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Promoting Young Talent at all Stages of Education

Young scientists and a highly qualified workforce are particularly important when it comes to producing new research findings and innovative ideas as well as transporting knowledge into the future. Global contacts, a networked approach to work, autonomous research, an excellent infrastructure, and attentive supervision by experienced scientists all contribute to the creative atmosphere that makes Forschungszentrum Jülich so attractive for young scientists.

Jülich encourages young people’s interest in science from a very early age. Under the umbrella of its 'juelich_horizons' programme, Forschungszentrum Jülich offers a wide range of opportunities and perspectives for young people and scientists at all stages of their education. All of them aim to generate excellence in education, vocational training, and on all stages of the career ladder, as well as to compete internationally in attracting and retaining the brightest minds. The programme comprises four areas.

Young people profit from Jülich’s special structure, namely, its multiprogrammatic approach and close cooperation with other scientific institutions as well as industry and funding organizations. Forschungszentrum Jülich also attaches great importance to equal opportunities in all phases of qualification and education.

The programme for young talents comprises four areas: juelich_impulse targets children and young people, starting with kindergarten children and covering all types of schools. juelich_tracks is aimed at young people in their training and early career stages. juelich_chances addresses students and graduates from Germany and abroad. juelich_heads works with outstanding early-career scientists at postdoc level.

Encouraging young people's interest in science at an early age: juelich_impulse

About 4,500 children and young people visit Forschungszentrum Jülich every year. School classes can experience the fascination of science in the institutes or at Jülich’s Schools Laboratory, JuLab. Active experimentation is the main focus here.

Kinder am JuLabCopyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich

About 4,500 children and young people visit Forschungszentrum Jülich every year. School classes can experience the fascination of science in the institutes or at Jülich’s Schools Laboratory, JuLab. Active experimentation is the main focus here.

In addition, about 320 school students every year are given the opportunity to get their first taste of working life on campus during a placement in one of Forschungszentrum Jülich’s institutes and infrastructure divisions. Jülich also takes part in Girls’ Day and is involved in special cooperations, for example with the local girls’ secondary school (Mädchengymnasium Jülich), as well as in Girls’ Technology Day in order to jump-start girls’ and young women’s interest in STEM subjects, i.e. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

JuLab also hosts the regional heat of the annual ‘Jugend forscht – Schüler experimentieren’ competition for young researchers and offers research weeks for children and teenagers who are particularly interested and talented. With these activities, Forschungszentrum Jülich makes an important contribution to promoting excellence in children and teenagers.

In future, Jülich will also place greater emphasis on children in kindergarten and primary school. Current findings from the field of developmental psychology show that early childhood is a crucial period for the development of vocational preferences. Even very young children and pre-school children are already in the process of developing mathematical and scientific competences that should be encouraged as early as possible.

This is taken into account in the step-by-step expansion of the nearby day-care centre. The facility is designed as the first module in Jülich’s concept for promoting young talent at all stages of education. Its pedagogic and educational concept follows that of the 'Little Scientists' House' foundation. The kindergarten's activities will also be closely dovetailed with those of JuLab, which will facilitate an easy transition to the Schools Laboratory’s successful programmes. Another important phase in the educational biography of young people is that of vocational orientation. In the spirit of the motto "identifying talents and supporting career decisions", Forschungszentrum Jülich offers diverse opportunities for help with career choices. The target groups are school students of grades 8–10, 10–12, and 13 who are interested in scientific and technical topics. At Forschungszentrum Jülich, they are offered the opportunity to obtain insights into particular facets of various occupations. This offer, which also takes the equal opportunities aspect into consideration, is designed by JuLab and the Vocational Training Centre together with the scientific institutes and suitable infrastructure divisions.

With the introduction of Jülich’s concept for career choice work placements "JuBoP", new and flexible orientation offers are introduced. The work placements can last from a few days to several weeks and can be structured to take place in parallel with school lessons, or in one stretch. Depending on preferences, placements can offer insights into the whole of a professional field or into a concrete job, in order to identify individual inclinations and career prospects. All placements include a personal consultation at the end of the placement, and job application training.

Creating perspectives in vocational training and dual study courses: juelich_tracks

With respect to initial vocational training programmes, Forschungszentrum Jülich is outstandingly successful and is an important and well-connected partner in the region. Since it was established, Forschungszentrum Jülich has trained around 4,600 young people and laid the foundation for their personal development and professional future. Simultaneously, Jülich thus satisfies its own need for motivated and highly specialized skilled employees.

Azubis verschiedener Berufe am ForschungszentrumCopyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich

At present, there are more than 330 trainees in 25 different occupations, including 22 in the scientific and commercial-technical field. Since 2013, RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich have been providing joint vocational training in electronics for devices and systems as part of JARA and thus take on a pioneering role in establishing innovative training programmes and science organizations. The quality of the vocational training is attested in the fact that many of the trainees complete their training with above-average success. In 2012, four Jülich trainees were among the best in the whole of Germany and were honoured at an event hosted by the Federal Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK).

