At the European Parliament in Brussels last week, Wales had the key task of considering, with other nations, how to open up opportunities for more vocational learners and apprentices to undertake periods of work or study abroad.
I had been invited to represent Wales at a workshop with other European nations in large part because one of my key responsibilities at CollegesWales (UK) International is to lead consortium applications for European funding on behalf of the further education (FE) colleges in Wales.
The workshop, sponsored by Ernest Maragall MEP and chaired by Eckert Detlef, Director of EU 2020, went under the catchy title of ‘Fostering youth mobility in vocational education and training (VET) – a regional perspective’.
Wales – the country. And not winning the rugby.
I did point out that whilst CollegesWales was happy to report on its ‘regional’ approach to mobility in VET, Wales was actually a country! This raised a smile from colleagues who were representing the Basque Country and Catalonia at the workshop. Unfortunately, it also raised a friendly jibe from the French delegate about our national rugby team’s performance in the Rugby World Cup!
C’est la vie!
Wales winning opportunities for vocational learners
My initial task at the event in Brussels was to present our achievements to date in opening up the world of work across Europe to our vocational learners and apprentices, and enriching the teaching and learning experiences of learners and staff.
Since 2011, we have succeeded in attracting over 700,000 EURO to the FE sector in Wales through our joined up approach to consortium applications.
The applications are made to Erasmus+, which offers opportunities for vocational learners and apprentices to undertake work placements or periods of training in a choice of 28 European countries. The duration of these funded opportunities can be between two weeks and 12 months, allowing participants to gain a unique experience abroad.
For some, this is a life-changing opportunity.
All the more reason, then, to try to make even more of such opportunities.
Key messages: open up more
Putting rugby and ‘Wales is a country’ to one side, the key messages from the workshop were the need to:
- involve more SMEs and apprentices in Erasmus+ projects, and
- develop more strategic regional partnerships across Europe in order to increase the number of vocational learners taking part in Erasmus+ work and training opportunities.
I am already planning CollegesWales’ 2016 consortium application for Erasmus+ and exploring how we can integrate more apprentices and SMEs into our project.
I am also in contact with colleagues who attended the workshop in Brussels from Baden-Wurttemburg, Catalonia, Wallonie-Bruxelles and The Basque Country, Spain, to develop stronger regional partnerships that will open up opportunities for more vocational learners to undertake periods of work or study throughout Europe.
Because it’s worth it!
Wales has already shown that it is set up to make the best of all opportunities in Europe for our learners. The task now is to make sure that we align our work with the key messages coming from and agreed by our European partners.
Apprentices, SMEs and strategic partnerships – yes indeed, we’re up to bringing them all on board. The learners who return from their European placements say it all. We know it’s worth it.