore City into a vibrant Tech Center for youth. In 2014 we launched the Center of Excellence to train others how to incorporate making into their own learning environments. The DHF Blueprint brings these two initiatives to a national scale.

Why Tech Centers?

Cities all over the country are facing the same challenges we are working to overcome in Baltimore. We need safe spaces for youth to learn outside of school, and we need to provide training in vital technology skills to raise employment opportunities for the next generation. At the same time, cities often have underutilized buildings right in the heart of the communities that most need support for youth education and career training. By repurposing such unused spaces as Tech Centers, cities can bring creativity, opportunity, and engagement directly into their most at-risk local communities.

The DHF Blueprint provides resources to help city officials, program developers, and educators start youth Tech Centers in their own communities. We can help you get through initial concepting and budgeting, equipment purchases and construction, and even provide projects and training to support your educational staff.

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