Cities at work: The Professor Eggers course, Essen


The Professor Eggers course gives young people with mental health issues a second chance to obtain their school certificate in order to improve their employability and independence.

Each year, around 300 young people in Essen leave school without a certificate and without a chance of finding a job. About 4,000 people under the age of 25 in Essen are currently unemployed and living on welfare support, and a quarter of these are single parents. 
Between 2007 and 2009, the job centre in Essen discovered that nearly all of its 300 clients under 25 had previously been diagnosed with a mental health issue. A year before, in 2006, the Professor Eggers Foundation, which specialises in socio-psychiatric and rehabilitative living and housing models for young people, and Volkscochschule, an adult education centre with a department for second chance education, began a partnership programme to offer courses for young people with mental health issues. 
The programme provides a quiet learning environment for small groups of students with experienced teachers. There is also a trained psychologist on hand. There is a strict weekly monitoring of each student's progress and constant individual feedback is given. There are also specific evaluations of each of the courses provided. 
Special attention is paid to preparing students for the transition from school into working life, including training on writing CVs and preparing applications. There is also training in public speaking and IT, and the students have the opportunity to take part in a two week internship. 
Over 70% of the beneficiaries have so far gone on to obtain a school certificate, with eight of them either gaining a qualification to attend higher secondary education or the highest German school certificate.
This programme uses an innovative methodology to help young people with mental health issues get their school certificates and become reintegrated into society. The cooperation between the city of Essen and the third sector associations involve has proved to be mutually beneficial. The course is unique in Germany and demonstrates the impact of such initiatives for reducing prejudices and improving integration. 
This example is part of a series of good practices from cities in the upcoming EUROCITIES publication ‘Promoting an inclusive labour market at local level’, which will be launched at the EUROCITIES Social Affairs Forum in Brussels on 20 October. Follow the conversation about inclusive labour markets on Twitter via #citiesatwork.