Shop Class Initiative

This fall the Education Committee embarked on an initiative to revitalize IG’s shop space by attracting shop teachers who will teach shop classes on a regular basis and also maintain the tools. Here’s the original proposal I presented to the Board last April.


Summer Shop Classes Proposal

Many of our tools rarely get used. Our shop is not actively maintained. The makerspace is unused most mornings, afternoons, and weekends. Some potential members are intimidated by software and electronics classes, but are interested in shop and crafts classes. Potential shop teachers are unwilling to volunteer.

Solution Phase 1: A Suite of Summer Shop Classes
The edu committee is putting together a suite of summer shop classes that will be marketed as a group. Possible classes include 3D printing, laser cutting, woodworking, welding, and CNC. Some classes would be defined by project rather than a specific tool. We welcome ideas and class proposals.

Solution Phase 2: Incentivize Regular Shop Teachers
I propose the Board draw up a (non-binding) agreement to attract shop teachers who will teach classes on a regular basis and maintain the IG shop. The main attractions will be that teachers can make a modest income, and teachers can develop their respective IG shops, which is both a benefit to them but also a responsibility. Such an agreement might include the following.

IG agrees to:
–Advertise the classes, manage the schedule, and collect the money.
–Provide storage space for the teacher and student projects.
–Provide tools initially necessary for the classes.
–Pay the teacher a portion of the class fees collected (before student materials fees). This should work out to be between $10 and $30/hour depending on subject and enrollment. Edu committee already has this agreement with teachers but IG might guarantee it in some way.
–Reserve a portion of the class fees for additional tools, materials and maintenance budget specific to their shopcraft. The teacher can spend small amounts at their discretion, and buy larger items with Board approval. (The final portion of class fees would go towards IG expenses generally. Also, non-member students would pay an additional amount which would go to IG generally.)
–Give the teacher an Extra membership for as long as they are actively teaching. Make it possible for them to work on their own projects in the space.
–Not schedule competing classes, so that the shop teacher has some guarantee of a certain amount of income.

The shop teacher agrees to:
–Commit to teaching a regular shop class of a specified length and number of courses a year. Courses would be limited to a certain number of students. Courses would be held weekend mornings so as not to conflict with other IG events.
–Find a substitute if they can’t make it to a particular class.
–Help find a replacement if they can no longer commit to this agreement.
–Staff the makerspace a certain number of hours/week and be prepared to help members and students who want to work on their projects outside of class time.
–Manage their shop area, keeping it clean and organized with student help.
–Maintain the tools and improve the capabilities of the shop, drawing on their budget as necessary.
–Help with IG tasks (such as duties made more difficult by the additional classes).
–Keep careful accounting of their expenditures.

I further propose that after hammering out this agreement the Board conduct a search process this summer to pro-actively find shop teachers willing to make a long-term commitment to IG.

Vic you had a couple of good points that I was too tired to respond to on Tuesday. One is that maybe the shop teachers should pool their resources since welding makes more money. I’ve already been doing that informally in that I bought the buddaschnozzle for the 3D printer and I’m paying for the woodshop lumber rack. But some specific agreement might be in order.

Also it might be worthwhile for the shop teachers to separate materials and labor for tax purposes. And if we are considering shop teachers to be sub contractors it would be better for them to retain ownership of tools since that is one of the factors the IRS considers when determining when a worker is an employee or a sub contractor.

Other makerspaces have a process by which members can keep their own tools at the makerspace for everyone to use, and the makerspace then buys the tools over time. This allows the makerspace to have tools immediately and then own them eventually. I’d welcome the Tool Committee to set this up.

Laurence. thanks for writing this up.

As a board, we have bigger questions to address before we can help you:,“What is our business model? How are we going to pay the rent? Who/what are our primary sources of revenue and what value do we offer in exchange?” Once we have that sorted out, we can guide you on this proposal. It has legs for sure. Some numbers would make it stronger though.


It’s not really a proposal that requires a decision from the Board since IG already has policies in place for paying teachers that edu is currently guided by. But when the Board figures out those questions you mention it would allow the Board to create a special agreement for shop teachers.

