While the UK’s decision to leave the European Union continues to dominate media headlines, it’s been an eventful few months for West Nottinghamshire College students, who have been experiencing vocational training, work placements and different cultures across Europe.
More than 50 students and staff discovered what life is like at five European partner institutions where they learnt from their counterparts’ educational and industry expertise courtesy of a series of visits in Denmark, Estonia, Alsace, Strasbourg and Finland.
The international visits, funded by the Erasmus+ project, gave students the chance to gain new skills in an overseas work environment, all aimed at preparing them to become global citizens.
Catering students experienced life at the Danish Meat Trade College in Roskilde, near Copenhagen in Denmark. Level one to three culinary skills students enjoyed two weeks of training placement in retail butchery.
Learning about pork butchery skills including how to prepare mid-section and legs of pork and setting out a traditional butcher’s shop, they discovered the process of getting meat from slaughter to sale in a butcher’s shop, seeing their own products sold in the college’s shop.
Eighteen-year-old Alex Belcher from the Level 2 course said: “I found it such a refreshing place to study and an amazing organisation to learn new skills and I enjoyed making friends with Danish students.”
Learners engaged in practical activities that would not have been possible in the UK and received certificates which will help improve their job prospects. They also visited the Viking museum at Roskilde Fjord and spent a day touring the sights of Copenhagen.
Engineering students enjoyed two visits to France to learn more about the sector. During the first two-week visit students saw the qualifications and skills delivered by Le Lycée Professionel Vogt Masevaux in Alsace. Learners were able to experience real-life tasks in engineering workshop settings.
The second visit saw students learning about a range of engineering techniques at Le Lycée des Metiers Emilie Mathis in Strasbourg. They experienced a hands-on workshop environment with a vast range of vehicles and tools and got to work on light vehicles and medium and heavy goods vehicles in the form of
vans and trucks.
These sessions also gave them the chance to see how the courses that they are studying in England were mirrored in France. Other additional workshop sessions included working within the body and paint department for a day, repairing, preparing and painting car body parts.
The journey to Strasbourg was something of an adventure as it included using a car, a bus, a plane, a train and a tram while traveling through Switzerland! Speaking French for the first time was something of an adventure for many on both of the visits, while helping the French students improve their English.
Sampling new foods was something of an eye opener and everyone made new friends while living in and exploring a new city.
Keegan Howson is studying the Level 2 Diploma in Light Vehicle Maintenance Principles at West Notts.
He gained a real-life insight into working abroad.
He said: “I was able to work with the French students on cars and trucks and we showed them how to do certain tasks which were new to them. I learnt new things such as how tools and other machinery operate in France and also some new language skills.
“I really liked our time outside of the classroom and workshops and enjoyed the culture too.”
Rovaniemi in Lapland, Finland was the wintery scene for travel and tourism, spa and front of house students.
Their two-week stay saw students on work placement at Santa’s Village, in tourist information centres, salons and restaurants working with staff and their clients.
The visit not only built up their confidence and employability in their chosen careers, but increased their cultural awareness and independence.
Travel and tourism diploma student Alexandra Sophie Chantry, 19, said: “My work placement in the Rovaniemi Tourist Centre was a beautiful place to work. The people I worked with were lovely and I had a great working relationship with them.
“It was a character-building experience and made me see how I’d cope away
from family and it was important to show me if I’m compatible to work within the industry.”
Kadri Saat, international co-ordinator at West Nottinghamshire College said: “It’s been an amazing experience for students and enabled them to see a whole new side to the subjects they’re studying.
Some have never travelled abroad before.
“Feedback from tutors and their students is very positive and everyone feels they’ve benefitted professionally and personally.
“Not only could we fund students’ travel, accommodation and food through the project, but we provided them with some really good preparation before their visits.
“A short language course gave them the basics and they learnt more about the country they visited in terms of cultural differences and traditions.
“We hope to run more visits like this as we’ve just discovered we’ve been successful in securing a further £200,000 funding from Erasmus+ for the next project, which will run from 2016-18, so we can offer more opportunities for students to visit partner institutions in Germany, Spain and Finland.
“We’re also looking forward to hosting students and tutors from abroad to give them industry experience and the chance to learn from our education system.”