In 2016 @CRC_College and partner agencies from Italy, Finland and Czech Republic commenced a four-year, Erasmus+ financed project looking at the international challenges being faced in vocational education and training.

By working together, the partner agencies were looking to share ideas and strategies on how to solve common problems through the scrutiny of different cultural perspectives to streamline the approach to vocational education and training in Europe. In addition, the project aimed to tighten and strengthen international partnerships and collaborative approaches to modern day working-life through focusing on the use of digital skills in the delivery of learning in our schools and colleges and the development of clear processes for practical training and apprenticeships to ensure that all apprentices achieve their objectives and successfully move into meaningful paid employment.

In January 2019 the CRC blended mobility programme took place in England to provide the opportunity for the full project team to come together to participate in training events, workshops and learning activities with local employers, all of which were aimed to address the employment of SNE students in the digitalising society, the encounter between employers and students in digital environments and the use of digital tools in career guidance.

As the project progressed, the whole team travelled to each hosting partner school until blended mobility weeks had taken place in all schools, concluding with the project evaluation meeting in Cambridge, which was planned to take place in May 2020. Unfortunately, in a twist of fate that no-one saw coming, the world found itself in lockdown preventing the evaluation meeting from taking place. Not being one to be beaten, Director of Supported Learning, Jeremy Lloyd decided to put his digital skills to the test to host a Zoom meeting for the whole project team and on Monday 18th May 2020, 34 people from 6 educational establishments in 4 European countries came together to review the Next Steps project.

Through a process of audio discussion, the chat function, comments and live polls, the Next Steps teams evaluated their experience and learning with positivity and fond memories, with comments such as ‘we all have the same fears and wishes’, ‘I am no longer afraid of language differences’ and ‘if we all share acts of kindness, the world would be a much better place’ being shared among the team.

“This was an excellent moment for students and staff to reflect on the importance of the skills that they have been developing through the project and for everyone to come together in these extraordinary times. It was great to see that through collaboration and resilience some rather large hurdles are literally leaped over.” Jeremy Lloyd Director of Supported Learning, CRC.

The results of the on-line polls demonstrated the positive impact of this project, with 100% of learners agreeing that they definitely feel more confident about the career they would like pursue and 95% of learners agreeing that the new experience and meeting new people had been one of the greatest benefits of being involved in the Next Steps Project.

Tredu College lecturer, Sanna-Mari said, ‘It was really nice to see the staff and students on the video call. The students were braver than I thought. Some of our students couldn’t participate, but I was surprised how many stepped over their personal barriers to join us. It seems that we have managed to create the safe, confidential and open surroundings for them to grow their self-confidence during the workshops. There are plenty of reasons for us to be proud of the project!

When asked how they were feeling about the global pandemic and life in lockdown the group concurred that the world is a much smaller place than we realise and technology has been instrumental in allowing us to communicate during challenging times. This has meant that digital technology is more important than ever and that if our young people are to be successful we must all possess the skills needed to thrive in the digital world.

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