How can we help young people gain more practical experience?
You've graduated high school, planned and been on a graduation trip – but then what? When you're finally allowed to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life after twelve years of school, many high school graduates draw a blank. There are so many careers that sound fascinating in theory, but only in practice can you find out what job is and isn't right for you. All school students had to complete a two-week internship, but most of them saw this as just an extension of their vacation instead of an opportunity to gain an insight into the working world. At 16 years old, you don't think about your future or realise just how quickly time flies.
Robert from Berlin is more than familiar with this problem. He's 29 and the founder of 'SchulePLUS', a social network that connects schools to the practical working world, so students can get a better sense of what awaits them and are better prepared for it at an earlier stage.
Robert almost became an English and Politics teacher, but while he was studying he realized just how much of a need there was for more networking. SchulePLUS has been online since 2013, and more than half of schools in Berlin and 850 company representatives providing workshops, talks or internships have signed up. They want to turn around what has so far been a lack of practical focus in lessons and improve communication between the school system and employment market.
This development is a real milestone and a first step in the right direction. Looking to the future, Robert wants SchulePLUS to be extended across the whole of Germany. "So young people will always be ready to go on to college, enter the job market, or whatever else they decide to do after graduating from high school."
Suggestions predominantly came from the under 30s. Martin, 18, commented, "A month-long internship should be standard every year from 10th grade – even just to find out what we want to do
There were similar comments that again stress how important internships and exchanges with companies are for their professional lives later.
Linda, 21, says, "More partnership projects between companies and schools/colleges to show students what work is like in practice – that comes in handy later on!"
Tobias, 18, commented, "If companies could open their doors for a week, young people could learn about the various sectors."
The most interesting and innovative comment came from Marina, 25. "Completely overhaul the curriculum and teach creative thinking as a subject from 1st grade!" Marina's idea may seem extreme at first, but she's not alone. In deciding on what profession to go into, you don't just need practical experience, but a free, flexible and creative way of thinking. One institution that understands the significance of independent thinking and dreaming is Munich City Council. The city is looking to introduce 'Happiness' as a subject at some of its schools. Happiness can be chosen as an optional subject from the 2016/2017 academic year or as a professional project in the upper grades at ten city high schools, and deals with subjects such as mindfulness, holistic choices, theatre pedagogy, mental well-being and everyday adventure. Happiness has already been taught in Heidelberg since 2007.
So, Munich has 'Happiness' and Berlin has 'SchulePLUS'. Here's to the idea of growing even further. Let's hope so anyway, for the sake of our graduates' future.