Kick-Off Event: Smarts-Up

Smarts-Up (financed by EUROPEAN SOCIAL FUND) is a project for supporting young people with disabilities in the age between 18 and 30 on their way to working life. We are opened for cooperation with companies and institutions which have the same aims.

This project started in October 2015 in Sinzig, Germany, and is part of the EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE initiative with the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.

Smarts-Up will strengthen the integration of young people into the world of work. The project belongs to a national network and offers youth at the age between 18-30 years with fewer opportunities – for instance people who did not finish school or with an immigrant background – professional support and assistance.

Young adults are the main target group. Especially young people who rely to a high extent on support based on social disadvantages or individual prejudices, who got lost in between leaving school and finding a job and who cannot be reached by the conventional service areas such as job centre or youth migration service. The main targets of our project are social and professional integration, career advancement, assessment of skills and performing mobility.

The work of Smarts-Up is based at the outreach approaches of youth social work. So our team go to the places where the young people spend their leisure-time, like shopping areas, sports fields, youth centres etc. Of course we are using social media and the house of the open door as a meeting point for getting in contact with the young people. We ask for their needs and make them offers.

It is very important to follow several action maxims of outreaching youth work. We are working low-threshold and are oriented towards the needs and the surrounding environment. Furthermore, voluntariness and the respect for each other is fundamental. At the same time, we protect confidence but our work is not completely anonymously and intercultural and gender specific soft skills.

Who are our most important partners to get in contact with and to guide the young people to? Smarts-Up promote and improve the cooperation and coordination between the institutions and stakeholders after leaving school. So we work close together with companies, Youth migration services, Youth work, job centres, cultural institutions, politicians, schools and municipal administration.

As an example of successful networking, here are some information for your cooperation between youth work and a museum. Why work with a museum? The young people we work with have often tried to solve an age appropriate life task and have got into a crisis or a dead-end street. By staying and working in a museum as an unusual place their everyday lives get enriched, because the participants – who are elsewhere rather reclusive – become able to integrate their renewed communicative abilities in their lives. To work together with a museum is a possibility to correct the stereotyped ideas of society towards the group of unemployed young people. It is important to take the youngsters as artists doing professional work and in this way point them towards a special place in the public.

The youngsters often have a low self-esteem. To really work with artists, to stick to the exercises until the end, to be reliable and then play on stage in front of an unknown public empowers them a lot. The young people get to know a new world and the people from the museum also can broaden their horizon.

There are many ways to workout social skills and other abilities. What do we do? We make biographical guided interviews und Mini assessments – 4 times per annum in cooperation with the Youth migrants services and the youth workers. We want to work out skills like motivation, sense of perception and motor activity. We support abilities to work as a part of a team, to handle conflict situations and to practice communication skills and reliability.

For us mobility is a right for all young people, including those with fewer opportunities or living in disadvantaged situations. Mobility is considered in all its diversity from local to international mobility and from geographical to social and cultural mobility.

So what do we do to improve international mobility? We cooperate with youth work. Our partner is accredited as a sending organization for the European Voluntary service (EVS). This allows us and the young people to broaden their horizons, learn about different countries, life-styles, cultures and in the end this is crucial to the construction of personality and also plays a role in building their self-esteem.

So you are right with us:
If you are between 18 and 30 years old and looking for support on your way to working life.If you are a business owner and want to succeed with our assistance.If you are a member of an institution and working in the field of vocational and social integration of young people with fewer opportunities.

Susan Krause, Germany

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