I’d also like to talk more with/as the Edu Committee about what the policy is/should be for “regular instructors” (i.e. - not “shop teachers”). I think that there’s an important distinction, but I don’t think we have sufficiently defined the policy for class fees and volunteer instructor payment outside of the shop teacher initiative.

I’m munging the text in the Google Doc here to accommodate further discussion…

One more while I’m thinking of it. If IG is reserving the funds for the improvement of the shop,then it feels like there should be an accounting of all improvements, fees reserved for, funds spent on, etc. We should draw a clear distinction between:
[what goes in an instructor’s pocket (to be used for personal beer and video games, itemized and income taxed as(?!?) an instructor payment or some variation thereon]
[what goes in the ‘discretionary’ spending account that the instructor will use for the improvement of the shop (to be itemized as expenditures by IG?).]
OPTION A: If an instructor has an expenditure that has been deemed necessary to improvement of the shop, then instructor should be able to direct that online/cc/check be “disbursed” (wrong word?) from the spending account to the required expense.
OPTION B: If an instructor uses their personal beer money to buy tools/supplies for IG, then there should be a relatively painless accounting procedure to deduct from the spending account and reimburse the beer money.

Or is this too simple? Or maybe too close to the existing way of things?

I agree with the fundamental idea that the “shop teacher” should be able to spend on behalf of the improvement of the shop without a lot of undue red tape, recursive approvals, and the “anguish” of reimbursement, but I think we need to help clarify which parts are which, in the spirit of transparency and above-board transactions.

I think we need to revise the relationship between board and edu. Im confident we’ll find a win/win but it’ll take some work.

@laurence I’d be far more comfortable with shop teachers putting some of the money they earn teaching back into IG in the form of their membership dues. We don’t have a very big membership as it is, and IG doesn’t currently/usually keep a great deal of revenue from classes. So I think policy like this ends up being a substantial net revenue loss for IG.

Bottom line, with our current financial model, we need as many members as possible paying dues at the highest level they can afford to pay. Giving away membership as incentives, I think, is unsustainable within our current financial structures.

I don’t really want to go off on a side bar here, but I know we already kind of set a precedent for this type of incentive with “staffing” and my gut is that it hurt us financially and I’m not sure we can measurably quantify the benefit.It should probably be revisited.

Filling out my most recent shop class forms and had a thought.

  • I’m not really interested in putting money in my pocket as a result of my work at the Generator.
  • I recognize that my expertise and hard work towards the shop class initiative represents a fair bit of income, and I’d like for that to directly benefit IG.
  • I’d like for the shop class income to benefit IG in specific ways, rather than “disappearing into the general fund”.
  • I’d like to be able to reserve the income from the shop classes in a fund (possibly the tool fund?)
    In the best of all worlds, the majority of the income generated by shop classes is then “put back into IG”.
    For instance, if shop teachers agree that what we need the most is a 12’ Planer, then we could look in the tools budget, see that the money was there, and then spend it.
    Questions? Problems?
  • Maybe the “shop teachers” aren’t in a position to dictate how the income they generate gets spent. For instance, maybe paying the rent or taxes is more important than saving for a new welding tool…
  • What value gets placed on the “ownership of the shop”? If the “shop teachers” are in a position to know what specific things need to be done, should they have a special input? Or should decisions on tool expenditures still have board oversight? (and are there bylaws to support this?)

You ask the best questions, Chris. No one is dictating. But shop teachers can and should make suggestions on what to get. And if that suggestion is based on a hypothesis “If we buy a planer, then we might generate x amount of revenue over Y amount of time” then that would make it easier for everyone to say “Go for it.” I wish it weren’t all about revenue but these days, it kind of is. I think monthly expenses is the focus of Nov board meeting. I’d say hold off major purchasing decisions til we have that discussion??

I think we want an organization-wide tool strategy. Shop teachers are looking to build depth in their areas but it’s important to maintain some diversity in what we offer. I don’t want us to forget electronics while we focus on welding, etc.

