• Kathleen Warnhoff, Berlin Social Science Center

Under what conditions do employees learn in the context of Industry 4.0 – and why should the work be designed to promote learning? This is the core question Brain City Ambassador Kathleen Warnhoff is addressing as part of her doctorate at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB).

“I am interested in the role of learning in all phases of life, from childhood to old age,” says Kathleen Warnhoff. As a scholarship holder of the Hans Böckler Foundation at the doctoral college “Good work: Approaches to shaping the working world of tomorrow” at the WZB, she specified this interest in a qualitative study and investigated work-related learning in digitised industry in the Berlin area. “Digitisation is a lengthy process that can also cause divisions. There are mechanisms in place that ensure that not all workers are given the same opportunities for qualification across the board,” says the Brain City Ambassador. Work-related learning in particular shows: Although overall concepts are developed in companies, these often do not go far enough to curb an unequal distribution of opportunities. “With my research, I am making a scientific contribution to shaping the future world of work. The appeal for me is in the discovery and reflection of everyday contexts in working and learning.”

Kathleen Warnhoff has lived in Brain City Berlin for more than three decades. “Originally I come from the Uckermark region. But Berlin fascinated me even as a child and as a teenager because it is simply a very special city. Just the view from the TV tower into the vastness of the city is unique!” In 1991, shortly after the fall of the Wall, she moved to the new capital of reunified Germany. “I have done everything to fulfil myself here. In the beginning, I often commuted back and forth between East and West. There was still a lot of division in people’s minds.” But Kathleen Warnhoff wanted to discover this wild and dynamic city, which she had previously only been familiar with from the eastern side of the wall. “Before, I only knew the western part from old postcards. At first I was particularly interested in the club and artist scene – and especially the alternative life. Later I began to notice the many faces of Berlin; each district has a different character, a different smell and its own dynamic.”

As a city of science, Berlin is a melting pot with unlimited development opportunities.

The Brain City Ambassador was not immediately drawn to research. Initially, she worked as a tradeswoman and, after studying business communication with a sociological focus, as a lecturer at various Berlin universities. In the process, she dealt increasingly with the topic of digitisation. “I wanted to develop myself further, so I applied to the internationally renowned Berlin Social Science Center.”

As part of her work-sociological research, Kathleen Warnhoff is well networked both nationally and internationally, because Brain City Berlin offers countless opportunities for scientific exchange through the many universities and research institutions located here. “Berlin has an exceptional academic environment that is as stimulating and diverse as the city itself. For me, Berlin was and is a dynamic city of the future: As a city of science, Berlin is a melting pot with unlimited development opportunities. Everything is possible here. And yet the city is sometimes like a village.”

Kathleen Warnhoff says that Berlin is a place that can inspire future generations not only in science. However, she also has a BUT for young researchers who want to come to Berlin: “Jobs in science companies are often still temporary and offer little security. Living space is also scarce – this is often a problem, especially for students.”

But in her opinion, Berlin’s potential is far from exhausted. “Young people have the opportunity to get involved here in many different ways.” Kathleen Warnhoff herself sets a good example. In addition to her scientific work, she has been volunteering for many years to improve the learning conditions in day care centres and schools and to make it easier for socially disadvantaged young people to start their careers. “There is a lot to do in Berlin. The city has its rough edges. But it is precisely these contradictions that I find exciting!”

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