The !nkA project: "Vocational schools lack inclusion experience"
The !nkA project: "Vocational schools lack inclusion experience"
Germany needs more inclusive apprenticeship opportunities. That’s something all stakeholders of the recently completed "Inclusive vocational training of young people with and without disabilities" (German: Inklusive Ausbildung von Jugendlichen mit und ohne Behinderung) project – !NkA in short – agree on. After all, young people with disabilities are far too often underestimated. Nearly 40 adolescents were able to unleash their full potential within the scope of the project.
Almost 40 young people with disabilities were able to complete their training as part of the !nkA project. The majority of them also got a follow-up job.
In a conversation with REHACARE.com, project coordinator Annetraud Grote talked about the experiences and gave a project summary.
Ms. Grote, the !NkA project was completed in September 2018. How was it set up and organized?
Annetraud Grote: Supported by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), the UnternehmensForum e.V.- along with a strong network of schools, companies, public authorities, the Federal Employment Agency, Integration Offices, Chambers of Crafts and Trade, Industry and Commerce and other stakeholders in education- has initiated the “Inklusive Ausbildung von Jugendlichen mit und ohne Behinderung” project (!nkA), which was coordinated by the Paul Ehrlich Institute. Nationwide, 38 apprentices with severe disabilities were hired in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in a variety of professions by twelve employers in the business and public service sectors. The apprentices completed their vocational training alongside adolescents without disabilities.
Young people with visual and hearing impairments, physical disabilities, internal disorders and multiple sclerosis, as well as young people on the autism spectrum, received vocational training. In their search for a fitting apprenticeship, the young people with disabilities were assisted by project coordination and job listings that specifically targeted young people with disabilities.
The young adults with severe disabilities completed their dual vocational training at the different employer sites alongside other apprentices without disabilities, who applied through the normal channels. During this time, the apprentices with severe disabilities attended eight !nkA seminars and eight project meetings with the participating companies and project partners.
How many adolescents with disabilities have been successfully placed and completed their vocational training within the scope of this project?
Grote: Of the original 38 apprentices with severe disabilities, 34 have successfully completed their education and 27 were directly hired after training completion. Two people are still in training and two have unfortunately canceled their apprenticeship before completion. One apprentice now continues her studies at college after she had graduated.
During the regular project meetings, all participants were able to exchange information on a regular basis and give each other advice.
What kind of feedback did you receive from the placed apprentices?
Grote: We received very positive feedback from most of the apprentices. They indicated that they built a lot of self-confidence thanks to the training seminars and empowerment training options and were able to gain a positive perspective. Ultimately, !nkA became more than just a project for most of the young people. It turned into an opportunity to support each other and develop personal solutions. Confidence in your our own abilities is boosted by completing an education in the regular job market.
The apprentices with disabilities also garnered a different perception of disability, marking a testament to diversity that was and is no longer focused on deficits. Easily the biggest highlight of this experience was a visit by Andrea Nahles, the former Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs. She took the time to listen to the concerns of the !nkA apprentices and talked to the young people about their vocational training, goals and wishes.
How successful was the inclusive collaboration between apprentices with and without disabilities in their everyday work at the companies?
Grote: Most apprentices didn’t encounter difficulties or specific issues, and the vast majority of them including the other stakeholders in education deemed the vocational training a great success. The great results and completed degrees also attest to this. However, some felt it was difficult to attend the vocational schools since many of them lack inclusion experience. The systematic reduction of prejudices against people with disabilities and their education is an important prerequisite for success. The !nkA project shows how precious the readiness and the will to implement inclusion in education are.
What actions do you recommend regarding inclusive vocational training opportunities?
Grote: The !nkA project pursued an inclusive approach in joint vocational training thanks to accessible, customized training structures. In addition to teaching professional skills, the improvement of social skills made up an integral part of the training and educational concept. At the same time, the participation in vocational education and interaction with apprentices in other companies increased awareness in other areas of society and has shown that it’s possible to train young people with special educational needs.
The successful restructuring of several part-time apprenticeships has proven that flexible training structures make sense. The demand for individualization of vocational training structures must be met and further discussed at the political level. The need for improvements of the general framework of vocational schools should likewise be noted and emphasized.
The project !nkA ended in September 2018. However, all participants hope for sustainable effects and a corresponding signal effect.
How would you summarize the project?
Grote: The mostly positive experiences encourage a continuation of inclusive vocational education and training since this provides a real benefit. The project achieved the goal of professionalizing the vocational training stakeholders (employers, vocational schools, networks for training and development, Chambers). !nkA has prompted an improvement in the recruitment and training processes of companies with apprenticeship programs, especially as it pertains to applicants with disabilities. Problems that came up during the vocational training were identified and solved thanks to a close collaboration within the !nkA network.
The various vocational education stakeholders appreciate the effectiveness of networking. The close network was and remains a real novelty in the field of inclusion. There is justified hope that this will continue beyond project completion and yield positive results.