The ECVET experts held a series of virtual national stakeholder events in November 2020, bringing together 25 different stakeholder organisations to discuss the shape and direction of future international mobility.
As it is the final year of the current Erasmus+ programme, the ECVET team chose to focus event discussions on how to build upon and take forward the core principles and components of ECVET (i.e. learning outcomes, validation and recognition), ensuring that future mobility programmes have sufficient internationalisation ambitions and are suitably responsive to wider European and international priorities for digital and climate transition.
Specifically, the experts introduced the concept of SMaRT Mobility as a means of delivering learning through international mobility that is strategic, meaningful, recognisable and transferable. Event participants shared their own experiences and perspectives on VET mobility and their hopes for the future in this sector.
Reflecting on whether existing internationalisation strategies appropriately met the needs and aims of learner and staff mobility, it was positive to hear that bottom-up promotion and inter-departmental cooperation had served to dramatically improve institutional awareness of the value and importance of learner mobility. It was accepted, however, that more could be done to ensure the delivery of a single institutional vision for internationalisation in which learner mobility plays a prominent part.
Anecdotal evidence on the perceived value and impact of learner mobility was highlighted as an aspect that would benefit from increased attention. Partnership working at local, regional, national or international levels was confirmed as crucial for the successful delivery of international mobility programmes.
Meaningful mobility is achieved by delivering mobility which has a clear value and purpose for all actors.
Peer networking continues to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practice and helps to deliver a collective voice among those active in the field of international mobility. Having developed and nurtured their European networks and partnerships over a number of years, participants showed little interest in changing or disrupting this. There was, however, no shortage of interest in extending existing partnerships, with a number of institutions already active in securing partners with a wider international footprint.
Having agreed that meaningful mobility is achieved by delivering mobility which has a clear value and purpose for all actors, discussion centred on three important areas.
In the first instance, participants reflected on the value of mobility for VET institutions, considering whether it was seen as a positive addition or a disruptor among those developing and delivering VET programmes. With most participants delivering either short-duration mobility (lasting just a few weeks) or longer-duration mobility for recent VET graduates, there were few instances where mobility was seen as a major disruptor to course or programme delivery. In one case, the complexity of not having all learners absent at the same time was referenced but this was not seen as something insurmountable.
More generally, irrespective of duration, mobility was recognised as being wholly complementary to the course programme or curricula being targeted for delivery. In fact, many participants talked of the ease of identifying learning outcomes that could be delivered as a part of the mobility experience. Whilst long-duration mobility was a relatively new phenomenon, levels of interest were surprisingly high.
The second point of discussion focused on employers and their perceptions on the value and importance of mobility. There were some interesting points expressed by those facilitating employer participation, such as how employer perspectives on the benefits of mobility often changed for the better as a consequence of their direct involvement as a work placement host.
Another point related to the perception that employers felt there to be higher value in longer-duration mobility, providing greater return on their initial (induction and training) investment. Positive examples were given of employers being directly involved in negotiations on the type and nature of learning being delivered and of the value placed by some employers on learning acquired during an international mobility.
Finally, the focus turned to learners and to whether the existence of international mobility opportunities influenced their choice of VET programme or institution. There were two schools of thought on this: some participants were unaware of how this might have impacted on programme or provider choice by their learners; other participants provided examples of where this had clearly been seen as an influencing factor in the final choice of programme and/or course provider.
Part two of this blog series will continue to explore the views of UK VET mobility stakeholders, specifically looking at virtual mobility, people skills and learning outcomes, among other topics important to the future of VET mobility.
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