Melanie Dehne, BA, BSc
Melanie Dehne is a sign language interpreter, and since October 2016 she has been studying Web Business & Technology at the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein Tirol (FH Kufstein Tirol). Most of her fellow students came directly from secondary school, but she had already graduated from a degree program and worked for several years. The Labor Market Service helped her to get an occupational reorientation with the Women in Trades and Technical Professions (FiT) program. An interview about hopelessness, new opportunities, and happiness.
>> Melanie, switching from being a sign language interpreter to a Web Business & Technology student is quite a change. Why did you want to do something that was entirely different?
I studied sign language interpreting at the Magdeburg University of Applied Sciences and worked in this sector for seven years. I would also like to continue interpreting. But I want to stay in Tirol, and that’s where the catch is. In Tirol, there are hardly any permanent positions for sign language interpreters. I was self-employed for a long time. But the risk is very high, and it just did not work anymore. After a series of side jobs that did not make me happy, I went to the AMS (Labor Market Service). There I got information that I could do two kinds of professional training: payroll accounting or geriatric care. At first, I was quite frustrated, but I wanted to do something and knew I had to. I had already decided to be a care assistant in a nursing home when the consultant told me, “No, no, how come, you know there are a lot of other things!” The she told me about the Women in Trades and Technical Professions (FiT) program.
>> What kind of a program is this exactly?
The Labor Market Service offers the program throughout Austria. Any woman who is looking for work can participate if they want to reorient themselves to a technical or hands-on profession. I receive financial support from the AMS, such as the tuition fees and a monthly allowance for my costs of living. So, I am financially secure and can completely concentrate on my degree program. I also have a claim to free tutoring.
>> And so, were you able to study at the university? How does that work?
Yes, exactly. The selection procedure consists of a test with questions about logic and technology, a kind of intelligence test. Then I had the opportunity in a one-on-one conversation to tell why I needed support, what I was planning to do, why I was not able do it any other way, and that I was very interested in trades and technology. I think that I am quite talented when it comes to hands-on work. I spin wool myself, carve, and make paper. I have also busied myself with programming for a while. I said that I could imagine myself doing that sort of thing, or if there was an opportunity I would also like to study at the university again. I do happen to be 31 and cannot just offhand say that I will do another apprenticeship now. Somehow I have to pay for my living costs as well. I was fortunate and was accepted into the program. I am very grateful for that.
>> What is the sequence of the FIT program?
At first, there is a preparatory course that takes place for several weeks. I got to know other women there, in a wide variety of situations, who were no longer able to work at their job. Then I found out that I could study at FH Kufstein Tirol or MCI. The application deadlines were past at MCI, but Web Business & Technology in Kufstein was still accepting applications. Then everything went very quickly. I wrote an email right away, and after one week I went to Kufstein for the intelligence test. A half hour later I had an acceptance interview with the Director of Studies Prof. (FH) Computer Science Graduate Karsten Böhm. Within one week, I went from, “I see an opportunity,” to “I am enrolled.”
>> Do you also receive support from the FH or from your degree program?
Exactly the same as my fellow students. In our introductory conversation, we talked about the fact that I was coming via the FiT program. Prof. (FH) Böhm was absolutely enthused that now the first woman would be studying at the FH in Kufstein via the program. That made me very glad. The Degree Program Assistant Michaela Lintner takes very good care of all of us, and there is no discrimination. I do not have the feeling that I am somehow preferred or disadvantaged.
>> Do you already have plans for the future?
I am currently in my first semester and would like to finish my degree program here first. If I get involved with something again for three years, then it should also help me along. I hope that I can get a good job and that I maybe can specialize a little bit. Maybe there will be opportunities to combine it with sign language. There will be some sort of niche for me to fit into. I won’t wait for Google to call me. I’m not doing this to be rich but just to be able to have work down the road that is fun for me, where I feel good, and where I can also contribute my own ideas.
Thank you very much for the conversation, and I wish you much continued success!