Adapting and Installing an international vocational Training for Renewable Energies

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Main actors

City Government, Supranational / Intergovernmental Institutions, Research Institutes / Universities

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2009/09

Berlin has developed a programme to encourage young people who are disengaging from the formal education system to enter vocational training in green and sustainable technologies.

The Adapting and Installing Vocational Training for Renewal Energy (AIRE) network provides an opportunity to 15 year old secondary school students in deprived city districts to build a small remote controlled solar model car. Finished models are showcased at local and international parades where the students deliver presentations on how the models were created.

The training aims at preventing school dropout and making students develop personal and social skills.

The objective of the program is also to encourage young people to pursue further vocational training in green technologies. Some early beneficiaries have already graduated with a Master of Science degree and now work in positions of responsibility at solar or wind energy companies.

Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF:

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Berlin, Germany

Size and population development
The population registered for the municipality of Berlin in 2017 was 3,613,500, making it the second most populous city in the European Union. The larger metropolitan area has around 5 million people living in 1,347 square kilometres, giving it a population density of around 15,000 people per square kilometre—similar to Mexico City or Tokyo.

Population composition
It has been estimated that up to 30 percent of Berlin’ s population are of foreign origin. The foreigners originate from other parts of Europe—such as Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Russia, Spain, Bosnian, Bulgarian, and Italian—as well as from countries outside of Europe, such as Turkey, Palestine, Iran, Syria, Egypt and Ghana. The largest non-native population comes from Turkey; in the year of 2010, there were more than 100,000 Turkish registered as inhabitants of Berlin.

Main functions
Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany, as well as one of the nation’s 16 states. It is situated approximately 112 miles (180 km) south of the Baltic Sea and lies in the wide glacial valley of the Spree River, which runs through the centre of the city. The city extends over an area of 891.7 square kilometres and stands at an average altitude of 34 meters above sea level. After the reunification of the two Berlins in 1990, Germany began a process to centralize the capital to Berlin (replacing Bonn, the former capital of West Germany). Since then, Berlin is the place where the German House of Representatives and the German Bundestag hold elections. However, it wasn’t until 2001 that the Bundestag and the government of Berlin were fully established under the same roof. Berlin is also a city of great cultural significance, which is evident if one considers the amount of historical landmarks that tie the city’s history to its multiple overlapping pasts. Some of the most important landmarks include the Holocaust memorial (inaugurated in 2003), remnants of the Berlin Wall (taken down on the 9th of November 1989), the Reichstag Building (which dates to 1884). As the capital of Germany, Europe’s most populous and economically powerful country, Berlin is also the centre of, culture, politics, media and science in the country and serves as a European hub for air and rail traffic.

Main industries / business
As the 4th largest economy of the world, Germany participates of a wide array of industries with a famous efficiency. In Berlin one may find strong state-owned enterprises, like the Deustche Bahn (the railway), which employs the largest amount of general population (more than 20,000 people). Other companies that thrive in Berlin are: the Deustche Post (DHL), the technology company Siemens, the automotive manufacturer BMW, and the telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom. Hence, one may assume that Berlin specializes in the secondary and tertiary sectors of economy. Tourism brings more than 135 million visitors to the city (which include day-time visitors as well as overnight ones). Apart from other student cities in Germany like Köln and Munich, Berlin houses some of the most well-reputed universities in the world: the Freire Universität Berlin and the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, with more than 30,000 students each.

Sources for city budget
Berlin draws its budget for public expenditure largely from taxes, transfers received, fees, fines, and operating revenues. This money is federally approved and spent in such a way that it can also be used in the form of funding for companies, not only to comply with the provision of quality public services.

Political structure
Berlin serves both as a city with a local government and as capital of Germany. In regard to the latter, it houses the Bundesregierung (Federal government), the Bundestag (Federal parliament) and the Bundesrat (the States’ chamber of Parliament). Each of the 16 states of Germany has representation in Berlin. It is governed by the Berlin Senate which is comprised of 10 senators and the Governing Mayor. Also, the embassies of other countries from around the world are housed in the city. The 16 states (Laender) have a similar standing to the federal government in respect to most issues.

Administrative structure
Berlin is administrated by the Senate and its 12 districts or boroughs. The Senate is the city’s central administration, in charge of city planning, public policy, and regulation of public and private spheres. The district administrations decentralize some public functions, with reasonable difference between the various localities.

A high percentage of young people in Berlin drop out of the education system: around 8% from high school and 30% from vocational training. A lack of goals and a sense of having no future can have serious social consequences for young people including violence or criminal behaviour. Preventing school dropout is very important in securing a future of these young people and preventing problems for wider society. It can be very difficult to successfully reintegrate them into the education system since many of them live in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and experience various problems, for example drug and alcohol abuse, social difficulties, low confidence, low personal management skills or poor parenting at home. 

