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Engaging the Unengaged

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

At the Fab Lab, we've discovered that the kind of thinking inspired by projects in the lab, as well as the study of the way entrepreneurs thinkare a benefit to people of all ages whether or not they become small business owners or choose to go to work for others. The Entrepreneurial Mindset, because it makes us all better problem solvers, is a benefit to all of us. 

Technical Programs Need to Offer More Than the Specifics 

Turns out others are making the same discovery. The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI) is the company that developed the "Ice House Entrepreneurship Program" we've used since August of 2012 to instill this kind of thinking in our Entrepreneurial Mindset classes. I was honored in October of 2017 to share a break-out presentation with Bree Langemo, ELI president, about how our workforce development programs should include training to instill this kind of thinking, along with the technical training in the particular disciplines.  The presentation took place during the annual conference of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE). The audience consisted of work force educators from community colleges around the country and was focused on making work force programs more competitive. This really was not only about helping schools distinguish their work force programs from one another, but also about making the students more competitive as they enter the work force. My part of the presentation had to do with how the Fab Lab maker experience could add to more engaging work forces. 

Engaged, Not Engaged and Actively Disengaged 

Bree presented a startling statistic from the Gallup people about the state of current engagement of the work force. Only 13% of the employees in the work force are actively engaged in their work; involved and enthusiastic, taking positive action toward the missions of their organizations. Sixty-three percent are not engaged. They lack passion for their job and tend to look at the job as punching a time clock in exchange for a paycheck. Twenty-four percent are disengaged, unhappy and disconnected, bringing negativity to the work place and jeopardizing team performance. Think about this for a minute. It means that if you had 20 employees in a row boat, three are enthusiastically rowing in a forward direction; twelve are not really doing anything except maybe slapping their oars in the water while five are actually rowing backwards. This is what employers are faced with in trying to be competitive in their marketplaces. 

Fab Force Offers Mindset and Versatility 

We believe strongly in this idea and are developing a certification program we call "Fab Force." It will involve a core group of classes, including Entrepreneurial Mindset. In addition, there will be a "buffet" of other classes involving introductions to all kinds of making and fabrication. Local employers have told us they like the idea of having someone show up for work with a problem-solving attitude and a variety of knowledge and skills. The employers say this makes them more competitive by having employees that are versatile and able to work in different areas of the company while interested and engaged in the company mission. Fab Force will be available in the fall of this year. 

Participants in our work force programs as well as nearly any of our more traditional academic programs would benefit from having an entrepreneurial mindset and introduction to a wide variety of digital and manual making experiences. The combination of these two disciplines tend to make people much better problems solvers, more curious and much more engaged when they enter the marketplace, either as small business owners serving customers or workers enthusiastically engaged in a competitive business. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at or Twitter @jimcorrellks. 

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