by Fiona von Pronay, JOBLINGE
We are grateful for the opportunity to co-host this year’s ALL DIGITAL Summit and look forward to learning from other initiatives, providing inspiration, and getting fresh perspectives on our work.
The vision of the JOBLINGE initiative is to make a visible and sustainable contribution to the fight against youth unemployment in Germany. Our objective is to provide disadvantaged, unemployed youth with the opportunity to earn long-term placement in an apprenticeship or job and thus lead a self-determined life. JOBLINGE focuses on outcomes, aiming for fast but sustainable job placements.
JOBLINGE was founded in 2015 by the Boston Consulting Group and the Eberhard von Kuenheim Foundation of BMW AG. We see ourselves as a bridge between companies and employment seekers, and strive to bundle society’s greatest forces in the fight against youth unemployment.
Internationally speaking, Germany is doing relatively well in regard to youth unemployment. But some benefited only marginally from this positive situation even before the coronavirus hit: young people in the German social system who get too little motivation from regular education and training offers, have experienced personal misfortune or trauma, appear on paper to be less well prepared due to their backgrounds, or otherwise simply don’t seem to be the best hiring choice. Unemployed from a young age, they feel invisible to society. And when society does notice them, it’s often as a target of discrimination.
In Germany, successful education and training are more strongly dependent on one’s background than in many other European countries. Kids from disadvantaged backgrounds have a tough time—they judge their own lack of abilities more harshly and often receive little or no outside support, only to be given up as “lost” and basically parked in the social system. JOBLINGE is committed to helping them and has found ways to engage them even during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since 2015, JOBLINGE has focused strongly on STEM and digital learning. The aim is to introduce the young people at most risk of social exclusion to the STEM sectors with specialized training programs and the help of volunteers and businesses encouraged to aid in the effort. We have thus been working to integrate digital learning options into our regular program for a long time. And for years, “JOBLINGE 4.0” has given our participants the chance to prepare for the “work world 4.0,” as we call it in Germany.
The core mission of JOBLINGE is not only to recognize trends on the job market, but also to find their relevance for our target group. We challenge our participants to engage consciously and independently with the changes and tools of the work world 4.0, and support them in doing so. We encourage them to develop new digital skills and continuously improve their qualifications. Whether with big-data workshops about the risks of data collection in the Internet, gamified digital learning offers, or the teaching of ICT skills, in JOBLINGE 4.0, we integrate current IT trends and promising developments and start thinking about tomorrow today—because digital education is more important now than ever.
In normal circumstances, we support our participants over the course of a six-month program that gives them hands-on, individual preparation for vocational training. However, the coronavirus threatens to widen the gap between rich and poor, between those who are born into lives of opportunity and those who have to fight for every chance they get. That’s why, now more than ever, we at JOBLINGE are determined to do everything we can to prevent the gap from getting even wider. One of our tools for this is digital learning.
Recent months have shown that the crisis has put the young people in our programs in particular need of support. But those months also showed that the support they receive has to be individual and tailored to their needs. Instead of just providing young people with technology, we need to enable them to use it and guide them in doing so productively. Instead of just assigning remote learning exercises, we need to support them individually. Instead of trying to see if we can just keep doing things the old way, we need to come up with our own new ways of doing things. JOBLINGE does all of this.
With the switch to home office in March, the first challenge for JOBLINGE was to equip both its employees and program participants with the technology and infrastructure they needed. 70% of our participants have neither a laptop nor a reliable Internet connection for effective learning at home. Our work was split into two directions: Locally, our staff and participants needed the capabilities to keep teaching and learning. At the same time, we needed to take our program 100% online.
Therefore – building on our digitization projects in recent years – we translated our program into a digital format, enabling us to offer participants its full range without their needing to be physically present. This means not only those skills can be taught and group projects carried out based on effective didactic methods, but also that deep personal advisory and individual support by mentors can be provided digitally, too. Even company tours and internships—developed in consultation with our partner companies—can be done online. Only the combination of all of these elements allows JOBLINGE to stay true to its purpose.
We mastered this enormous challenge, which in normal times would have taken months, in a matter of weeks. Our initiative has had to learn a lot since March, and we have also had to reinvent and rework numerous aspects to fit our needs.
With our new approach, our young people get not only a fresh outlook, structure, and support; they also learn skills they can put to use in training and education, along with digital coaching from a personal mentor; they experience digital forms of group interaction and receive access to training opportunities with concrete future prospects despite the crisis. Long-term, it also means that they are in even better hands at JOBLINGE. This year, we therefore proved, even under pressure, that our central goal remains the same – to join forces in the fight against youth unemployment.