Archive for the ‘Informal learning’ Category

The future of work and changing occupational identities

April 24th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

The debate over the future of work, long running in research circles but kicked into public consciousness amongst others a Oxford University study titled ‘The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation’ suggesting over 40 per cent of jobs are at threat in the next 11 years due to technology, emgineercontinues. In truth there is little agreement from economists and labour market specialists. Some claim techn0logy is leading to more jobs, some that it is destroying jobs and still other that it is neutral. Some claim technology is leading to jobs being deskilled, others the reverse.

I like a recent blog post entitled ‘More on digitalisation and skills: What happens within occupations?’, by Guillermo Montt on the OECD Skills and Work web site. The article says that “as technology enters the workplace, the tasks related to a job and an occupation change” citing  Alexandra Spitz-Oener (2006) who found that in Germany, occupations in the 2000s require more complex skills than in 1979 and that this change is more pronounced in occupations that adopted computers. Although something of a simplification, that finding is largely born out in analysis of the USA O*NET data. The article also draws attention to research by James Bessen published in his recent book ‘Learning by Doing: The Real Connection between Innovation, Wages and Wealth‘. “He follows the evolution of occupations over time and claims that accelerated technological change has implications for inequality within occupations with more and more occupations becoming winner-take-all markets.” Essentially, as new technology is introduced pay and opportunities in occupations bifurcate with a few taking high high, pay levels and more taking home lower pay. “In occupations requiring above-median computer use, the 90th to 50th percentile wage ratio has risen by 0.2% per year but has remained stagnant in occupations with below-median computer use. Workers who stay ahead of the curve, those who learn by doing, reap the wage benefits of technological change.”

This has major implication for training and continuing professional development. CPD has traditionally been organised through courses. But as we have already found in in the EmployID project working with employees in European Public Employment Services, traditional course delivery is both too slow to respond to change and even more problematic is unable to deliver the volume of training required. The approach adopted in EmployID is both to look at using new technologies for learning and for promoting informal learning in the workplace but also to center on changing occupational identities. For instance there is a very different occupational identity associated with a print graphic designer than todays web designer. But the ability to change occupational identities may be shaped by previous learning experiences and by motivation as well as the ability to reflect on both individual and group learning. Within EmployID we are exploring how Learning Analytics can bets be deployed to assets people in reflection (Reflection Analytics) and to assist in transforming identities to deal with such change. I am presenting this work next week at a LAKs pre conference workshop in Glasgow and will publish by slides on this blog.

Start of Learning Toolbox pilots in Bau-ABC – Part Three: Technical issues, requests and ideas for further development

April 7th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous posts I have blogged about pilot activities with Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In the first post I reported of the Kick-off event in the training centre Bau-ABC (on 14.3.2016). In the second post I reported on our recent follow-up visit (5.4.2016) with emphasis on progress reports in the pioneering groups and on plans to get new groups and learning areas integrated into the piloting. With this final post I focus on technical issues, requests for improvements and on ideas for further development of the tool.

Technical issues

At the moment the WLAN provides rather limited opportunities for using LTB in Bau-ABC. Partly this is due to the weak infrastructure provided by Deutsche Telekom to the area of Rostrup. This issue has been taken up by Bau-ABC to get the services improved – given the nation-wide importance of their training. Given these limitations, the capacity of the WLAN is not ideal. Yet, the colleagues are trying to adjust their settings in such a way that the pilot groups could work with LTB without interruptions. This is subject to internal discussions in Bau-ABC.

Requests for improvements

As we see it, there will be some new trades that could join in the pilot and there is a chance to work with the transversal learning area ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). This will increase the number of stacks and make the search processes more complicated. In general, the searches could be facilitated by using project titles, group numbers and domain-specific tags as keywords for search. However, if the apprentices are expected to type themselves correctly spelled terms, this will be a hurdle. For apprentices it would be practical to navigate from a menu of the main occupations to the ‘parent stacks’ (in that occupation) and then to recommended tags (this requires efforts from the LTB developers and from the trainers).

At the moment LTB doesn’t provide an online tutorial. This would be appreciated very much. (The ITB and Pont team took this issue as homework.)

The trainers had observed that the apprentices do not notice that they have got new messages if there is no alarm tone alerting them to the fact. This would be a major improvement.

