From a rookie to an expert – the first 8 months of the KA2 project

After the kick off meeting held in Bilbao in November and the realisation of the first Intellectual Output, the six partners continued their work on the international paths for VET staff.

Moving from the results of the questionnaire that involved 740 staff members from 5 European countries, the partners organised focus groups with teachers, and staff in general, to collect feedback on the second Intellectual Output, i.e. a personal development path model in international skills for VET staff.

Due to the Coronavirus emergency situation, there was not the possibility to organise lots of focus groups in person as originally foreseen, so the project managers reached several VET centres and staff members (directors, teachers and project managers etc. but also work life representatives) via online tools.

Before presenting the model, they made a short presentation about the project and then proceeded with a discussion about the skills needed in an increasingly globalised world and those necessary to act as an international worker.

Following benefits for the teachers who are professionally active in international activities came out that taking part in projects gives you positive emotions and new friends, you become a better teacher, discover new teaching methods and it widens your perspective. Furthermore, it helps you to nurture student’s motivation and perspective for their speciality.

On the contrary, bringing new staff members into Internationalisation involves also challenges, for examples it is hard to participate without adequate language skills.

Beside the language skills, that are somehow essential, they talked about the so called soft skills like, for example, organisational skills, autonomy, flexibility/adaptability, communication, cooperation, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving. Other transversal skills they recognised as important are the open mindedness, the cultural awareness and the sense of European citizenship. Digital skills are also important, especially nowadays.

The discussion continued talking about what is needed to develop these skills and they highlighted the importance to work in team and share as much as possible, as well as equip them with proper tools, dedicate the right time and recognize their commitment. The commitment of the management is also important as well as giving an international dimension to the organisation. Language courses should be organised when needed and think about a never-ending training path can also stimulate interest and participation.

The interviews were closed showing the draft of the model: altogether staff members reacted positively on the sketch, sharing their interest for gaining experience and showing their skill by the internationalisation Open badges. Through the badges they can in fact follow and show their development from a rookie to an expert and they can make visible their non-formal and informal learning.

One of the discussion topics focused on training language skills, a basic need in going international. Suggestions were made not to limit development to language courses reaching to high levels as C1, but offering ways of encouraging to speak a foreign language and describing ability to, for example, introduce oneself or to do small or bigger presentations. English was seen as inevitable but a second language can depend on the region where VET school is situated or a personal preference or background. It was suggested to include informal learning as reading a book in a foreign language.

Another important topic was opening up the department of internationalisation. Quite a big role is seen in co-learning and job shadowing with internationalisation coordinators: e.g. including staff in planning projects, in both outgoing and incoming mobility. Moreover, in line with what they explained before, they asked to include transversal skills, beside the professional/technical skills.

And last but not least they suggested to create a kind of cafeteria-training-model, so staff can choose and pick whatever suits their preference and aim in developing skills for internationalisation.

The interviewees made also concrete suggestions on how training related to internationality should be implemented. Here is some examples: inviting / receiving visitors and arranging reciprocal visits; providing materials for different levels; making websites internationally most accessible; mentoring (experts guide and mentor the rookies), motivating and rewarding the staff; continuous international competence development; sharing good practices.

The model will be now reviewed by the partners and it will be the starting point to develop the third IO, namely the training package to support the skills development itself.