Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, was in Leipzig, Germany, today together with Martin Dulig, State Minister for Economy, Labour and Transport of Saxony to visit the work of an ESF-funded project that helps German children and adolescents to prepare for the future by inspiring them through technology.
‘VDI Garage’ acts as an ‘innovation incubator’ for young people, aiming to nurture their love of science, technology and critical thinking – with a focus on new technology, science and economics. Young people receive hands-on training, building their understanding of technology, including its applications and uses in an entrepreneurial career.
Since December 2015, ten ‘technical experience worlds’ were created together with companies from across Germany, building the knowledge and capacity of young people in technical fields. Training takes place in workshops, laboratories and a ‘smart factory’ of nearly 1 200 square meters where children and adolescents can learn about robotics, bionics, automation, electrical engineering and digitalisation of manufacturing and production processes. Lessons are presented to children and young people in an engaging setting, and children can then test what they have learned under the supervision of a diverse faculty of engineers and technical professionals.
The services offered by the VDI-Garage are not aimed at a single target group, but provide a wide range of learning-level programmes – from pre-primary to secondary education. Project activities are adapted to children’s and young people’s experiences and previous knowledge, and lesson plans are consistently updated based on the student’s motivations and interests. Flexible space structures, interactive equipment and competent teaching staff make it possible for young people to make the most out of the opportunity, acquiring diverse knowledge and skills that they can then apply outside the classroom.
Commissioner Schmit was enthusiastic about VDI Garage's activities, stating, 'This is an amazing project that allows young people to directly experience different technical skills like disassembling engines, programming robots, painting walls, and 3D-printing. It’s a great opportunity to get the next generation interested in different kinds of jobs.'
The impact of the workshops is far-reaching, with around 80 000 children and young people visiting the ‘VDI Garage’ Leipzig every year and taking part in holiday camps that bring them closer to the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There are even dedicated ‘my friend the robot’ camps that build enthusiasm for robotics and programming, whether beginner or expert, by designing in fun their own machines Projects such as these show how EU funding is empowering children and adolescents to become innovators, bridging the divide between school and future career choices.