Ideas for further development

The trainers in Bau-ABC are constantly observing the emergence of new apps in their trades. One of the newest newcomers is the BaustellenApp (www.baustellenapp.com) for the road-builders (Strassenbauer) and for the construction site managers in this trade. It is worth checking if this can be linked to LTB.

Also, there is an interesting development in the protection of hearing. The newest earmuffs are equipped with technologies that can pick wireless signals and convert them into audio messages. Thomas Weerts can give more information.

These were some of the issues  were taken up in our latest discussions. As I see it, they give a picture of the constraints, practicalities and possibilities with the current pilots using the Learning Toolbox (LTB). We will continue the monitoring of the pilots and take further steps to engage more users in a short while.

More blogs to come …

 

Start of Learning Toolbox pilots in Bau-ABC – Part Two: Feedback during a working visit to Bau-ABC

April 6th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

On Tuesday the 4th of April we had an interesting working visit in Bau-ABC in the context of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. I, Lars Heinemann (both from ITB) and Martina Lübbing (from Pontydysgu) were on a whole-day visit in Bau-ABC to collect feedback and situation assessments after the first weeks of piloting with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) (see my previous post). In addition we discussed several initiatives to support the pilot activities during the LL project and afterwards. Below I try to give an account on the points and working issues that are most relevant for the whole LL project.

Building upon the work of the pioneering trades

During our visits in the working areas got a picture how the Bau-ABC trainers had experienced the first weeks of the pilots and how to support the next steps. With the pilot group of carpenters (Zimmerer) the LTB had been received well and also apprentices from other groups had shown interest. (However, this other group is right now preparing for interim examinations, so therefore an introduction of LTB would not be well-timed and can at best take place in the autumn.) The pioneering group will shortly return to Bau-ABC and work in another trade – with the bricklayers (Maurer). This cooperation has been built in into the preparation of the stacks for this pilot group and the trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) Markus Pape and Kevin Kuck have been working together.

A similar possibility is available with the pioneering group of well-builders (Brunnenbauer) which is now having a school period in the same area and then switch to work with the trade of machinery and metalworking (Maschinen- und Metalltechnik). In order to support the use of LTB in that period the pioneering Lehrwerkmeister Lothar Schoka volunteered to contact his colleagues in that trade and advise them on preparing similar LTB stacks for their trade.

Integrating new trades and learning areas into the pilot with LTB

On our visit to the working area of road-builders (Strassenbauer), pipeline-builders (Rohrleitungsbauer) and sewage builders (Kanalbauer) we explored new possibilities to extend the pilots. One of the experienced trainers, Stefan Wiedenstried, is now for the moment working with the pipeline builders and expressed his interest to prepare similar stacks for that trade as his colleagues had done in other trades (and Gilbert Peffer for the road-builders before the kick-off event). In a similar way, the shop steward for health and safety (Sicherheitsbeaftragte) Thomas Weerts expressed his interest to prepare stacks for health and safety instructions for apprentices in Bau-ABC. This learning area was already discussed on an earlier working visit of LTB developers in Bau-ABC in February. Now we have a chance to take this initiative further.

Support measures and further activities

Alongside these talks we discussed the need to update the user’s manual for LTB (originally written by Jaanika Hirv during her internship period in Bau-ABC during November-December 2015). In addition we discussed the need to prepare online instructions  (as a tile or as a stack) that would be easily accessible in the LTB. The ITB-Pont team took this issue with it as homework. As a further step we had discussions on the prospect to start a new cycle of “Theme room” training in Bau-ABC and to introduce the work with LTB as a new theme. Here we expect Bau-ABC to have internal discussions and then we can start preparing the new cycle in greater detail.

I think this is enough of the general picture. We also took up several working issues on the infrastructure, access problems and proposals for improvements. I will discuss some of these in my next post.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Start of Learning Toolbox pilots in Bau-ABC – Part One: The Kick-off event 14.3.2016

April 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

On Monday the 14th of March we experienced a great day for our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. We had the kick-off event of the piloting with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in Bau-ABC (the training centre for construction sector in Rostrup). On the whole, this was a manifold event with different sessions and different activities (with focus on tool development, implementation in different trades and evaluation measures). And, moreover, the event was organised as parallel activities in two trades – the carpenters (Zimmerer) and the well-builders (Brunnenbauer). In this post I try to give some first-hand impressions on the sessions with the group of carpenters (and complement them with some remarks on the parallel group of well-builders). I know that the evaluators from the LL team of the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) will give more detailed accounts on these sessions and on their recordings on the talks with apprentices. From my perspective it is important to get a picture on the process that was kicked off with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) to be used by the apprentices.

Introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the group of carpenters (Zimmerer)

In the group of carpenters we (the LL project partners) had firstly the chance to present the Learning Toolbox as an integrative toolset to be used in the forthcoming training projects of the apprentices. Gilbert Peffer presented the essentials and then the apprentices installed the LTB apps on their smartphones. Then the trainer of carpenters, Fidi Bruns explained the training project of the next few weeks for the group. After this session and a break, the other trainer of carpenters, Markus Pape, gave an overview of the parent stack and of the daughter stacks that he had prepared for the project. After these introductory sessions we had a group discussion with the carpenter apprentices  (recorded by the UIBK colleagues). In this discussion the apprentices felt very positive about the new toolset and on the prospect to use digital media and web resources in their projects. In a similar way they were keen to get the LTB to work on their devices. They were also pleased to participate in instant debugging talks in the cases in which the installation caused problems.

 Introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the group of well-builders (Brunnenbauer)

In the parallel group of well-builders the introduction of LTB had already taken place one week before and the project using LTB had already been started. Yet, there was some need for assistance in the installation as well as real-time debugging. Also, the approach in developing project-related stacks was somewhat different – instead of shaping a parent stack and daughter stacks the well-builders were equipped with a set of thematic stacks that will be networked with each other.

 The way forward

During the event we had teams of ITB (accompanying researchers), LTB developers (RayCom, CIMNE) and evaluators (UIBK). In  addition we had as a special support agent Jaanika Hirv (TLU) who stayed one week in Bau-ABC to collect feedback from apprentices and trainers on their first steps working with the LTB. She reported this feedback with daily e-mails that were collected into a Google Doc. Then, in the second round, Gilbert Peffer and Jaanika had exchanges on these messages (in the same Google Doc). Summaries of the conclusions were then reported back on a German-speaking ‘hotline’ mailing list “LTB Pilot”. In my next posts I will report on a follow-up visit to Bau-ABC and then have a look at the working issues that have come up in our talks and e-mail correspondence.

More posts to come …

Back to blogging – and catching up with the newest in Learning Layers

April 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Sadly I have had to notice that to month of March 2016 has gone past without any blog entries to ‘Working and Learning’ on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. No one should get the false impression that nothing worth blogging has been going on. On the contrary – this was a busy month. Firstly we were preparing the Kick-off event of the field pilots with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in Bau-ABC (that took place on the 14th of March). Then, unfortunately I (and some other participants of that event) fell ill. Then, before and after the Easter break I (and we) were occupied by other duties and concerns in the LL project.

But, now it is time to get back to producing blog articles on the progress with the LL project and in the piloting with the Learning Toolbox in the construction pilot – and in particular in the training centre Bau-ABC. So, here we go.

More blogs to come …

Reflections on Communities of Practice

March 17th, 2016 by Graham Attwell


Chahira Nouira sent me an email asking if I could make a short podcast around Communities of Practice. ” I am writing,” she said “because I thought you might have 15 min of your precious time to help me compile an audio playlist where you are the stars! For a year, I have been involved in a project funded by the EU and one of its products is a Community of Practice for Lifelong Learning: DISCUSS. My idea is to get insights from you on CoPs based on how your experience and stories”.

I have been involved – and still am – in a number of projects seeking to support the emergence of communities of practice – defined as groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly – with varying success. In the podcast I try to explain why I think some have worked an others less so.

In early days, in the late 1990s, we mainly saw the idea of Communities of Practice as an analytic tool to understand how informal learning develops in Communities of practice and how knowledge is exchanged. In a later stage we moved on to try to develop or foster Communities of Practice, using IST to support the emergence of dispersed communities.

