A useful online meeting

In an online meeting on February 1st I explained to five representatives of five different teams how we are building the training From a Rookie to an Expert for VET staff, a training to improve international skills. These five colleagues are already enthusiastic about internationalisation. They e.g. help me recruiting students of their educations to go abroad or organize international study-trips with their team.
I told about this Erasmus funded project and explained how we first started to research whether staff members of the schools participating in the project would be interested to learn more about internationalisation.
I showed them the outcomes in the infographic below. These outcomes have confirmed the possible interest in a training module.

Then I explained how we constructed the different parts in the training using the picture of the career model.

Subsequently the colleagues could browse through the training on the website. Although this website is still under construction, it gave a good impression of the content of the training. Comments were made as that it was interesting and informative, nice to go snooping around but also that it was a lot of text, not direct clear where to find which knowledge you were missing and could develop. Some kind of direction indication was missing.

Afterwards we had a discussion about which personal preferences we had in developing skills in internationalisation. It was nice to talk about that although most of my colleagues were not keen on knowing all the documentation that is coming along with Erasmus funded projects. Maybe I ever can tempt them to join in and they can experience how inspiring it can be despite the administration.
I expect the training From a Rookie to an Expert can be a helpful instrument in this.

Participants in this meeting:
Tim de Haan, teacher
Maria Kiekebos-Wiekamp, teacher and team leader
Jozé Kienstra, manager
Hennie Duijndam, teacher
Kate Wintle, teacher

Mieke Muilwijk, teacher and coordinator internationalisation, Alfa-College – The Netherlands

My participation in Rexvet- project transnational meeting in Helsinki

I have worked for quite a long time in Vocational College Live as an English language and Swedish language teacher, both in vocational qualifications and in pre-vocational training. In addition to this, I have also been involved with our college´s international activities, such as organizing, planning and hosting visits from our international partners, both staff and students. However, the most prominent part of this international activity has been my participation in the application, planning and implementation of our student and staff mobilities abroad within the Erasmus+ -framework.

I suppose that is the reason why our project manager Pia Törnwall kindly asked me If could participate in the transnational meeting of Rexvet-project that would be held in 2021 October in Helsinki. I gladly accepted the invitation. In the following paragraph I describe briefly my own participation and the things I was hopefully able to contribute

One of the main goals was to define and map key skills, main areas of expertise and procedures that are necessary in VET international activities. To do this, the participants were divided into discussion workshops where these issues and topic were discussed in a very lively manner. The gathered information was then efficiently documented by the facilitator of each workshop. In these workshops we were asked to discuss our own experiences, opinions and possible avenues of development regarding the international activity both within our own institutions and on national and international level. All the participants were very active, and the exchange of ideas, experiences and anecdotes was extremely rewarding and informative. The friendly and relaxed atmosphere and the excellent organization and implementation of the meeting facilities greatly enhanced the effectiveness  of this endeavour.

The second main goal, that I participated in, was the discussion and piloting of the skills badge system based on the aforementioned VET international activity skills. The purpose was to try out different methods of documenting one´s own skills and merits that would help a person apply and acquire a skills badge. Once again, the discussions on this theme were well-informed and active and helped to bring focus to the  definition and implementation of the system. We were asked to make an application for a skills badge and to self-reflect and relate our process in this. These applications were discussed both individually and collectively and many interesting views were also expressed about the validity and veracity of these applications.

All in all, those October days that I had the privilege to spend with the fine and friendly people of Rexvet were pleasant, informative and very rewarding; I was able to gather numerous valuable ideas, procedures and grass-roots tools for future international activities. Thank you!

Pekka Pakkala, English Language and Swedish Language Teacher, Student Mobility Preparation and Training Finland

Interesting chance to join project meeting in Helsinki

In the week of 25th of October I was very happy to join the project meeting of REXVET. The first live event abroad in 1,5 year. As a coördinator for Internationalisation for MBO Amersfoort and member of our internal academy the subject was very interesting for me, modules developed to help colleagues professionalize on internationalisation. Also the use of (edu)badges was new for me and an interesting topic.

In the Netherlands we have a network group, Catch, in which Alfa college (participant in REXVET-project) and MBO Amersfoort (my organisation) cooperate. The invitation from Alfa college to join this project meeting was warmly accepted.