Around one third of Jülich’s trainees are enrolled in a dual study programme: The practical training for the examinations by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) is undertaken at Forschungszentrum Jülich while the scientific and theoretical part, which leads to a bachelor’s degree, is completed at a university. Both elements are interlinked closely. Currently, dual study programmes are offered at Forschungszentrum Jülich in these six fields: business administration, scientific programming, applied chemistry, as well as physical, mechanical, and electrical engineering. Together with the university of applied sciences in Heerlen, trained biology and chemistry laboratory assistants have the opportunity to pursue a part-time, fast-track bachelor’s degree. Jülich’s excellent training programme thus reaches across borders.

There have been more training places than applicants in Germany since 2011. For Forschungszentrum Jülich, this means that it will have to intensify its efforts to attract trainees from all over Germany and beyond, and to use proactive recruitment and marketing strategies to find suitable candidates that meet its high requirements of excellence. The regional training network in the Euregio, which facilitates exchange programmes with other institutions or participation in international competitions, for example, plays an important part in these endeavours. One crucial aspect for the quality of training courses is also the continuing education of the instructors. Specialized programmes aim at presenting new methods of teaching, refreshing knowledge, and developing leadership skills.

Forschungszentrum Jülich also breaks new ground when it comes to methods, and has established an online course system that will complement the existing options for personal mentoring and the range of training opportunities. This facilitates time- and location-independent learning as well as individual support.

University degrees and PhDs as a stepping stone: juelich_chances

At Jülich, students and PhD candidates benefit from the opportunity to conduct research and work on interesting projects early on and thus evolve into sought-after specialists and skilled professionals. Numerous institutes supervise students – for example as part of work placements as well as longer-term projects, such as the practical part of bachelor's and master's dissertations.

Students from abroad come to Jülich within the scope of funding programmes and can gain an impression of living and working in a research environment at an early stage of their careers. Within the China Scholarship Council (CSC) programme, ten to fifteen PhD students or postdocs per year come to Forschungszentrum Jülich for a period of six months to four years. Every year, DAAD RISE gives about ten students from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain the opportunity to come to one of Jülich's institutes to perform research there for up to three months. Courses such as the IFF Spring School, which has been running for more 40 years, consolidate cooperations with research institutions and enable personal contact. Many of the participants return to Jülich later on in their career.

Forschungszentrum Jülich and the universities are close partners when it comes to training and supervising PhD students. Thanks to reliable framework conditions and well-structured training programmes, the majority of the students complete their PhD within the scheduled period. These early-career scientists benefit not only from the fact that experts in the institutes provide intensive supervision, but also that the Doctoral Committee closely monitors their research project. Graduate colleges and schools also offer subject-specific training as well as training in soft skills. The German Research School for Simulation Sciences (GRS) gives postgraduate and PhD students the chance to learn the ropes of simulation sciences and perform cutting-edge research. The International Helmholtz Research School BioSoft provides excellent opportunities for PhD theses at the intersection of biology, chemistry, and physics. The Helmholtz Graduate School for Energy and Climate Research (HITEC), which comprises almost all PhD students in the fields of energy and environmental research, provides both scientific training and workshops on presentation techniques and writing scientific texts. The aim is that, in future, all PhD students will benefit from a modular graduate programme.

Further information:

Doctorial studies and research
DocTeam - Jülich PhD students' initiative

Offering Career Opportunities to High Achievers, Supporting Mobility: juelich_heads

Early-career scientists in their postdoc phase receive personalized support in close cooperation between the institutes at Jülich and the universities. The centrally coordinated support programmes subsumed under ‘juelich_heads’ assist excellent minds in actively planning their careers.

Altogether, there were 278 postdocs at Forschungszentrum Jülich on 31 December 2013, including 73 women. Various postdoc programmes provide individual funding for two or three years to further encourage scientific excellence after a promising doctoral thesis. Special encouragement is given to an international exchange, which often forms the basis for further steps on the career path. In the third round of the Helmholtz postdoc programme, all four suggestions submitted by Jülich were successful. In total, 19 schemes were funded within the Helmholtz Association.

Doktoranden an der GRSCopyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / GRS

At Jülich, internationally outstanding postdocs are given the opportunity to establish their own Young Investigators Groups. The process begins with a highly competitive multistage selection procedure. In 2014, there were 24 Young Investigators Groups at Forschungszentrum Jülich, and eleven of their heads are junior professors. Nine of the Young Investigators Groups are headed by women. Forschungszentrum Jülich supports these outstanding young scientists with services and offers, from info lunches to training courses and individual support measures.

Cooperations with universities and non-university partners in the area of training are a well-established practice at Jülich. The Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA) between RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich is a prime example of this. Furthermore, strong networks with the surrounding universities and support for international partnerships for joint training and qualification will be consistently pursued and expanded by Jülich.

In the future, partners from outside the science community will be sought out in order to develop joint programmes which will highlight further career options and support mobility to and from other science-related areas. These successful activities already include spin-off companies.

Further Information:

FZ Jülich Career Center