All to often we thought we could form communities ourselves, not totally understanding the emergent nature and the ownership of CoPs. Too often also, we have conflated organisations with communities. Probably more importantly, whilst we have fused on communities, we have failed to properly understand the nature of the practices which bind together those communities. According to Wenger, a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions

  • What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members.
  • How it functions ‐ mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.
  • What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time. (Wenger, 1998)

In seeking to support facilitation a vital prerequisite is understanding the nature of the social practices within the workplace, both through observable patterns of individual practice and through developing an overall pattern language. This includes the use of objects. Objects are necessary components of many practices – just as indispensable as bodily and mental activities. (Reckwitz, 2002). Carrying out a practice very often means using particular things in a certain way. Electronic media itself is an object which can mold social practices and enable and limit certain bodily and mental activities, certain knowledge and understanding as elements of practices (Kittler, 1985; Gumbrecht, 1988).  One approach to choosing ways to develop particular objects is to focus on what Onstenk (1997) defines as core problems: the problems and dilemmas that are central to the practice of an occupation that have significance both for individual and organisational performance.

If understanding the nature of social practices and patterns is a necessary step to developing facilitation services, it is not in itself sufficient. Further understanding is needed of how learning, particularly informal learning, takes place in the workplace and how knowledge is shared and developed. Michael Eraut (2000) points put that “much uncodified cultural knowledge is acquired informally through participation in social activities; and much is often so ‘taken for granted’ that people are unaware of its influence on their behaviour. This phenomenon is much broader in scope than the implicit learning normally associated with the concept of socialisation. In addition to the cultural practices and discourses of different professions and their specialities, one has to consider the cultural knowledge that permeates the beliefs and behaviours of their co-workers, their clients and the general public.”

Eraut attempts to codify different elements of practice:

  • Assessing clients and/or situations (sometimes briefly, sometimes involving a long process of investigation) and continuing to monitor them;
  • Deciding what, if any, action to take, both immediately and over a longer period (either individually or as a leader or member of a team);
  • Pursuing an agreed course of action, modifying, consulting and reassessing as and when necessary;
  • Metacognitive monitoring of oneself, people needing attention and the general progress of the case, problem, project or situation.

He also draws attention to the importance of what he calls mediating objects and points out that while some artifacts are used mainly during learning processes, most artifacts used for working are also used for learning. Such artefacts play an important role in structuring work and sharing information and in mediating group learning about clients or projects in progress.

In general, when seeking to support online communities, we have developed web sites and web based tools which are separate form the work process. Possibly, we should be looking instead at how we can use artifacts from work processes to support learning and knowledge exchange.

Possible use of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC training – three exemplary cases

February 22nd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week we had two working visits to the training centre Bau-ABC in the contexts of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The aim of these visits was firstly to clarify, in what kinds of projects Bau-ABC trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) have planned to use Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the forthcoming pilot phase. Secondly we wanted to clarify what measures need to be taken to facilitate the Internet access in Bau-ABC. Thirdly we wanted to clarify, how to link third party apps or complementary tools to LTB to meet specific needs. The two latter points have been covered by internal notes. The first point merits public attention, therefore this blog gives a quick overview on the plans of Bau-ABC trainers.

During the two visits the Bau-ABC trainers presented three exemplary cases for implementing LTB in their training.  The first case (developed together with Lothar Schoka) focuses on apprentices projects in  trade of well-builders (Brunnenbauer). The second case (developed together with Thomas Weertz) deals with training materials and facilitation of learning in the transversal area ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). During the second working visit a third case was brought to picture by Markus Pape and Kevin Kuck – a joint project of Carpenters (Zimmerer) and Bricklayers (Maurer).

a) The Brunnenbauer-pilot is adjusted to the start of a new group in Bau-ABC and the introduction of the LTB comes along with their induction to project-based learning. The use of LTB will not cover entirely the documentation of project work of apprentices (plans, reports, certificates) but will support it. The main thrust for the trainer is to provide support material (Zusatzmaterial, e.g. Extracts of relevant DIN-norms). Also, the work of apprentices can be supported with digital worksheets (lists of tools and materials) that can be produced with the help of apps made available via LTB. Here, the apprentices could present digital interim versions and get feedback before completing the projects. As a use-case for two-way communication, Schoka indicated that apprentices can produce and share photo sets of construction sites of their companies as eventual targets for on-site-visits of the whole group.

b) Concerning the theme “Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz”, the competent body in the construction sector (BG Bau) has produced a comprehensive set of modularised reference materials (Baukasten) and a special program for young craftsmen. In addition to these, Bau-ABC uses a special compendium for trainers (KomPass). These materials are available on the net. In addition, in each of their projects the apprentices are required to fill a risk analysis form regarding possible occupational hazards with the tasks (Gefährdungsbeurteilung). The advantage of using LTB with this theme is that it enables delivery of compressed information (checklists, extracts of information sheets, model solutions with feedback) as well use of Quiz tools (ordinary quiz or detecting errors).

