8 June 2017

Young people have spoken of their “life-changing” experiences of training and working abroad, thanks to a European study and cultural exchange programme.

Almost 70 students from West Nottinghamshire College visited partner institutions in countries including Denmark, France and Germany earlier this year as part of the European social-mobility programme for education, training, youth and sport, Erasmus+.

They came together at the college’s university centre earlier this week (Monday 5 June) for a celebration of their achievements, which saw them give presentations about their visits while describing their experiences and the skills gained, to an audience of fellow students, parents, tutors and Mansfield mayor Kate Allsop, who is the college’s vice-chair of governors.

Each trip ran for a fortnight, with the 68 students accompanied by tutors and learner coaches during their stay.

In March, 18 public services learners completed security training placements at Zealand Business College in Roskilde, Denmark, while five health and social care and five engineering students took part in vocational skills training at the lycée Joseph Vogt institution in Masevaux, France.

The following month, 11 construction students and three catering learners did work placements at Tartu Kutsehariduskeskus; a vocational college in Tartu, Estonia.

Between April and May, a group of ten students on business studies and motor-vehicle courses trained at the lycée Emile Mathis institution in Strasbourg, France, while six learners on catering, hospitality, and hair and beauty programmes completed work placements at Jyvaskylan Ammattiopisto vocational college in Jyvaskyla, Finland.

A visit by ten computer science and media students to BBS Brinkstrasse – a technical college in Osnabruck, Germany – in May, combined with work experience with employers, completed this year’s programme. Learners spent the majority of their visit working at firms including DEK Telecom, TSO Data Frau Pham, Die Etagen, ISCOPE, Meta-Objects NET IT Solutions GmbH, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, and Koch International.

Outside of work and study, the youngsters enjoyed a range of recreational and cultural activities including visiting restaurants and tourist attractions in different towns and cities.

Guests at the celebration event heard how participants had gained new vocational skills and improved their understanding of different cultures and work environments, with students’ heartfelt testimonies ranging from “one of the best things I’ve experienced in my entire lifetime” to “I made new friends and strengthened bonds with the ones I already had.”

Following the visits, students gained Europass Mobility certificates, which demonstrates knowledge and skills acquired in another European country, together with college certificates of achievement.

The visit to Osnabruck was 16-year-old Jake Moore’s first-ever trip overseas; bringing with it his first experience of travelling on an aeroplane.

After spending the first day at BBS Brinkstrasse, the Level 3 Extended Diploma in IT (Software Development) student from Mansfield embarked on a placement at Meta-Objects NET IT Solutions GmbH, helping develop an employee database and applications.

He said:

“I was a bit nervous about going abroad at first, especially being on a plane, but it was a great experience. The opportunity to work for a big, foreign company was really good. There was a lot more freedom than I expected; you could work at your own pace and enjoy what you were doing.

“Knowing how the IT industry works in Germany and learning about other cultures means I’ll have the experience to succeed when I graduate from college and then university. When future employers look at my CV, they will see I can work abroad and be a key asset to their company.

“It’s been life-changing; everything I wanted it to be, and more.”

Yasmin Brocklehurst, who is nearing the end of her Level 3 Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care studies, described the visit to Masevaux as a “fantastic cultural experience.”

The 19-year-old and fellow students took part in lessons with their French counterparts and visited settings such as a crèche, care home and rehabilitation centre.

Yasmin said:

“Not all teachers spoke English so we used Google Translate where we could and persevered!

“But that was good because, in the care sector, you may go and work in a different country or come across people in the UK who can’t speak English, so you have to deal with that.”

The teenager added:

“It was really interesting learning how health and social care is taught in France and how it is delivered compared to back home, where there’s a much greater focus on legislation and the legal aspects.

“Overall, it was a fantastic cultural experience which enlightened me on what it’s like to study and work in a foreign country. It’s good to get another perspective of the sector that you plan to work in.”

Andrew King, director of strategy and innovation, said:

“Giving students the opportunity to develop new skills and competencies while experiencing different cultures is a vitally-important part of our enrichment activities. It makes them more employable in today’s competitive labour market and opens their eyes to different career routes, as well as opportunities to work overseas.

“The students were amazing ambassadors for the college and the local community.”

Mayor Kate Allsop said:

“It was wonderful hearing about the different experiences the students had. Listening to how they adjusted to their new environments, enjoyed meeting new people and exchanging ideas was inspiring.

“Watching their faces as they told their stories, I could see that the impact is going to stay with them for the rest of their lives. I am so proud of Mansfield’s students; they are superb.”

This was the second successive year the college had taken part in the Erasmus+ scheme, after more than 50 students enjoyed overseas placements during the initial programme in 2016. It was followed by an exchange visit by students from Finland and Germany later that year, which involved work experience at the college and with local employers.

West Nottinghamshire College provides education and training to some 30,000 full- and part-time students across all major industry sectors and at pre-GCSE to university level.

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