The Adapting and Installing Vocational Training for Renewal Energy (AIRE) network provides an opportunity to 15 year old secondary school students in deprived city districts to build a small remote controlled solar model car. The project is aimed at young people who have dropped out of school or are at risk of dropping out, pupils with behavioural difficulties and young people with sensory disabilities. A hands on, innovative and fun approach is taken to train and inspire the students and help them develop a range of technical skills.

The project design also helps the students develop personal and social skills such as time keeping, perseverance, public speaking and team work. To give them a sense of achievement, finished models are showcased at local and international parades where the students deliver presentations on how the models were created. The project also aims to encourage young people to pursue a career in the green energy sector. Participating in the project counts as part of a prevocational qualification required to enter vocational courses in Germany. Learning outcomes of the project include:

  • technical knowledge on  renewable energy, electricity, gearing, motors, batteries, radio frequency and remote control
  • technical skills (e.g. using tools, making electrical connections, taking measurements, analysing data and making adjustments based on results)
  • health and safety
  • communication and social skills

At the end of the project, participants obtain an internationally recognised European Qualification Framework (EQF) level 2 certificate.

The current edition of the transnational ‘AIRE EQF2 for ALL’ receives a total of €110,000 in funding from the EU. The city of Berlin receives €18,000 for this two-year project through the Leonardo da Vinci programme.

To support the teachers involved in the project, the city recognises the hours they work on the project as part of their ordinary weekly teaching hours.

To date six schools in Berlin have participated in the AIRE project and it has helped reintegrate young people into society and the education system. It also enhances the students’ awareness of environmental issues and of the vocational training and job opportunities available in the growing field of renewable energies.

The playful and innovative approach has been met with great enthusiasm among both students and teachers, and the learning outcomes surpassed expectations. The young people become more confident, motivated and ready to start further vocational training in green technologies. They increase their ability to concentrate on short to mid-term projects and planning, reflect on their own work, and function as part of a team.

The AIRE project started as a local initiative in 2001. Some of the early beneficiaries went on to complete an officially recognised three year vocational training while others have gone on to University of Applied Sciences. Some early beneficiaries have already graduated with a Master of Science degree and now work in positions of responsibility at solar or wind energy companies. 

The main challenge of this project was financing the materials for the solar cars, travel expenses for the students and in case of the young people with disabilities, for their carers. These challenges were partly overcome by obtaining EU funding.

The project coordinators are now looking into new sources of finance to allow more young people to participate.

In Green Jobs for social inclusion (see references), EUROCITIES identifies three main factors that contribute to the success of these city initiatives to create green jobs for social inclusion at the local level.

They are:

1. Combining demand and supply side interventions:  an intervention does not solely focus on developing people’s competences, skills and motivation (supply side intervention) but also aims to create a tangible route into the labour market (demand side intervention).

On the demand side, the programme's objective is to provide a ‘protected’ working environment with the view of supporting people to gain real work experience to enable them to compete in the mainstream labour market.

These demand side interventions are then complemented by well-matched activation and training measures (supply side interventions) helping people to gain specific skills and improve their chances of accessing the labour market.

2. Linking the interventions to local employment opportunities

The second success factor is the strong link between the programmes and local employment opportunities. Cities as the level of government closest to the people have an in-depth knowledge of their local labour markets. They can design programmes in line with local economic demand and prepare people for jobs that are available locally. The effectiveness of the demand and supply interventions is made stronger when they are grounded in local businesses and job market needs.

3. Tailoring activation measures to the specific needs of people

The third success factor of the programmes is linking the activation measures to the specific needs of the target groups.

For local authorities, programmes that combine greening and social inclusion bring added value, particularly during periods of budgetary constraint and growing demand for services. Integrated programmes that address several objectives with one investment bring efficiency to local interventions. Given the longer term perspective of the sector, linking job seekers to local jobs in the green economy should continue to bring results as the sector is set to grow.

The initiative is part of a European ‘AIRE EQF2 for ALL’ project, which takes place in a number of European countries and is adapted from country to country. For example in France the method is used for adults from a migrant background to increase language competences and they build a full sized car. In Bulgaria and Denmark, the project is used for vocational orientation in secondary schools. 

More information on the success factors:

"Local strategies to implement national energy efficiency schemes", in Green Jobs for social inclusion, EUROCITIES, June 2015, 16-17.

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Dorlies Radike-Thiel
Berlin, Germany

Dorlies Radike-Thiel

Individual | EU Advisor Vocational Training

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