Erasmus+ currently organises mobility and cooperation activities across a range of sectors, including schools, youth groups, universities, colleges and vocational training, and adult education. A major focus of the event was to bring together organisations from different sectors, and to discuss the challenges and opportunities of cross-sector working.
As part of this, delegates from across Europe showcased their cross-sector projects at an open ‘projects market’. We were very pleased to present the Understanding My Journey project which REY Europe is currently working on with our European partners. This is a project which brings together organisations working within the youth and vocational education fields, and we were able to demonstrate in practice how cross-sector working can enrich projects, bringing together experts and organisations with different ideas, experience and knowledge.
A second theme of the conference was how to widen access to Erasmus+, and how cross-sector initiatives can reach new participants, especially those which are currently under-represented in the programme. Several smaller workshops considered how Erasmus+ participants can become more integrated within the communities which host them, instead of staying within an Erasmus+ ‘bubble’. For example, projects were highlighted from Germany, Belgium and Finland where university participants from across Europe volunteer in local schools. There was discussion on how this model could be expanded to forge links across different sectors, far beyond schools and universities.
As an organisation which supports younger vocational learners to undertake European work placements with employers, we pointed out that this could be very challenging to implement with our participants, but with the appropriate levels of support, it could be a significant addition to any future Erasmus+ programme. The proposal is currently under consideration within the European Commission, and it was great to be given the opportunity to help shape this.
Throughout the event, it was emphasised that every Erasmus+ participant should become an active ambassador for the programme once they return from their period abroad. It is no exaggeration to say that Erasmus+ changes lives and opens doors. Nothing helps young people overcome their nervousness about going on mobility than by meeting and talking to other young people, just like them, who’ve gone and done it.
It was continually emphasised that, whatever the future holds for Europe, we all benefit from being more connected, and that today’s young people will be the people who shape the Europe of tomorrow. As a result, European mobility opportunities will be significantly expanded over the next decade. As our German hosts continually pointed out, “Wer sich bewegt, bewegt Europa!” – in English, “Those who are mobile, move Europe!”