c) The joint project of Zimmerer and Maurer was based on the traditional technique of building houses with wooden frames and brick walls (Fachwerkhaus). Bau-ABC projects with smaller constructions using that technique serve as cooperation exercises between these two trades. By using LTB and creating a joint stack it is possible to

  • give an overview on the common project (as a whole),
  • on related standards,
  • to distribute the tasks between the trades
  • to organise the boundary-crossing exercises of Zimmerer and Maurer in each others’ tasks and to
  • coordinate the collaboration between the two trades.

After these working visits we are heading towards the pilots in the coming weeks and arranging the necessary support. We will report more on the pilots when we take further steps with the implementation.

More blogs to come … 

The future of learning at work. How technology is influencing working and learning in healthcare: Preparing our students and ourselves for this future

February 16th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Over the last few weeks I seem to have been bombarded with calls for submissions for conferences. Most I have ignored on the grounds that they are just too expensive. And if I can’t afford them, working as a relatively senior researcher with project funding, what hope do emerging researchers have of persuading their universities or companies to pay. But tto be honest I am bored with most of the conferences. Formal papers, formally presented with perhaps ten or twenty people in a session and very limited time for discussion. We know there are better ways of learning!

One conference I have submitted an abstract to is AMEE. – the International Association for Medical Education. Apart from short communications, research papers and PhD presentations AMEE invites posters, Pecha Kucha, workshops, points of view and organises a fringe to the conference. Sounds good to me and as you might guess I have submitted a point of view. Here goes (in 300 words precisely) ……

The future of work is increasingly uncertain and that goes just as much for healthcare as other occupations. An ageing population is resulting in increasing demand for healthcare workers and advances in technology and science are resulting in new healthcare applications. At the same time technology promises a revolution in self-diagnosis, whilst Artificial Intelligence and robots may render many traditional jobs obsolete.

So what can we say about healthcare skills for the future and what does it mean for healthcare education. Whilst machines may take over more unskilled work, there is likely to be increasing demand for high skilled specialist healthcare workers as well as those caring for the elderly. These staff need to be confident and competent in using existing technologies and adapting to technologies of the future.

They will need to be self-motivated lifelong learners, resilient and capable of coping with changing occupational identities. They will need to collaborate in multidisciplinary teams leading to a high premium on communication skills.

Present processes of education and training based predominantly on face-to-face courses cannot cope with the needs of lifelong learning. Learning needs to be embedded in everyday work processes. Technology is critical here; ubiquitous connectivity and mobile devices allow context-based learning. The same technologies can promote informal and social learning, learning from peers and sharing experience and knowledge in personal learning networks. Already there are many MOOCs dedicated to medical education. Healthcare professionals are using social media to build informal learning networks. But these are the exceptions not the norm. In the future machine learning algorithms can support individuals wishing to deepen their knowledge, VR to share experiences. Yet although there is a rich potential, medical educators have to steer the process. We need to know what works, what doesn’t, to evaluate, to share. That needs to start now!

Bremen talks on young refugees’ access to training and labour market – Part Two: The Bavarian model project and the discussion in the event

February 14th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

As already mentioned in my previous  blog, these two posts are not focusing on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Instead I have taken up a major issue that we are discussing in the Bremen region: Measures to support the reception and integration of refugees.  In my previous post I started reporting on a public event “Perspektive Beruf: Junge Geflüchtete erfolgreich zum Berufsabschluss führen“. This event brought into picture fresh information and assembled several stakeholders from different organisations to joint discussion. In the first post I gave some background information on the event and present insights into a study on young refugees’ perspectives in Bremen. In this second post I will give insights into a model project in Bavaria (that was presented in the event) and highlight some key points of the stakeholders’ discussion.

1. Insights into the model project in Bavaria

The first part of the event was based on a Bremen-focused study that provided information on young refugees and their chances to get access to training and labour market in the Bremen region. The study had raised some issues that need further attention from policy makers and stakeholders who are engaged with support measures. The second part of the event was based on a guest input from the Federal state of Bavaria (Bayern).

