Wunderkammer Proof of Concept Events in Three Strategic Communities
Vadnais Heights, Maplewood, NE Minneapolis, East Side, St. Paul MN
Goal: To demonstrate how to mount a Wunderkammer: Community Tech and Training Event to seed the development of a permanent Installation. The permanent installation would be used as an ongoing Exploratorium and place to host youth-focused workshops about local trade, manufacturing work opportunities, post-secondary credential courses, and nonprofit enterprises. We hope a outh from low-income communities and communities of color will find themselves leading a renaissance of manufacturing and industry in the Twin Cities. But first, they and their families and communities must explore the 21st Century career opportunities through Wunderkammers.
Problem: The problem with Job Fairs is that they are simply NOT FAIR to low-income youth and youth from communities of color. All too often, job fairs, and college expos are not safe places to ask foundational (and sometimes embarrassing) questions that could show the unfamiliarity of the youth to the product or skill set needed. There is an expectation that readied applicants are there to impress the presenter. Often student of color or students from low-income communities bring a quite history of being judged, of quite systematic dismissal and even abuse while engaging with figures of authority. These talented youth will not excel in this environment.
Solution—A new paradigm: A new model is called a Wunderkammer—Community Exploratorium. Wunderkammers, the forebearers of the modern museums, provided audiences with a sense of welcome and wonder. These small-scale and practical skill/interest sharing sessions bring to life curiosity discovery, enthusiasm and the hope and dreams of youth while inviting industry technicians to convey their own personal excitement for their field. These become micro-mentoring moments. These shared conversations and micro-mentoring, if constructed as part of a career chain, can help lead youth to daringly embrace passions about previously unexplored career paths. The ultimate goal is short term training that lead youth, particularly those with little means, to find livable wage jobs and enriched lives using credential stacking or a series of short term trainings. Ultimately, once settled and on a career path, many of these youth can add college training.
In summary, the Wunderkammer model is not simply a skirted table with pamphlets. The amount of space used is similar to a traditional job fair stall, but technicians and learners engagement on joint projects while learning about some of the skills that will be needed. This space is created and curated by representatives of local manufacturers, area colleges, the trades and training program that invite youth to these hands-on interactive experiences.