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Dahlem Research School measures facilitating transition to the labor market, Author: Martina van de Sand

Since 2005, the Dahlem Research School (DRS) has established an overarching framework for structured graduate education at Freie Universität Berlin. Meanwhile, the DRS provides research training and professional development opportunities to early career at all career stages from the doctorate on.
Bearing in mind that a relatively small percentage of 5-10 % of the doctoral graduates will be able to obtain a permanent position at a university, it is important to advice doctoral candidates not only on career opportunities in academia, but even more importantly on alternative career paths in industry and in the private and public sector. Since 2013, therefore, the DRS has expanded its Career Development offerings in general in the frame of its Professional Development Program directed at doctoral candidates. In this context, the DRS has launched two new initiatives to support careers of prospective graduates beyond academia: DRS Pro Business and DRS Pro Gründung, in 2016 renamed as DRS Pro Transfer.
Both measures are integrative components of the new framework of the „Entrepreneurial Network University“ the concept of which was jointly developed by Freie Universität and Charité University Medicine. The concept was successful in a National Competition for the promotion of start-up companies in 2013. The realization is done in cooperation with the Division Transfer of Knowledge and Technology and the School of Business & Economics at Freie Universität.
DRS Pro Business addresses advanced doctoral candidates with non-economic backgrounds who are interested to pursue a career beyond academia. It aims to prepare them for a career entry or responsible positions in private or public sector and intends to foster entrepreneurial thinking and acting. The program consists of five compulsory modules focusing: competence analysis, profile development, introduction to management and the development of business skills. So far, 30 candidates have successfully completed Pro Business, the evaluation being very enthusiastic.
DRS Pro Transfer has been designed to prepare doctoral candidates and postdoctoral researchers for starting up a company. Participants who should already have an idea about the kind of enterprise are guided through a step-by-step process, beginning with the generation of a business idea, followed by the development of a suitable business model for which a market analysis is carried out. Participants elaborate a concept on how to finance their start-up ideas and how to protect their ideas by patents and property rights. Finally, they present their business models to other participants and experts for critical review. The methods introduced during the program such as Lean Canvas or the Business Model can be applied not only for business start-ups, but also in leadership positions both in science and in industry.
Based on the positive resonance to the above-mentioned measures, DRS launched a new initiative called FUBright for International Doctoral Candidates. The project is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Research Council. The major goal is to provide support for the integration of international doctoral candidates into the university and for the later transition into the labor market in order to contribute to the reduction of out-migration of highly qualified international doctorate holders.
It gives support to international doctoral candidates who are less familiar with career options and requirements of the German labor market and who have fewer networks to draw on for placement than their German peers.
In view of the huge number of approximately 1.600 international doctoral candidates at Freie Universität, FUBright concentrates its services especially on the critical phases at the beginning and the end of the doctorate. Doctoral candidates can participate in three elements:

  1. FUBright Welcome organizes orientation events for new candidates from abroad to make them quickly feel at home both in Berlin and at the university. Candidates obtain information on structures and services at Freie Universität, on the German science culture and relevant organisations and on intercultural issues. Moreover, German language courses are offered, as well as a buddy program, peer mentoring or Berlin tours facilitate networking.
  2. FUBright Qualification offers courses for international doctoral candidates to assist them with timely and successful completion of the doctorate.
  3. Through its Career Transition Days, FUBright Career provides information on multiple career pathways in Germany. Workshops and a mentoring program help with finding a suitable career path and coping with challenges international candidates might face in respect to such issues as: Do I see myself in Germany in the future? What kind of residence title will I need for my career path? What do I have to know about the pension systems when I plan to return to my home country later? During a series of workshops international doctoral candidates can prepare for a career in a private company or in the public sector but they can also learn how to develop a business idea while getting to know the legal forms of businesses and the key characteristics of the German market. In this context, DRS Pro Gründung and DRS Pro Business will also be offered for international candidates.

Within the framework of FUBright, contacts will be strengthened with relevant institutions such as Berlin Partner, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Berlin, Business Immigration Service and with companies based in and around Berlin with the aim to optimize the interface between university and labor market.

Martina van de Sand is currently the Head of Dahlem Research School at the Freie Universität Berlin.

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