This input was given by Manfred Bäuml who represented a foundation that supports educational projects in Bavaria (Stiftung Bildungspakt Bayern). He firstly gave insights into the innovation concept ‘vocational integration classes’ (Berufsintegrationsklassen) and how they have been embedded into the regulative frameworks. This concept is based on a 2-year long full-time school-based vocational education scheme that includes intensive language learning, vocational orientation, vocational subject-learning (including language support), internships in companies and opportunity to obtain/ refresh general school certificates). A key feature of this model is the collaboration between language teacher, subject teacher and social pedagogic advisor. (The key point in this model is that it is meant to provide entry to the regular vocational education and training provisions, not to replace them with a short variant.)

In his presentation Bäuml also made transparent the rapidly growing numbers of young refugees and the quick response in setting up such vocational integration classes all over the Federal state of Bavaria. This gave rise for setting up a state-wide model project to support the quality development in such classes and to enhance their acceptance. For this purpose the Federal state of Bavaria and the Foundation have set up the state-wide model project that involves 21 model schools (public vocational schools in all sub-regions) and several support organisations. The project works with organisational development, staff development and curriculum redesign. As special challenges Bäuml mentioned the following ones:

  • Functioning language learning – linking everyday life language learning and domain-specific vocabulary to each other;
  • Integration – bringing learners of integration classes and ordinary vocational classes into cooperation with each other;
  • Transition from school to occupational work – intensifying career guidance and counselling to facilitate personal commitment to the occupation in concern.

As Bäuml told, the project had only started at the end of 2015 and it was only in the process of building up its network and support activities. Yet, the work was making progress all over Bavaria.

2. Key issues taken up in the stakeholders’ discussion 

The event was not planned just to present the study and the model project but to stimulate discussion on necessary policy measures and ways to support different support initiatives. Therefore, the organisers had set up two rounds of discussions – after each presentation. Here, for the sake of simplicity, I try to pick up some key messages from both rounds without going deeply into details:

  • The representatives of vocational schools and and continuing training provisions – Herbert Grönegreß and Sandra von Atens – emphasised the necessity, not to challenge the refugees overly, to adjust the education/training provisions to what they can achieve and to provide well-timed support and constant support networks. Also, they emphasised the need to adjust the ‘offerings’ to refugees to their possibilities and to be prepared for providing second chances.
  • The company representative Michael Heyer told of the initiative of their company to select a group of refugees to be taken on internship and to prepare them for the opportunity to start a regular apprentice training. This initiative was launched in close collaboration and with support from public authorities. Concerning language support, the company arranged for them extra courses. Concerning integration, the company was surprised to see, how supportive and cooperative their ordinary apprentices were vis-à-vis the newcomers.
  • The Educational senator (minister) of the City state Claudia Bodegan put as into the picture of the scales of the problems. Concerning the reception of unaccompanied young people, the German cities had agreed on balanced quotas of reception (der Königstein Schlüssel). However, in 2015, Bremen had received five times as much young unaccompanied refugees – and, given the flow of refugees, it would have been inappropriate to push them elsewhere. Also, since Bremen is struggling with budgetary deficits, it doesn’t have such resources in the regular budgets as the richer Federal states. Furthermore, Bremen has had to make a difficult choice, whether to prioritise perfect diagnostic (at the expense of longer waiting times) or effective integration (at the expense of providing less favourable education and training opportunities). Here, the choice has been on avoiding  long waiting times in idlewild.
  • The representative  of the Chamber of Commerce, Karlheinz Heidemeyer, drew attention to the prompt responses of the member companies to their call for initiatives. in this way, and due to good cooperation with the local/regional authorities, the company-specific initiatives could be brought into action without unnecessary delays. In the same way he praised the good cooperation between different stakeholders in overcoming the formal hurdles and addressing the needs for Federal level policy adjustment.
  • The representative of the voluntary organisation Fluchtraum, professor Marc Thielen (also from ITB), shifted the perspective from the quantitative situation assessment, training opportunities and language courses to the individual situations of refugees. The organisation Fluchtraum that he represents, provides legal advice, guardians and mentors for unaccompanied young refugees. With insights into their life histories, learning histories and refugee histories, he emphasised the needs to get solid and trustworthy support persons and support structures for the refugees. He also addressed the need to avoid giving the refugees challenges that they cannot meet (e.g. in terms of starting regular vocational training before being properly prepared).
  • The representative of the host organisation Arbeitnehmerkammer, Regine Geraedts, drew attention to the readiness of different stakeholders in Bremen to tackle the problems as promptly as they could. Also, they had shown readiness to create new forms of cooperation for unbureacratic treatment of the problems of young refugees. Furthermore, they had shown readiness to take own initiatives at the same time as they had addressed needs to revise federal regulations. And, given the seemingly uncoordinated actions of voluntary organisations, they had been able develop flexible forms of coordination and to develop common discussion on policy development.

