Perspective for the Future: Training and Integration Center for Disadvantaged Youth

Every person has a right to an education, which is the key to full social participation. But young people without a school diploma or with a poor school record are often blocked from further education or training and thus from achieving an independent future. With the opening of its new training and integration center, the Werkhof Darmstadt e. V. will offer up to 75 young women and men improved perspectives for their professional and personal futures.

Living and working independently and shaping one’s future for oneself: these are the opportunities provided to young people with disadvantaged backgrounds at the Werkhof Darmstadt. The organization, founded in 1984 by educators, skilled craftsmen, and engineers, aims to provide comprehensive professional and personal training for these young men and women. Many of them grew up in instable or precarious situations or had to flee their homelands. Especially for those without a school diploma and without opportunities for further education, the situation often seems a dead end. Added to these difficulties is the social isolation that often follows.

To ensure their continued development in this sensitive phase of life, these youth can now receive comprehensive support from the Darmstadt organization. Their easily accessible programs include social-pedagogical and psychological counselling as well as discussion with parents and debt counselling. The young people can then begin a training program as, for example, industrial mechanics or trained metal technicians. In two years or in three and a half years (depending on the program), the young people can obtain a recognized qualification that can give them solid footing on the job market. “Last but not least, thanks to our broad network, around 80% of the young people are successfully placed in jobs at local companies,” reports Wolfgang Jakob, the organization’s managing director. And for young people who first need some professional orientation in the transition from school to job, the program “Active Youth” offers an opportunity to test four different professional fields. Within six to eight months, up to 20 young men and women can gain initial experience in the fields of logistics, media, gastronomy, and crafts and trades. This practical, experience-oriented program encourages the participants’ independence and self-efficacy and helps them to gain confidence in their own abilities.

“The workshop staff have close relationships with the young people. They meet them at eye level, see them as holistic individuals, and work together to address existing challenges – even when there are setbacks”, says Jana Weische in appreciation of the organization’s many years of dedicated work with young people. To ensure its continuation, it was urgently necessary to construct a new training and integration center, adds Weische, who is a project manager with SAGST, also located in Darmstadt, which financially supported the project. The previous rented premises were in deplorable condition and barely met the needs of the organization. In their new location in Grenzallee, a newly erected mechanical workshop and generously sized school and social rooms provide enough space for around 75 young people to realize their dreams of a better future.