It may be that the shop teachers end up having a lot of say in what gets purchased but we want the tool committee to be overseeing the process so that the whole organization benefits. The shop teachers themselves also may benefit from the wider organizational view, I think it is a two-way street.

As far as disappearing, it’s important to remember we pay no salaries, hold no fancy fundraisers :stuck_out_tongue: The money goes either to a place for the tools to live or to the tools themselves. There’s no general fund specter here, imo.

It sounds good in theory for IG to have a tool-wide strategy but in practice it hasn’t work out. What works is giving individual instructors ownership. Our woodshop tools were collecting dust until Jeremy took ownership of the situation, which he needed to do to teach his class. Similarly if IG wants electronics capabilities we need to find an electronics instructor willing to build up and maintain IG’s tool set rather than instructors who bring their own tools to IG and then take them home again.

I am new to the board and the tool committee. While I think we obviously need to keep the big picture in mind, I think a lot of deference should be given to the opinions of active shop teachers. They are adding a lot of value to the IG and to the extent possible we should give them the tools needed (pun intended?) to continue to be a driving force.

Sean: glad to have you on the tool committee. Regarding electronics tools, last year (out of frustration not being able to find a complete set of electronics tools at IG) I tried to be the person who “built up and maintained” IG’s electronics tool set. I ordered some tools and set them up in a sort of electronics tool box. It didn’t work out. In short order they became scattered. Part of the problem is that electronics is not my main thing. I don’t use electronics tools on a weekly basis. I don’t teach an electronics class. I don’t have incentive to keep the tools organized and buy expendables. (I do however have this role with welding and bike tools, and those tools are very well organized.) Anyone out there able to take on the role of electronics shop teacher?

Everything is still kind of in pilot mode - we don’t know all the long-term outcomes here yet so from the big picture we need some policy and guidance for decision-making. I don’t think I am saying at all that shop teachers guidance/wishes won’t be important, I’m saying that the last word on large tool purchases needs to come from the board.

Starsplatter I’m not disagreeing that large tool purchases need to come from the board. I’m just recommending that there be a person on the other end of the purchase who has the time and energy to make sure the tool gets used and keeps working. With the laser cutter it has been Mark and now Xanthe. I’m bemoaning that with the electronics tools that person wasn’t me and the position remains unfilled.

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I see and I think that’s fine. Mark/Xanthe aren’t shop teachers though so it might not be necessary that being champion of a tool also requires being a shop teacher.

I really liked getting to play with your scratch boards the other day. If I want to teach a makey makey or scratch board series, how can I get money to do so if I’m not a shop teacher? How can we get a cnc? How we can run another indiegogo? All of these things require whole organization cooperation and prioritizing which is really my only point.

??? Maybe the word “shop teacher” is making us think we are disagreeing when we are saying the same thing? I think any tools the makerspace buys should be backed up by someone who has made a long term commitment to use the thing, maintain it, and teach others how to use it. That’s all I’m saying. Doesn’t matter what you call those people.

Yes I think so. I guess I just want to be sure that we keep a good handle on how much money we do and don’t have to spend on tools and I don’t think that can be done without consultation across IG. And then yes I think your point about having a champion/teacher/whatever for each tool area is really important. This could be done in conjunction with the tool committee. Maybe for tools that are unchampioned, the tool committee helps fill the gap?

I think too it might be confusing that we’re calling this the shop class initiative when maybe it is just a shop initiative? I don’t know.

A note about the size of tools relevant to this discussion –

An observation I’ve made about electronics that I can’t quite articulate yet is something like this: Electronics are small and portable and yet no one seems to work on them much at the space. I suspect we work on our projects at home bc everything is set up, including the projects (moving my twitter flick rgb project, for eg, is kind of a hassle and testing over time is impossible if its not set up at home).

On the other hand, big heavy tools that we don’t have in our own home studios have a certain kind of value to the space. I dont know if we’re capitalizing on it yet. But in theory, we could.

Turning that theory into reality will be really helpful to the shop teachers. Just saying “they add value” isn’t a convincing argument even though we know in our guts that it’s true. Like Mr. Wonderful on the TV Show Shark Tank, I say “Show me the numbers.”