The meeting was very well organised and interesting. We started off on Tuesday with some nice energizers and activities to get to know eachother a little bit. After that we had interesting presentations on internationalisation, HR and internationalisation, trends and more. We discussed in groups about different themes and exchanged best practices.  In the evening we wandered around in Helsinki city and had a lovely diner at the harbour site.

On Wednesday we dived in to the modules that were developed. We tried out the different modules and gave feedback. There were different topics and it was interesting to learn about the content and the way they were presented to the learners.

On Thursday we visited Luovi college, in the city center of Helsinki, and learned about (edu)badges. An contemperary way to recognize (in)formal learning. The Finish colleagues were already quiet familiar with this concept, in the Dutch VET is not that common. I learned a  lot and take this back to my college to see how we can use this in the future in our professionalisation system.

The project meeting ended on Thursday but I took the opportunity to visit Live college in Espoo on Friday.

I came back with lots of new contacts, experiences and new energy. Thank you so much for this nice meeting.

Odyle de Roos, Coördinator Internationalisation MBO Amersfoort Netherlands

A great experience in Finland

It was a really nice opportunity to join in the REX VET project in Finland.

We didn´t know much about this project before going, so it was more interesting to be there.

All the days were full of activities and every minute was filled with useful information about the badges and how to get them. By the end we had a chance to apply for a badge ourselves.

It took a lot of time to remind commitments what were related with international cooperation but we succeeded to do it.

Also we are very thankful to our Finnish friends for their hospitality and kindness.  

Everything was organized just perfect!

We are happy of having the privilege that we  have had in that kind of international experience.

We hope very soon everybody can start to use this project´s outcome.

Tiia Jõgi (English teacher, Kuressaare Regional Training Centre) Estonia

Maila Juns-Veldre (head teacher for design, Kuressaare Regional Training Centre) Estonia

“Travelling is like dreaming”

Internationalisation has always been very important in my life and it had a big influence also in my work experiences so far. Since I started working for ENAC Emilia Romagna, my trips abroad had always been with my students, as accompanying person and tutor.

However, for the first time, this REX VET LTT workshop I attended in Helsinki gave me the opportunity to join a group of foreign colleagues and work with them on the same topics. Sharing information, ideas, experiences, suggestions was really important for my professional growth. I could learn a lot of things in these three days of work.  

I came back from Finland full of positive energy and inspiration, trying to transfer them to my daily work in my VET centre.

This experience was also very important for me because I had the chance to visit Helsinki where I had never been before. I really enjoyed the Finnish hospitality and it was really nice to meet new people from different countries. Travelling to a foreign country, meeting foreign people always makes me feel more and more open-minded.

There is a quote by Edgar Allan Poe which I really love and it says:

Travelling is like dreaming: the only difference is that not everyone, once awaken, can recall their dream. Whereas, everyone has a vivid memory of the trip from which he has returned.

Edgar Allan Poe

Let’s say that this working trip to Helsinki was like a dream for me. I have now come back to reality and to my students but I always keep thinking to everything I experienced there.

Emanuele Belloni, ENAC Emilia Romagna – Italy

REX VET welcomes Jaione

When I was informed that I would attend the next REXVET meeting in Estonia, I was extremely excited about joining this Project but I was worried due to my inexperience since I was only one week into my team. Thankfully, the REXVET team happens to be composed by extraordinary individuals. Not only was I made comfortable every minute of the experience but my suggestions and ideas were taken into consideration, and any doubt I had was explained to me on a kindly manner by my team members.

With the focus on preparing the LTT meeting in Finland we all shared our thoughts and hopes, and I was even appointed to collaborate on it by preparing a workshop on social media. I felt respected and welcomed by my team mates and that made the experience overall magnificent.

Not only were Taavi and Aave amazing hosts, but we also had the opportunity to explore and learn about the culture, history and cuisine of Kuressaaare and Saarema regions. I was especially overjoyed when we had the chance of hiking around the region; hearing about the history of the country and the anecdotes that we were offered was indeed interesting and insightful.

I shouldn’t lie. Participating in one of these meetings, and managing and organizing Erasmus plus projects are not easy tasks. They require effort, sacrifice, and many extra hours that are, more often than not, not rewarded.

But the opportunity to participate in such a significant project, surrounded by such wonderful individuals and with such enthusiasm for creating social change, makes it all worthwhile.