I guess this is enough of this event. I know that there were lots of details that I couldn’t grasp with this report. Nevertheless, I got a picture of a dynamic regional langscape of developing policies, services and support activities for young refugees. In addition, I could see a role for possible European cooperation measures (of which I discussed with some participants) in the coming times.

More blogs to come …

Bremen talks on young refugees’ access to training and labour market – Part One: The event and the Bremen study

February 13th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the recent times my blogs on this site have focused almost exclusively on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. This time I will shift the emphasis to a major issue that we are discussing in the Bremen region: Measures to support the reception and integration of refugees. In particular Bremen is struggling with a large number of unaccompanied young people (under 18 years). On Thursday I attended with several other ITB colleagues a public event that brought into discussion a new study from Bremen, an ongoing model project in Bavaria and several views of stakeholders (from different organisations). In the first post I will give some background information and present insights int the Bremen study. In the second post I will give insights into the model project in Bavaria and highlight some key points of the discussion.

1. The background of the event

One of the specific institutions of the Hanseatic City of Bremen is the Chamber of salaried employees (Arbeitnehmerkammer). This is a public body and all salaried employees in Bremen are also members of the chamber. This is a similar arrangement as is the case with Chambers of Commerce or with Chambers of Craft and Trade (which comprise all the enterprises in their respective domains). Given this co-existence of public representative bodies, they have developed several forms of practical cooperation with different societal issues. Also, they have a tradition to contribute to each others’ events.

From the year 2015  on (when the amount of refugees coming to Bremen grew rapidly) the Arbeitnehmerkammer has taken several initiatives to get information on refugees’ situation, to facilitate cooperation between different support organisations and to promote public discusssion on necessary policy measures. In this context the Arbeitnehmerkammer had initiated with the research institute of the University of Bremen for Work and Economy (Institut für Arbeit und Wirtschaft) a special study on the prospects of young refugees to enter training and labour market in Bremen. This event was called to

  • make public the main results of the study,
  • make comparisons to an ongoing model project in Bavaria and to
  • promote public discussion between  different stakeholders who engage themselves with problems of young refugees.

2. Insights into the study on young refugees in Bremen

In the first part of the event the author of the Bremen study, René Böhme gave a comprehensive overview on the context, design and results of the study. Here I will not try to reflect its richness. Instead, I try to draw attention to some points that were of vital importance for the discussion:

 a) Concerning the amount of refugees arrived in Bremen: Whilst in 2014 the number of refugees was slightly over 2000, in 2015 it was over 10.000. In addition, the number of unaccompanied young refugees was in 2014 ca. 500, whilst in 2015 it was over 2500.

b) Concerning attitudes of employees: In general, employees are ready to receive refugees (given the shortage of skilled workforce) and to make extra efforts to support their training and integration into working life. Yet, they are aware of problems and risks (e.g. of high drop-out rates).

c) Concerning efforts to overcome formal hurdles: Preconditions for flexible and supported entry to training (e.g. via pre-vocational measures) have already been created. Yet, they alone do not guarantee successful completion of training.

d) Concerning parallel support measures and initiatives: At the moment the services and initiatives have been brought into picture in rapid tempo and separately by different actors. Therefore, they appear as uncoordinated patchwork of activities. However, as such they are not merely limited to educational and career guidance but cover also everyday life problems.

In the light of the above the study drew attention to the following needs:

  • to make the formal frameworks more flexible at Federal level,
  • to improve the pre-vocational learning opportunities in vocational school (with linked career guidance and counselling)
  • to improve the cooperation of public authorities, companies and service providers to create a coherent support system for refugee-trainees and -apprentices,
  • to strengthen complementary support  and mentoring networks to support overall integration into society and everyday life.

I think this is enough of the background of the event and of the Bremen study that was presented as a basis for joint situation assessment. In the next post it is appropriate to present the Bavarian model project and some insights into the discussion.

More blogs to come …

 

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