A few weeks ago, discussions at the World Economic Forum (WEF) have highlighted how society finds itself in a time of accelerated change and disruption, with increasing pressure to evolve societal systems and processes to meet the demands of the 21st century and beyond. Within this perspective education is the most sophisticated social technology of societal transformation for co-creating and contributing to sustainable, regenerative and thriving futures.

However, the global Higher Education (HE) sector finds itself at a critical juncture in this period: The profound impact of disruptive and exponential technologies, shifting labour market dynamics coupled within dramatically-new needs for skills in the creative economy are all challenging the very raison de etre of HE. Vexing questions are being asked as to whether HE is able to adapt quickly enough to match the rate of evolution of new types of jobs, professions and occupations that require a new set of skills for agile and collaborative work teams.

In the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a crucial element for business and educational leaders is to align workplace needs with higher education preparation systems to promote student success in careers after graduation, rather than simply focusing on traditional academic achievements.

Academic Makerspaces are therefore increasingly being looked to as a method for engaging learners in creative, higher-order problem-solving and active learning skills through hands-on design, construction, and iteration. Consequently, the interdisciplinary, collaborative and empowering natures of these makerspaces help prepare students for a future that one cannot imagine.

Makerspaces provide powerful contexts and opportunities for students to learn and develop new skills and draws upon the innately human desire to make things using our hands and our brains. They provide this necessary outlet for students, fuelling engagement, creativity and curiosity.

Student-centred learning in a Makerspace can also empower students, helping them to shift from being passive consumers of information and products to active creators and innovators.  It allows students to take control of their lives, be more active, and be responsible for their own learning. Furthermore, it is the ‘process of making’ that emerges as a powerful experience for students, not necessarily the completion of a final project.

Education within a Makerspace fosters curiosity, tinkering, and iterative learning, which in turn leads to better thinking through better questioning.  This learning environment fosters enthusiasm for learning, student confidence, and natural collaboration. Ultimately the outcome of maker education and academic makerspaces leads to determination, independent and creative problem solving.

REGENT Business School, a South African business school has established its academic makerspace under the auspices of the iLeadLAB.

The iLeadLAB provides its students, alumni communities and business partners opportunities to bridge the gap between learning and work through Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) immersion, work-related learning and internship bootcamps, thus reducing the education-job mismatch and increasing employability competencies of its graduates.

Through these new innovations, the institution is challenging the idea of a traditional classroom by exploring how new physical and virtual learning environments can affect and improve not only learning outcomes but empower the students and unemployed individuals to become innovative entrepreneurs and productive members of an inclusive economy.