I am aware of the privilege that I have had that my first international experience with Erasmus plus projects has been with the REXVET team; I would therefore recommend that everyone give this type of project a chance, since it is a sacrificial job, but really addictive, giving you the opportunity to meet and learn from individuals with great international experience and great skills.

Jaione, Centro San Viator – Basque Country

How to gain competences in internationalisation?

We have a very ambitious aim to build a path for VET staff to upskill international competence. From a rookie to an expert, REX VET partners share the common vision of a more systematic approach to international skills and competences both on the individual and the organisation level.

All REX VET partners have a long experience in internationalisation of VET. International coordinators in Europe are used to work in networks and promote internationalisation but they cannot do it alone. To support the VET learners in internationalisation also the VET teachers and other staff need to have international competences.

We started the work from mapping the existing international skills in the partner organisations. Based on the results and the focus group interviews we drafted the model of development path in internationalisation. We will work closely with human resources staff to link the internationalisation path to the staff development procedures.

After the first draft of the model, we realised that it was quite heavy and detailed, and we ended up to a more user-friendly model. The next step is to build the training to support the staff in the professional development from a rookie to an expert. Besides, we will develop open learning badges to recognize and validate the international skills and competences. So, stay tuned for the next steps.

My first year at my first Erasmus Plus Project

For several years I was already coordinating international activities at my VET school, a department of Alfa-college, in Groningen, The Netherlands. For students and staff I organize work placements and mobilities abroad.
I was aware of the possibility to join a project but I was hesitating to get involved because of the extra amount of work I expected it to be. The bigger part of my job is to teach Theatre to students of social care. A lovely job, but also taking a lot of energy.
But every now and then our international manager Hanneke Smid has the habit to announce an Erasmus Plus project and offering it to all the colleagues internationalisation of Alfa-college.
And one day, a bit more than one year ago, she presented a project which draw my attention: developing a training package in internationalisation for VET staff. A subject I could see to become very specific and useful to the staff of my school. She offered to join also, for the start, so I could profit of her experience in participating international projects. Also other colleagues would be asked to join the project in the different stages of its development. So was the plan and it seemed doable to schedule it in between all my activities.
The project plan, timetable etc. were indeed clear. Alfa-college was responsible of the first intellectual output. It took some time to internalize this term, most of the times even shortened to just two characters: IO. I had to get used to new words and their meaning. I translated it in my own words in my head to: ‘the product of a task to be done’.
Alfa-college designed the survey every partner afterwards used to research the need for developing internationalisation skills of their VET staff. Alfa-college made an inventory of the results.
These were presented on our first meeting on location of one of the partners. And that was really contributing to the charm of this project.

We met in a beautiful town, Bilbao, Spain, in a building of our partner in the old city. I had a slight worry about my language skills before this meeting, but was delighted I could really speak and do my presentation, could join the discussions and the dinner talk. Two and a half days with 5 partners, a very good start, not to say a kick start, to get to know the people joining this project.

The receiving partner delivered an acquaintance with the local cuisine, moreover with the cultural importance of sharing good food with each other. Although the local cuisine, as in many countries, focused on dishes with meat, there were indeed alternatives for me as a vegetarian. My vegetarian request made an appeal to some of de members to widen their broad-mindedness and gave an opportunity in exchanging view of life.

In some spare time I even got the chance to see the world famous Guggenheim Museum, an example how Bilbao succeeded to renew their inner city after closing down the heavy industry in the town.

We ended the meeting in Bilbao in a good mood. The project framing and planning was agreed, the first discussions about the contents were lively and promising. I was excited and looking forward to do the work with these partners the coming 2 years.
This was November 2019…
We should meet again in May in Verona, Italy…
In the meantime I got acquainted with TEAMS meetings. Not yet knowing how useful the knowledge of this internet program would be in the very near future…
From March 16 Alfa-college started their online lessons by TEAMS, due to a lockdown to beat the Covid19 virus. Europe was suddenly closing down, the internet and especially TEAMS was our only means to proceed the project.

We could rely on the good founding of our partnership during our days in Bilbao. But relying on only online meetings, the development of the content of the project slowed down. I found it difficult to switch to the English language every online meeting in between my, (most online) Dutch Theatre classes. But we managed to make progress and it was nice to see everyone on screen. To hear the stories how every country was handling the pandemic. We altogether dealt with the disappointment of not meeting in real live in our countries, but shared grief is lighter grief. Most important was to see everyone in good health.
Hanneke and I stayed together on the job; in this online working method it was not obvious to alternate with my other colleagues on internationalization joining the project as we planned before. But we could ask their feedback on occasions.

