Our project "Jugendwerkstatt Technik" ("Youth Workshop Technology"), intended to promote young people in various technical fields, ran for a successful six-month period. One focus was on introducing digital media such as WhatsApp and YouTube, an area in which we worked closely with the Sophie Scholl School.
We wanted to explain to students the general functioning of social media and platforms and introduce them to safe ways to deal with them. It was not about demonising the Internet, but rather about the conveyance of informed and responsible manners to handle oneself on the Internet.
The subject of data protection is as topical as ever, cyber bullying is widespread, and fake news can be found now even in well-known newspapers. These are problems for the younger generation, for whom parents are often insufficient to educate them on such matters. This is precisely the generation as well that is most likely to upload videos of themselves and friends onto social media even at a young age, without necessarily thinking over the possible consequences. The same adolescents who, on the one hand, spend hours a day on WhatsApp, Facebook or Instagram, are, on the other hand, entirely unaware regarding e-mail spam or provocative and manipulative video editing and are therefore easy targets for phishing attacks. They are particularly susceptible to fraud and are also the target group for the recruitment efforts of terrorist organisations. Prevention in this area was another goal of the youth workshop.
Students who have never written an e-mail are suddenly expected to independently look for internship spots or write applications. Therefore, we have trained students in the handling of programs such as MS Word and PowerPoint. Most had never worked with these programs before and were also unfamiliar with the PC keyboard. During this time, it is hoped that young people develop basic IT skills, which they can apply online, with which they can do homework or complete projects on the PC. Students normally learn this during the intermediate levels of IT courses. Refugees often fall through the cracks, however, as they spend the first two years in integration classes, in which they mainly spend their time learning German, rather than developing skills such as with the PC. If they start normal classes thereafter, they lack the necessary knowledge and are unable to make it up, since training in these areas was already covered in lower class levels. But absent this knowledge, these young people lag behind other schoolchildren, have fewer opportunities for future internships and trainings, and thus have a harder time integrating. We try to remove this imbalance via our technical youth workshop.
Another important part of our youth workshop was the visiting of various museums, including the Museum of Technology and the Spy Museum. There, participants could learn a lot about old and modern technical processes and the progress that’s been made. Regardless of whether it was trains, ships or satellite technology, as long as there were devices to try out and experiment with, the interest of participants was stimulated. It was especially nice to see how the young people engaged themselves and wanted to explore the museums together so as not to miss anything. These trips always ended with a dinner together to exchange ideas and build on friendships.
Less theoretical were our meetings to jointly work on projects, including the renovation of our premises with a team from Doha (Qatar) and the construction of furniture from old pallets during a corporate volunteering event with employees of Bayer. Whilst having fun, adults in addition to teens could try their hands at crafts, improve their skills and learn a lot of new things about themselves. Together, walls were painted, shelves assembled with or without instructions, and much more. These were unique days for the young people, on which they could gain first impressions on various job profiles.
A Cajon workshop was also part of the project and a memorable event. In co-operation with KulturLeben Berlin, each participant was able to piece together, glue and hammer his/her own cajon drum – an ideal opportunity for young people to test themselves and learn new things.
Another highlight was definitely the Long Night of Science in Berlin, on which the young participants could look at many scientific and technical devices and processes and try them out for themselves. One could spend the time with the construction of robots, put together one’s own circuit board or test one’s blood type. Most of the teenagers are incredibly interested in and motivated to learn new things and only need the people who are willing to give them the chance and invest in their futures.
In the course of the months we were able to give the young people insights into various technical areas and lay the groundworks for their future development.
Many thanks to the Hans-Sauer-Stiftung for making this project possible!