Case studies Nick, the handy man
Nick, the handy man
Nick, the handy man

Nick, the handy man (6)

Motto: Practical learning was exactly the right thing for me.

Demographic and biographical Characteristics

Nick (19) is living as a single child with his parents in a big German city. He is a volunteer at the auxiliary fire brigade and apart from that, likes to spend time with friends.


Educational and transitional pathways:

Nick is dyslexic which made school time rather difficult for him. He found it very hard to learn and it sometimes happened that he was bullied by his fellow students. In his 9th grade he moved to the “Produktives Lernen” (PL, productive learning) which turned out to be exactly the right thing for him. This alternative school form comprises two years (9th and 10th grade). The school year is structured in trimester. 3 days of the week are donated to a long term traineeship in a company of the pupil´s choice. The practical field changes every trimester so that each student conducts 6 traineeships over the project period. Nick has graduated from this school with the “Hauptschule” certificate (lower secondary school certificate).

Nick is currently completing the third year of his vocational training to be a landscape gardener at one of his former traineeship placements. He has already completed his theoretical exams and his practical exams are around the corner.

Nick´s trainer has announced to employ him at least for the next season after the training is completed, and, if the order situation is sufficient, permanently.

Motivations and Strategies:

While his learning efforts in the regular school did not pay out, Nick reflects the learning and working in the PL class as highly encouraging. Consequently, Nick counted on work experiences in order to find out about his preferences, to improve his skills and to get in contact with companies.

Ad hoc learning scenarios

The PL plays a crucial role in Nick´s educational and vocational pathway. The methods and characteristics of this alternative school form (practice-orientation, small groups, rich support from the teachers, applicable knowledge, study trips abroad) created a learning atmosphere that perfectly corresponded with his aptitudes. It helped him to improve his skills and competencies and offered experiences of success. While being encouraged to compile own projects on topics of interest and to report on this freely in front of the group, Nick improved his communication competencies and learned to act on his own initiative. He also valued the sense of solidarity and mutual responsibility. “Communication lessons” build a structural framework for regular exchange within the PL between students were individual issues and problems are discussed and everyone contributes with ideas to possible solutions.

From a traineeship to a vocational training

Nick has made rich use of the traineeship scheme scheduled in PL by looking for different interesting work places. On the one hand, he picked these places randomly, looking for companies in his neighborhood (vulcanizing shop, offset printing shop, garage). On the other hand he built on own interests and former positive work experiences (landscape gardening).

Already in the second of the six obligatory traineeships in PL, Nick was offered a vocational training at his current workplace, disregarding the school results. This happened again in his third training place, a printing shop. At both places he completed two traineeships as replacements for other companies were he did not succeed with his applications (plant fire brigade, tree nursery). Nick was very delighted and motivated by the positive feedback from his training places since it expressed that his work was appreciated and provided him with career options. Moreover, it gave evidence to him that the quality of his work counts more than school marks.

Nick showed a constant interest in widening his vocational horizon. However, regarding his concrete future he relied on the verbal offer in the landscape gardening instead of writing other applications. Today, he critically reflects that he was taking a risk here since he had no “Plan B” for the case his current boss would have changed his mind.

Support Services used

The first place were Nick found the opportunity to practically explore his vocational preferences was his first school which was a “Waldorf Schule”. Already in schoolgarden lessons and a forester traineeship (together with his whole class, for several weeks), he came in touch with his current working field. 

Nick´s mother has played a very supportive role in his vocational orientation process. She encouraged him continuously and provided him with ideas on companies for traineeships. It was her who suggested the landscape gardening company he is currently working in.

But also grown-ups outside his family were meaningful supporters, such as the teachers in PL and the mentors at the different working places: Nick is still in “super contact” with his class teacher who used to give helpful advice and visited him at his different training places. Apart from this teacher, Nick highlights his current boss who has been his mentor during the traineeships and who in Nick´s opportunity is the one that creates the collaborative and heartily atmosphere at work.

The visit at the vocational information center (BIZ) which take place within the PL has not proved to be helpful for him. However, he rates it as useful for other pupils who have not yet so concrete ideas.

As mentioned, deciding support came from the PL. This school form provided him with a wealth of practical experience which he reflects as a very decisive and enjoyable support scheme in his transition process. Nick´s narrations on his traineeships are marked by his enthusiasm for his work and the deep impression different work experiences made to him. He loved to do something useful and liked being respected like a responsible collaborator.

Learning type

Practical learning: Nick is very handy which equals up his problems in school learning. His key learning experiences took place were connected with practical work. Self-directed learning: Apart from practical learning, Nick is a self-determined learner who likes to show initiative, to take over responsibility for himself and to stick with his aims. 

Social learning: At the same time, he highly values tips and tricks from others. He was famous in his work place for asking many questions, for being interested in backgrounds and for adapting what he has heard and seen quickly and autonomously into practice.

Information and Communication Technologies

Nick is making rather modest use of the internet. He often works offline at the computer (writing reports for school). Sometimes he uses the internet in order to look up technical information on gardening. Privately, he uses Skype, chats and emails.

He is a convinced supporter of the concept of PL and suggests spreading the idea on those alternative learning models on the G8WAY platform. Apart from this, he gives general advice to young people (get engaged, improve your competencies e.g. speaking freely, ask questions).