Removing Barriers for Severely Disabled Adolescents: Securing Apprenticeships in the German Automobile Industry


The overall goal of the project is to secure sustainable apprenticeship opportunities for severely disabled adolescents in the German automobile industry by overcoming barriers that exist both for the potential applicants, as well as for those responsible for appointing and employing candidates (Niehaus & Jaeger 2009).First barriers emerge at the outset: the application procedures and associated aptitude tests of a company may create insurmountable obstacles for the severely disabled. The nature of these barriers may be technical, social or communicative, and may also involve reservations and concerns on the part of human resources personnel (Luecking 2003, 2008). In addition, one can certainly assume that in many cases, severely disabled adolescents choose not even to apply, feeling certain about not being able to fulfill the requirements of the job or not overcoming the technical barriers.

Research Methods:

Point of departure is an analysis of the existing opportunities and cooperative structures for the appointment of severely disabled adolescents within the following enterprises:

• Daimler AG Gaggenau
• Daimler AG Bremen
• Hans Hess Autoteile GmbH Koeln
• Kolbenschmidt – Pierburg AG Neckarsulm
• Rheinmetall Defence AG Duesseldorf
• Rheinmetall Landsysteme GmbH Kassel

The focus of the project is on developing and implementing barrier-free apprenticeship opportunities and application procedures in order to recruit severely disabled adolescents into industrial training programs. The scope of the project is to include the following:

  •  Empowering adolescents with severe disabilities
  •  Informing human resources personnel and advocacy groups of the disabled about barrier-free recruiting measures
  •  Adjusting aptitude testing and other assessment instruments, taking disabled applicants into consideration.

Along the lines of the participatory research approach, the initial results of the focus groups will be presented to managers, human resources officers, works council members, and representatives of disabled employees and of the adolescents' apprentice training in the participating enterprises under the general heading of “Overcoming Barriers in the Recruiting of New Apprentices.”

Project Management:

Prof. Dr. Mathilde Niehaus & Prof. Dr. Thomas Kaul

Co-operation Partners:

Daimler AG Bremen
Daimler AG Gaggenau
Hans Hess Autoteile GmbH Köln
Kolbenschmidt – Pierburg AG Neckarsulm
Rheinmetall Defence AG Düsseldorf
Rheinmetall Landysteme GmbH Kassel

Sponsor / Client:

Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS)


11/2008 – 12/2010

Research Assistants:

Dipl.-Psych. Elena Brinkmann, Dr. Britta Marfels, Frank Menzel (SozWiss.)