Our Mission and Impact
SkillSet was founded in 2018 with funds from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, the Windgate Foundation, and UNC Asheville to address this gender gap in STEAM fields and trades. Underpinned by the idea that our communities should be designed and built by the diverse people that live in them, SkillSet gives girls and non-binary kids access to hands-on maker-based education.
We are skilled industry professionals and educators who are committed to sharing our skills, passions, problem-solving strategies, and knowledge about science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
From computer aided drafting (CAD) to processing raw materials with power tools, students learn design, development, iteration, engineering, craft, and the science behind it all. Female and non-binary instructors (both professional UNCA staff and UNCA student workers from Art, Engineering and Computer Science) ensure visibility of diverse identities in STEAM fields and inspire students to consider traditionally male-dominated career paths like engineering and computer science.
Housed in STEAM Studio, UNC Asheville’s 12,000 square foot state of the art making space, SkillSet’s programs engage students from the western North Carolina region in the design and fabrication of projects. Students get experience working with tools ranging from hammers, drills, and welders to lasers, waterjets, and CNC routers.
We offer after-school programming and summer camps for middle and high school students, and skill-building workshops for adult learners. Additionally, we travel info the community to develop and deliver on-site programming with community partners.
In 2019, the median annual salary for STEM careers was $77,400. The median annual salary for non-STEM careers was $46,900. Higher incomes and job stability is a key factor in determining intergenerational health and wellness (Pew Research Center).
A 2016 National Science Foundation study found that in the United States only 21% of degrees in engineering and only 19% of computer science degrees were awarded to women at the undergraduate level.
Women make up half of the total college educated workforce, but only 28% of those are employed in science and engineering (National Girls Collaborative Project).
Representation matters. Women, girls, and non-binary folks need to see examples of people like themselves working with tools, operating machines and overcoming design challenges using STEAM disciplines, techniques and tools.
SkillSet programs are a creative problem solving environment both for and by female and non-binary identified individuals, and we provide hands-on learning that integrates multiple disciplines leading to possible careers in STEM fields.
We provide encouragement, positive representation, early access to these career trajectories, and creative problem solving skills to meet life’s challenges — from learning the skills necessary to help fix a leaky faucet, to opening up new possibilities for future educational opportunities.
Meet Our Staff
We invest heavily in staffing to maintain a very low average student-to-instructor ratio of 3:1 for most classes. This ratio is incredibly important to maintain a safe and supportive environment where young students can feel comfortable taking risks and developing their skills and creativity.
SkillSet staff are makers, designers, and artists representing a variety of STEAM-based professional industries. From engineering to computer science to photography, art, woodworking and welding, we are experts in our fields and also are constantly expanding our knowledge of science, art, and technology — so that we can share it with you!