Case studies Tilmann, the traveler on the path of least resistance
Tilmann, the traveler on the path of least resistance
Tilmann, the traveler on the path of least resistance

Tilmann, the traveler on the path of least resistance (6)

Motto: It just happened to be convenient.

Demographic and biographical Characteristics

Tilmann, (21, male) has just moved out from his mother half a year ago but is still regularly visiting her. He likes hanging around with his friends to talk and make party as well as making music in a band and being online.


Educational and transitional pathways

Because Tilmann failed the examination for the qualified lower secondary school certificate (qualifizierter Hauptschulabschluss), he finished school with only a Hauptschulabschluss (lower secondary school certificate). Therefore, he changed to a school where pupils had time until the 11th grade (normally 9th grade) in order to catch up on the qualifizierter Hauptschulabschluss and achieved it in 2007 with “satisfactory”. After that, Tilmann has been unemployed for a few months. During that time he applied for vocational training and had job interviews until he started the nine-months Civilian Service in a kindergarden for disabled children. This was followed by another unemployment period of six months, until he started a vocational training (as building worker) which he is still undertaking. Tilmann plans to change his working area after finishing his training. He intends to do another vocational training in the social field (special needs assistant, child care) after finishing the current one.

Motivations and Strategies

Tilmann was mainly motivated by being brought out of his “comfort zone”. This happened, for example, when the Employment Agency put pressure on him to write applications, when he had a lack of income during his unemployment period, or when he discovered that his current training was connected with hard work conditions. Economical reasons play a major role in his set of motivations. He goes to work in order to have enough money to go out, make party, to buy nice things. The need to economise is one of the demotivating factors regarding his current training as he has many travel expenses. At the same time he looks for a job he really enjoys and thus keeps him motivated in working there in the long term. In the design of his transition, Tilmann is an “easy going” person. Convenient work conditions such as consistency in time and place of his work are the key criteria for his decision. He does not like to put too much effort into things.

Ad hoc learning scenarios

Looking for opportunities

After school, Tilmann needed to find a job perspective. Firstly, he was unemployed, a situation that, although he had time for whatever he wanted to do, was boring and monotonous for him. The Civilian Service came in handy in this situation. Tilmann liked to take things in his own hand. He found the host organization for this by directly calling in at different organizations for options. When looking for information on job options, he mainly used the information provided by the Employment Agency and by the internet. He chose options that were at hand and seemed convenient for his situation rather than finding out what he wants to do in the long term. From the experiences at his current training he became aware of the need to reflect his interests against the work reality of the respective fields in order to be able to make a sustainable decision. In the retrospective, he found that although having received contrary recommendations of his teacher, he should have continued with school learning directly in order to achieve a higher qualification (e.g. Realschule certificate). Also, he regrets his long periods of unemployment. However, although not intending to stay in this field, he perceives his current training as an important learning outcome since “you have to try out in order to find out that you don´t like it”.

Re-orientation and exploring a new job field

Tilmann thoroughly enjoyed his Civilian Service time where he was working with disabled children. He liked learning and playing with the children as well as the regular working times and places. This field was new and impressive to him, he had learned a lot during this time. Still it did not occur to him that this could be an appropriate work area. Instead, he continued to look for vocational training options in the building field. This was something he knew from helping out a friend on a building site. While the latter was an enjoyable experience with a good balance of work and recreation (talking, hanging around, drinking something and working now and then) and convenient working times (late morning until evening), the vocational training in the building field was experienced as “stressful”, with getting up early, physically tiring work, strict instructions and frequent changes of work places (causing additional expenses). He still intended to finish this training but came to the conclusion that he did not want to continue working in this profession. When thinking of alternatives, he remembered his Civilian Service time where the work he had done with the disabled children was more joyful and relaxing. He considered different options, e.g. going abroad where he estimated a high demand for special needs assistants (e.g. Brasilia), but was restrained by language barriers. Currently he is looking for organizations in this new field in the internet and when wandering around in his city.

Support Services used

One of the first support measures mentioned is the Internet. For Tilmann, internet is a most useful worldwide portal that offers more information than local information centers and that enables him to get informed himself instead of having to rely on others. Tilmann has made use of the support offered by the Employment Agency. There, he received information on job offers and applied for these jobs. However, he found out that the Agency did only offer concrete job options according to the preferences he expressed but did not make efforts to any adequate “matching”.

He also used „open days“ of organisations such as the chamber of industry where he was handed out broschures with information on the training and working options this organisation and its network offered. He was disappointed by this as he had hoped for an overview on options available beyond the limited offers of this organization. A third support measure Tilmann relies on is his social network. He has found orientation for compiling application material by looking at examples from friends. Friends also gave him ideas in informal chats about work options (e.g. on going abroad). One friend has created a voluntary job opportunity (building). His current working field results from these peer experiences. His mother, too, was very supportive.

She encouraged him, inspired him and connected him to other helpful people in her own circle of friends e.g. to a trainer who told him which facts are most important for companies looking for apprentices and which facts are relevant to be mentioned in applications. The school has rather played a minor supportive role. There, Tilmann received explanations on the application procedure. Concluding, in looking for orientation Tilmann was often disappointed by the information provided. There was information by training schools and companies on what they specifically provided but neither information on the characteristics of these options nor general information. What he missed was:

  • a thorough overview on the variety of possibilities in Germany,
  • a description of the everyday working tasks in a profession,
  • qualifications needed for what, 
  • expectations of employers in these fields, 
  • advice on which jobs are fit for his individual interests and resources and which are not.

Learning type

Tilmann likes to chose time and place of learning and working freely. In creating his trajectories, he up to now has accepted options that “came along his way” rather than doing a reflected and future-oriented planning. He likes finding information himself instead of having to rely on others. His strategy in finding a training or job is to contact companies directly. 

Information and Communication Technologies

Tilmann makes extended use of the internet, mainly in form of online games, networks and communication portals (e.g. my space). He has moderate knowledge on ICT usage and has actively used the internet for transition purposes, e.g. via (for job search) and -  mainly – google (for finding information on vocational training and for getting ideas on companies).

As key functions of the G8WAY platform he suggests the following features:

  • a “checkout-tool” of own competencies (e.g. by a questionnaire to find out about preferences and personal abilities) – in order to select an appropriate working field (social, technical, selling…), and, later on, more detailed choices (professions e.g. tailor, electrician, mason, social worker) in form of a “family tree” – one option leads to new options that again leads to different new options…
  • description of professions  (facts, conditions such as fields of activities, requirements, qualifications, conditions)

  • online exchange with experienced people. Tilmann thinks it most helpful for young people in decision-making to hear about the motivations of experienced people towards their jobs. For this, he suggests to look for volunteers that are interested in helping young people and like their experience to be valued.