Following our last blog post on the ECVET Expert virtual national stakeholder events, we continue to explore how UK VET mobility stakeholders are feeling about the future.
In the previous blog, the ECVET Experts reported that VET mobility stakeholders were keen to increase their internationalisation, extend existing partnerships and further engage employers in the mobility process. This time, they turn their attention to the place of virtual mobility, the value of people skills and the importance of learning outcomes.
During the November stakeholder events, a discussion was had on the impact of Covid-19 on the delivery of physical learner mobility programmes and on whether there was a place for virtual, blended or hybrid mobility programmes, with an overall lack of appetite among VET providers (and VET learners, reportedly) for delivery of even a partial virtual mobility experience.
Whilst some virtual transnational collaboration was evident, for example video-based skills demonstrations, most felt these to be additional or complementary actions rather than any effort to replace physical mobility. Indeed, most participants were keen to underline the importance of physical mobility in delivering the personal and intercultural skills that form an essential part of the international mobility experience.
People and performance
Focusing predominantly on short-duration mobility, important feedback was given on the role of international mobility in developing people skills. Participants acknowledged the value of transversal skills - in addition to those of a technical or vocational nature - and recognised the worth that employers gave to these skills during recruitment.
On whether or not it was sufficient to target the delivery of purely transversal skills as part of short-duration mobility, many participants supported this with only one respondent suggesting that it was important to consider their importance in line with the starting point of the individual learner.
Participants were also keen to report on their ability to align mobility experiences with technical or vocational learning goals irrespective of the nature of the training programme. In one example, trainee cabin crew were able to obtain relevant front-facing customer experience through international work placements in a hotel reception. In another example, at least one technical learning outcome was always included in even the shortest two-week international work placements.
In terms of the cross-referencing of qualifications to identify common learning outcomes, whilst there was at least one case where this had been successfully achieved, it was confirmed as being particularly time consuming and difficult to envisage as a common practice. Reference was also made to the value of the European Qualifications Framework in being able to facilitate the cross-referencing of qualifications and their levels from different European countries and to the importance of ensuring the future comparability of UK qualifications beyond the UK transition period.
International experience vs domestic experience
When considering what international mobility delivers over and above that provided by a domestic work placement, many spoke of the value of having learners removed from their comfort zone. Others reported on the value of the wider cultural appreciation, confirming this as something that a domestic experience would not be able to match. Participants also highlighted the importance of the intercultural experience for learners, with many referencing significant change in learner behaviour among those having returned from an international mobility experience.
Participants were asked to consider to what extent people skills that had been acquired during international mobility were able to be communicated to future employers. Whilst there were some examples of existing practices for recording and reporting on learning achievement, most participants agreed that more could be done to enable people skills, in particular, to be more fully communicated to employers and it was hoped that the new Europass portal would facilitate this process further.
There were no significant challenges or barriers identified on recognising learning acquired and achieved through an international mobility experience. In fact, there was little that could be seen as a barrier to recognition with many opting to deliver international mobility as all or part of a course-related work experience requirement. There was also a tendency for UK institutions to use their own staff - rather than the staff in the hosting organisation - to undertake mobility-based assessments.
Overall, the picture was fairly positive in relation to current recognition practice, although it was acknowledged that additional challenges might emerge when moving beyond short-duration mobility or where efforts were made to adapt longer-duration mobility for core and current learner audiences.
Missed part one of the blog series? Catch up on the first part now!