Vocademy | The People Who Make | Episode 1

We are very excited to announce our new ‘The People Who Make’ series, where we showcase what goes on in the shops of our clients & customers.

My name is Gene Sherman, and I'm the founder of Vocademy. Vocademy is a unique type of learning place. It's a place where someone can learn advanced manufacturing skills, as much as they want or as little as they want. They can come to learn everything from the fundamental stuff like sewing and welding and machining to state-of-the-art stuff like CNC, and laser cutting, and CAD.

But the only requirement to come and take classes at Vocademy is you must be 14 years old. That's it. Your GPA doesn't matter, there's no requirements, there's no transfer papers, come and learn. So here, we literally have our educational partners, high school level education partners, sending us 14, 16, 18 year-olds and then we have companies sending us their 20, 30, 40, 60 year-olds to learn the skills.

And the magic happens when they mix. The young students go here, "I can be an engineer or maker like that person?" And that person goes, "wait you're teaching them the same stuff I'm learning? We need to have them interview with us." And the best thing about no matter what it is they build, it goes into their resume, right? So when they go for a job, how do you know an artist is any good? They show you their portfolio. Well, we feel that people coming out of here are developing their own portfolios.

So the inspiration for Vocademy came from my own story. When I was in high school, literally, if it was not for shop class, I would not have graduated. The A's and B's in shop and home and auto mechanics, made it up for the D's I had in math, because I was no good in math. I was not headed for college, but luckily back when I was in high school, I had these hands-on skills classes. And that and along with going to work with my father's machine shop, made me the person that I am today.

When I started there, all the old-timers only knew how to run manual machines. And my father his partners company were about to buy a half a million dollar Wire EDM machine. A high-tech CNC metal cutting machine, and all the guys were afraid to use it. I think I was sixteen at the time, I said, 'I'll run the Machine, I'm not afraid of it, I don't know any better.' And he said, "you're in charge of those machines." So for the next couple years I ran CNC Wire EDM, CNC Sinkers, I ran CNC Mills.

But since then, I stayed in industry and I went to work for that EDM company going to hundreds of shops teaching them how to run these machines too. And over the years, I made those great relationships. ProtoTRAK is one of our favorite machines. You can't take someone from a manual mill, straight into a full-box CNC machine. You still need some human interaction. In this machine, with its conversational language and then be able to take pure G-code, is a perfect transition. We don't run production here, but by learning this machine, you can do prototypes and you can do production if you're ever put in front of a full box CNC.

So this machine in this environment is perfect, and like we've discussed earlier, when I open a Vocademy number 200, it'll have your machines in it because they've done such a great job for us. Every day there's something new. There's stuff that shows up on our walls, there's stuff there are people building here, and I love that. And I love that because, I always tell people, 'You want to find people to think outside the box? Well, we can make the box, and we can make it out of a dozen different materials.' So, no, there's some incredibly creative people. And what I love the most is, people don't realize the creativity they have until they have the tools to express it.

I'm no good at drawing, but I'm really good at CAD. So something I couldn't draw with a pencil, I can do on a computer. I'm no good with whittling wood, but put me on a lathe and I can crank out some beautiful pieces. So that's, we have people that are painters that come in here, we just give them a whole set of a pallet full of colors and they discover their "Inner Maker." In five years, I hope we have dozens of locations. I really hope 20, 30, 50 locations across the country because I really think a Vocademy is a huge benefit to a community.

I help local businesses find amazing employees. I help local people find their future. I help the school district so they don't have to build million-dollar facilities at every school, just bring your kids to me. I help local companies, send me your employees, I'll upscale them and give them back to you. And even for the people that just, on a Friday night, don't want to go to a bar drinking, they'd rather hang out here in this nightclub for nerds that we have, and build stuff. I really think that Vocademy fills such a tremendous void and brings people together. Just like rock concerts do, just like sporting events do, we are the "Night Club for Nerds."

I absolutely love what I do, this is my calling, this is my passion. I think the world needs more makers. And I think the more people spend time making things, creating things, bettering the lives of others, the more they can go off and do bad things. Come tinker, come create, come invent. And let me tell you, 150 years ago, I think Edison said that everything that needs to be invented has been invented.

I think he was a little bit wrong. I think there's many more things that can be invented to better our lives. And I look forward a lot of that stuff happening here.