How the TecLab promotes young STEM talents

Teclab Mint Zoo Anlage Ret

Bats, solar systems, recyclable bridges or collaborative robots – the range of topics at the TecLab is broad. The aim behind the workshops and courses for pupils is to motivate future specialists for STEM professions. The TecLab reflects on experiences from the pilot phase.

There is already a shortage of skilled labour for sustainable development. The challenges will not diminish in the foreseeable future. TecLab works at the interface between schools, companies and potential apprentices, students or employees. in 2020, we launched the first STEM programmes in Burgdorf[1]-Support programmes for school classes. Playful approaches, exciting stories, social contexts and practical tasks provide a broad group of children and young people with access to STEM topics and professions. Since then, these courses, events and workshops lasting one to several days have been continuously piloted, evaluated and further developed based on the findings to date.

Technical professions remain under pressure

It is not only traditional STEM professions that are affected by the shortage of skilled labour. A large proportion of Swiss companies and organisations are facing increased demands on jobs and job profiles in the context of sustainable development. After the shortage of qualified specialists reached a peak in 2022 following the end of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Adecco Group Switzerland, in collaboration with the University of Zurich, once again published a record value for the “Swiss Skills Shortage Index” in November 2023[2]. In addition to healthcare professions, technical professions in particular are the most affected, including in the ICT and construction sectors.

The industry survey, for example, provides an indication of the reasons for this[3] conducted by Ecoplan AG on the occasion of the SwissEnergy for Buildings education campaign: for example, an above-average number of apprenticeship contracts in the building sector are cancelled, and a poor image of the professions also contributes to the difficulty in filling advertised positions. And last but not least: in connection with the high demand due to the energy transition, the need for these skilled workers has increased.

Another frequently cited factor is the strong underrepresentation of women in technical professions. The study “Women in business informatics and ICT professions”[4] by Isabelle Clerc and Simone Artho at Bern University of Applied Sciences in 2015 already provided an insight into some similar reasons, including the widespread notion of a poor work-life balance in STEM professions. However, a lack of female role models for junior staff was also mentioned. Although the promotion of women by schools, individual companies, professional associations and public institutions is no longer a rarity, the major differences in gender distribution are still visible at the junior level. In 2022, for example, 86% of students on Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes in the Department of Engineering and Information Technology at Bern University of Applied Sciences were men [5].

Diverse and didactic

How do we address these issues? The Department of Education and Culture of the Canton of Bern, together with various partner organisations, commissioned the Bern University of Applied Sciences to tackle the shortage of skilled workers and support schools and companies in communicating STEM topics and careers in an attractive and target group-oriented way.

Teclab Mint Prototyping Turbine

Image 1: Schoolgirls build a prototyping turbine

The TecLab is a broad-based project organisation. People from a wide range of backgrounds have worked and continue to work together to develop the strategic goals and direction of the activities. Consolidating these diverse influences and demands from educational and didactic specialists, STEM experts, as well as representatives from business and politics, was a key challenge during the pilot phase. However, it also enabled an open discussion of the central question: How do we organise the promotion of young talent as effectively as possible? The approach in the STEM support programmes was based in particular on clarifications with primary school teachers and employees of the Bern University of Teacher Education as well as on our own experiences in the pilot programmes.

The TecLab starts with workshops for school classes and leisure activities for children as young as kindergarten age in order to counteract any prejudices or inhibitions towards STEM professions that arise at an early age. These are a playful and informal way of engaging with technology and IT – the topic of orientation with sensors is introduced using the ultrasonic sense of bats, for example. All of the programmes for school classes focus on problem-solving skills and teamwork. Positive experiences and a sense of achievement in finding solutions should give all participants access to STEM and enable them to experience themselves as self-effective, not just those who have already come into contact with these topics in their family environment or who can imagine a STEM career thanks to good school grades in maths.

Close to everyday life and varied

Other key factors that emerged were age-appropriate language, varied daily routines and – probably most importantly – suitable teaching staff who could identify with the subject. Diverse role models in terms of age, gender and interests and the avoidance of corresponding stereotypes help the equally diverse pupils to establish references to their own abilities and preferences and to consider appropriate training and study programmes. In individual cases, the restriction to specific target groups proved useful, particularly in the promotion of girls. In surveys, for example, participants in programming workshops regularly cited the fact that the course was led by female computer science students as a major plus point.

Teclab Mint Schall

Image 2: Children experience the topic of sound

Experiments and exciting challenges in the context of sustainability inspire the entire spectrum of the STEM target group at TecLab, from kindergarten to secondary school. The experience of the pilot phase shows this: Even complex issues in the fields of automation or renewable energies offer starting points at various age levels and opportunities to practise the aforementioned problem-solving and teamwork skills. Some of these tasks and exhibits even proved to be suitable for adults. We now use them at team events for companies or to liven up workshops and further training courses.

Not all participants in TecLab programmes want or need to become STEM specialists. However, everyone is needed for sustainable development, from parents as carers for young people, to learners and students, to managers in companies and politics. The TecLab aims to support the creation of links between STEM topics and current social challenges. When the organisation is fully developed, all pupils in the Canton of Bern should be able to visit the TecLab at least once during their school years – in addition to the activities of schools, companies and families, we can thus make a contribution to combating the shortage of skilled workers.


[1] Mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology


[3] Ecoplan_Industry survey results (

[4] Address (

[5] Students | BFH

Closely linked to BFH

TecLab was founded as an initiative of the Bern University of Applied Sciences in collaboration with the Bern University of Applied Sciences, the Bern University of Teacher Education, the Canton of Bern’s Department of Education and Culture, the City of Burgdorf and the trade and industry associations Handels- und Industrieverein Kanton Bern and Berner KMU. The TecLab project team is currently made up of employees from the partner organisations. By working closely with project-internal and external partners, TecLab can develop needs-oriented offers and make the resulting network available in collaborations.

In 2020, the TecLab entered the pilot phase, in which offers were tested and evaluated in all areas. The first offers for school classes and companies have been available for regular bookings since then. During the TecLab project phase, the programmes take place at the Tiergarten site of Bern University of Applied Sciences in Burgdorf. As soon as the university moves to the Biel/Bienne campus as part of the concentration of locations, the building will be refurbished and remodelled in line with the TecLab offer concept.

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AUTHOR: Jana Schiendorfer

Jana Schiendorfer is project coordinator and Head of Communications at TecLab in Burgdorf. She has been developing the project for Bern University of Applied Sciences together with an interdisciplinary team since 2018. Further information about TecLab:

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