Ecosystem

MadLab, an under-appreciated part of Manchester’s tech scene, is expanding

20 Apr, 2017

MadLab doesn’t get enough recognition for its part in Manchester’s tech community. Bridging science, technology, arts and culture, it plays host to a wide variety of meetups, training courses and creative projects.

A couple of new developments you should be aware of this month at MadLab are its upcoming Digital Skills for Women programme and its new ‘MadFabLab.’

Digital Skills for Women

Digital Skills for Women is a series of workshops and seminars that kick off next month. They’ll equip unemployed and underemployed women with the IT skills they need to launch a new career or business, and open up new opportunities in the technology sector.

“The stats for women in tech are pretty dire,” says MadLab’s Director, Rachael Turner. “You only have to look at Manchester Digital’s latest report, or read the transcript of Martha Lane Fox’s Dot Everyone Dimbleby lecture to know that women are underrepresented in technology across pretty much all sectors. However, given access to training, we have seen tons of success stories. See for example Amanda’s story, which is brilliant – and not atypical.”

“MadLab is passionate about getting everyone involved in tech – not just the elites, the always-been-OKs. You may think that age is a barrier, or where you live, or just be put off by so-called ‘bro-grammers.’ We like to show that there is another way. Digital Skills for Women training is held at MadLab in a super-informal environment, led by people who have been through it too.”

Turner says the programme has been running since 2013 and has given over 250 women from across Greater Manchester free digital training.

You can apply for a place on the programme via its website, and the deadline is April 30th.

In related news, Newcastle’s Campus North recently announced Leading Ladies for Life, a programme to improve the confidence of women already in the tech and digital sector.

MadFabLab

Makerspaces and hackspaces are an increasingly important part of local tech ecosystems. We previously highlighted Leigh Hackspace, but similar facilities around the world give local people a creative outlet and access to technology they might not otherwise have. They also let people easily prototype ideas that may grow into businesses.

MadFabLab, which opens tonight, targets Manchester-based technologists who are interested in making physical objects using digital tools.

“It will also be a community hub for makers to share their knowledge and expertise, collaborate, and also to tap into the wider MadLab body of expertise,” says Turner. “Everything from links into China’s manufacturing ecosystem in Shenzhen through to biohacking, and an ever-growing international mentorship network of artists, entrepreneurs, and social innovators.”

MadFabLab is part of an international network of similar facilities and one of a number in the North. You can find a full list of UK fab labs here.

The facility’s launch comes as MadLab expands its footprint on Edge Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. “Fitting a full digital making workshop into MadLab’s current roster of activities was always going to be a challenge,” says Turner. “So when the opportunity came up to expand into next door we jumped at the chance.

“This next chapter will be an important one in MadLab’s development, and given our community’s achievements to date we are super-excited to see what people will create in the space.”

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