Fostering the excellence of VET teaching and project collaboration through study visits
The case of VSGT Maribor and FAS Höfn
In July, five teachers from VCHT Maribor went to Erasmus educational visit to our partner institution Framhaldsskólinn í Austur-Skaftafellssýsúl (FAS) in Iceland. During our study visit, a particular focus was given to two specific areas of collaboration, namely fostering links to local communities and within this the developing of innovative adult education programs and expanding collaborative teaching within tourism and wellness and wellbeing at both institutions. A successful partnership is established leading to excellence in VET teaching and project cooperation.
Vocational College of Hospitality and Tourism Maribor, Slovenia, is a 2-year college, offering associate degree education at the tertiary level. We offer 2 study programs Hospitality and Tourism, and Wellness. We are also very active in the field of informal education and training through our B2B centre MIC (organising activities, events, training programs and workshops for the industry). VCHT very actively collaborates internationally via different activities ranging from mobility (we received multiple recognitions from the national agency for mobility for excellence), international events, competitions, conferences, excursions and projects. We strive towards innovative and high-quality teaching standards and are proud of our students’ high employability rate, their high-ranking positions within the tourism and wellness industry and our active Alumni club. VCHT is located in the 2nd largest town in Slovenia (Maribor, population 115,000). Maribor is the economic, administrative, educational, and cultural centre of eastern Slovenia and was European Capital of Culture in 2012. On the outskirts of the city, there are slopes of the Pohorje mountain range, which in winter are occupied by alpine and cross-country skiers. In summer Pohorje is offering a wide range of walking and other outdoor activities for locals and tourists.
At the beginning of July, five teachers from both study programs at the VCHT went to Erasmus educational visit to our partner institution Framhaldsskólinn í Austur-Skaftafellssýsúl (FAS) on beautiful Iceland. Our project partner, FAS, is located on the southeast coast of Iceland, in the fishing village Höfn in Hornafjörður. Höfn is about 450 km away from the capital, Reykjavík. This means that we had to drive almost 500 kilometers throughout the picturesque Icelandic Golden Circle to reach Höfn. On the way, we had short stays to capture the typical volcanic peaks, geysers and waterfalls and a unique Icelandic landscape full of moss and meadows with Icelandic horses, sheep and goats.
The municipality of Hornafjörður reaches over a long and narrow habitable line between the Atlantic Ocean in the south and the unhabitable mountains and the greatest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull glacier, in the north. A big part of the municipality of Hornafjörður is within the National Park, Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður, one of the largest national parks in Europe. The main industry in the town is fishing, fish processing and tourism that has been growing substantially the last years.
The courses offered in FAS are partly based on the needs of the community, e.g., mountaineering instructor training and courses for sea- engineers. The last years FAS has placed emphasis on man’s connection to nature, health, and wellness. Students can participate in performance sports courses, yoga- and mindfulness courses and in various field trips, e.g. glacier measurements, bird counting and researching the progress of vegetation.
Throughout our very successful initial collaboration within the DeTour EU project, we have established a successful partnership where both partners, VCHT and FAS, recognise the mutual interests for further cooperation. Both partners acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of tourism, wellness and well-being in unprecedented ways. People become more inclined to look after their mental and physical health and wellbeing. Since nature-based activities are native to both local communities (Maribor and Höfn), each partner can bring their own unique approach to the existing program and various mutual activities can be developed cross-institutionally. In the same context, locality and seasonality are at the root of the culinary offer in both communities and will be fostered through mutual activities and knowledge sharing. This way, in their own local communities, both institutions will be able to enhance fresh innovative and sustainable skills, ideas and approaches in relation to sustainability and nature and offer a range of new programs within their B2B centres. Further, in educational environments innovative and attractive teaching approaches and deliveries became a must. In this context, both institutions through collaboration will deliver up-to-date teaching content that are in line with emerging trends and with much-needed latest sectoral needs.
Overall, a particular focus of our mutual presentations, links to local communities and workshops were given to three specific areas, namely links to local communities and the development of adult education programs, nature-based and sustainable activities where we established the grounds for our further collaboration and online collaborative teaching within tourism and wellness and wellbeing. The collaboration is proceeding within the coming student year. We look forward to our future collaboration and fostering of teaching excellence and project collaboration in both institutions!