New frontiers - but no barriers
Many ways for adult and further education bodies to participate, says Charis Hughes
Adult education and vocational education and training (VET) organisations in Ireland can take part in Erasmus+ in several ways. They can send their staff for training or job shadowing in another country, where they can gain first-hand knowledge of other European education systems, experience how these systems meet shared professional challenges, and hone their own competences as educators.
Apprentices and vocational trainees in VET organisations can also do work placements in other countries. These placements give the trainees direct experience of the workplace and help relate it to their studies. Time spent in placements helps to increase the trainees' self-confidence, intercultural skills and employability prospects.
These projects are called 'Key Action 1' or 'Mobility' projects, because the participants literally move to another institution outside their own country. Some VET organisations have built trainee work placements so comprehensively into the daily life of their organisation that they hold a 'Mobility Charter'. The Charter allows them to strategically plan their placements over a number of years, and use more streamlined application and reporting forms. Galway Technical Institute, profiled in this supplement, is a Charter holder and sends dozens of trainees on placements each year.
A different way to get involved is through a 'Strategic Partnership' with other relevant organisations. To take part, the VET or adult education organisation identifies a key area they want to address with European partners, such as developing a joint education course or a new technology. These projects can be small or large scale, and involve organisations from the same or different sectors. For example, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland worked with a training organisation in Norway and a nursing school in Belgium to develop an online training course for family carers of loved ones with dementia. The result, 'Home Based Care - Home Based Education' has been shortlisted in the Learning Technologies Awards 2017.
Another option is to become a partner in a project led by an organisation in another country. This can be a good first step for organisations nervous about taking on the administration of an entire project!
Adult education professionals can also get actively involved with their colleagues in Europe through EPALE, an online platform that hosts blogs, resources and discussion groups about Adult Learning in Europe. EPALE is also a great place to find partner organisations to work with on common issues, or explore developing an Erasmus+ project.