Social learning at the workshop on the Neckar

Five apprentices share their experiences today of their time spent in the institute for vocational rehabilitation for people with mental illnesses.

The experience gained by apprentices working in the rehabilitation facility in Nürtingen is an idea which was developed under the management of the former Managing Director Joachim Jung for promoting the social commitment of the IST METZ Group. He initiated the first collaborations with social facilities; the first weekly placements for apprentices started in 2006. After Jung's unexpected death in 2007, the Metz family looked to continue on with his social pledge and set up the IST METZ Foundation in 2008, a subsidiary of the "Time for People" foundation. Both foundations are part of the "Samariterstiftung", a social service provider in Wurttemberg. With this foundation, regular collaboration with the workshop on the Neckar was established, which has plenty to offer alongside the visits from the young apprentices. Through the proceeds from the foundation, long-term and sustainable additional projects have been set up for the vocational assistance and personal development of the workshop employees.

The time spent by the young apprentices in the facility also contributes towards personal development. The descriptions of their two-week stay might differ at times but all the young people come to the same conclusion: they gained a broader view of life, discovered new approaches to communicating with others, learned how to break down prejudices. Every one of the five apprentices has his or her own small story to tell about a particular workshop employee that impressed them. The differences between the individual working groups to which the apprentices were allocated were also immense. Manuel Neufeld was assigned to a group whose members were new to the facility. "It was very quiet, nobody was talking at the start," he recalls. However, with some helpful advice from the Group Leader, he soon got to know the others and hear their stories.

The atmosphere was more relaxed in other groups and many of the workshop employees spoke freely about themselves and the life experiences that had weighed them down so heavily that a mental illness resulted. Whether it was a stroke that made the return to work difficult or a crisis that proved too heavy a burden to carry, there was plenty for the apprentices to take in, issues that they had never been faced with before. These were thoughts that accompanied them in the hours after work too: "I've seen how much a person can deal with. It really puts into perspective how trivial some people can be," says Laura Schober. Marcel Geiger is of a similar opinion: "It's amazing how much these people have endured." Dimitrios Minidis also sees the experience as having had a strong impact. "It has taught me not to judge others too quickly," adds Mara Amendola.

In addition to the regular work in the workshop, there were also group activities which the apprentices were part of that allowed them to engage in private discussions: From mini-golf to pumpkin carving, a trip to the zoo or a visit to the Stuttgart folk festival, there were opportunities to get to know the employees better. And after the two week placement was finished, an online course offered by one of the apprentices and a tour of IST METZ provided further opportunities for the workshop employees to meet up again. Such as at the workshop's Christmas party whose raffle was sponsored by IST.

The impact that these placements can have even years later, Melanie Fiess knows only too well: As personnel officer responsible for training and development, Fiess also spent some of her apprenticeship in the workshop on the Neckar. "Now and again, I'll bump into an employee who still remembers me from three years ago," she says. Both sides benefit from this programme, as the young people explain: "For several people in the workshop, it was really great to hear about something else for a change," explains Manuel Neufeld.

This coming autumn at the latest will once again see a change to the routine for the workshop employees: There will be ten apprentices from IST METZ taking up placements. All of whom will no doubt come to same conclusion as this most recent group: "If we had the chance to do it again, we would. That was an important experience."

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