In the meantime I got acquainted with the administration; filling in questionnaires, time sheet templates and dissemination reports. That turned out better than I expected. There is logic behind these actions and it is obvious you have to report on how you use public Erasmus money.
And the extra work you have to fulfill for an Erasmus Plus project? Yes there is, especially in combination with my teacher job and other tasks. But it is also very special to work together with people in the same field in other countries. And what’s more I can rely on my manager Hanneke Smid, an old hand in working in Erasmus projects. I recommend every starter to share the job with an experienced person and just enjoy!

It is very special to work together with people in the same field in other countries.

Mieke, Alfa-College – The Netherlands

An unexpected, but positive year

When the project was approved in 2019 we had lot of expectations, that were supported by a very enthusiastic start in Bilbao at the kick off meeting. The partnership started working very well, with a very good plan and lots of activities but then the COVID broke in in our daily life and we re-arranged our plans. This is how the first year of the project went by: no one of us could have never imagined that it would be like the one we experienced.

If we summarize the year, we would say that is was making changes, everything happened online. We worked on the model for internationalisation and it was not that easy to do it virtually. Online meetings are fine for the administration tasks and monitoring but when you want to develop something new, you certainly miss the dialogue and the inspiration you get from the others. We created and re-created the outline of the career model for VET staff member. The process is not easy. We gathered different inputs, conducted focus group interviews and consulted human resources people. We worked a lot with our detailed documents that should be the basis for the future training packages for rookies and experts alike. Because of the virus we are running a bit behind schedule but it also gives us more time to go deeper and achieve better results.

In this year we have also learnt an important thing we don’t have to forget: internationalisation begins at home, at the office and it doesn’t have to be always linked with travels.

Anyway, starting the project face to face gave us the possibility to become familiar with each other and to have online project meetings in an easy way: the development work is done together, the atmosphere is respectful, everybody is listening to others’ opinion and what they have to say.

Another important aspect highlighted by this first year of the project is the importance of the internationalization for VET improvement. It has also clarified that we do a lot of internationalization that we don’t label as such.

The aim of the project is to develop an easily achievable method for increasing the internationalisation skills of teaching and management staff. The development of international competences takes place through the Open Badge system, which is a completely new thing for some of the partners and a little familiar to a few of them. So we worked with open Badge definitions and planned coaching material for each badge. We divided project members into smaller groups to work effectively. Work proceeded well even if we couldn’t arrange nothing but online meetings during this year. Working via Teams has been well organized, we shared documents and conversations, and of course arranged many online meetings there.

We have big hopes in the results of the project. Some of us have made staff training a priority for the upcoming years and hopefully we have many teachers and other staff members climbing up the ladder from a rookie to an expert.

As a coordinator I am proud of our team. We are six partners, all are experienced in internationalisation and ready to work for our common aims. Hopefully, we are able to meet in person in 2021!

Mari, Project leader

REX VET welcomes Begoña

One year after the kick-off of the project, the partnership welcomes Begoña in the team. Here her words:

First of all I would like to introduce myself, my name is Begoña, I was born in Bilbao, north of Spain. I have a bachelor’s degree in Law and a master degree in International Business. Internationalization has always been linked to my life, I studied in an international school and when I was 15 I decided to study one year abroad.

Back in the present, I started working in Centro San Viator in September 2020, without any experience in this field, learning day by day about it. Once of the first projects I learned about was REX VET. This project is really helpful. In my opinion internationalisation is not really that known at the moment, there are still many VET centres that don’t have internationalisation programmes or have small departments and they need qualified workers, which makes this project necessary.

For me this project it’s a double project, I am learning about internationalisation and at the same time I’m working for helping people in the future in the same place as I am now. The structure is really well done and it will have really good results once finished, at the moment they are already good. I enjoy working on this project, the team is a really good one, with a lot of knowledge, team spirit and a huge desire for work.

We keep going through it, working for good results and I keep learning about internationalisation.

For me this project it’s a double project, I am learning about internationalisation and at the same time I’m working for helping people in the future in the same place as I am now

Begoña, Centro San Viator – Basque Country