In October, I was delighted to welcome 24 apprentices from the South East of England to Brussels, along with an additional contingent from the East of England! These are young men and women who I hope will benefit from finding out opportunities that are available to them throughout the EU. It took a lot of time, preparation and effort, (thanks team!) but I am thrilled to say it was a resounding success.
The inspiration for this trip came from the Manifesto for a Europe of Apprenticeships, which seeks to consolidate vocational students’ place within the wider Erasmus+ scheme. Erasmus+ has provided life-changing opportunities for over nine million young people to study in EU member states since 1987, yet it was only since 2014 that apprenticeship opportunities were really expanded, thanks to the ErasmusPRO pilot project. ErasmusPRO includes language support for apprentices on placements in Europe and much longer placements of 6-12 months which gives an opportunity for consolidation of learning and building of confidence in the apprentices meaning delegates can fully immerse themselves in a different country, pick up a language and become comfortable with living, working and studying in a new culture. As someone whose career has centred around education, I’ve long campaigned for a recognition that it comes in many different forms. For some, university is undoubtedly the best course of action, but for many within our workforce it is not. Many learners benefit far better from a more practical, hands-on, vocational approach.
When the group arrived at the European Parliament I had the chance to speak with them and find out what they knew about Erasmus+ and talk about their career aspirations and how a placement in a European country could help them. The discussions were eye-opening, fascinating and encouraging. What a brilliant group of young people, from such a diverse and interesting range of fields. We had apprentices training in broadcast production, heating and ventilation, engineering, law, science and business. A fantastic mix and proof that (nearly) whatever career path you want to pursue, there is more than one path that can get you there.
I hope this experience will give our visitors a chance to tell their friends, their fellow apprentices, and their families about all that is available to them through schemes like Erasmus+. It’s a huge shame despite that hard work in this area and knowledge of the routes to vocational education are still not well known. Young people like these apprentices are this country’s future. By providing them with the tools for success and access to the best training programmes, we help build a stronger, more prosperous and more enriched country. Something that benefits us all!
Whatever future unrolls in the coming months, it is critical that the skills deficit in the UK and access to training throughout Europe is prioritised so that our society can thrive. Currently, quite aside from Erasmus, EU funding supports a large amount of training and education. Johnson’s deal contains precious little detail about how this will be replaced and it’s hard to believe that access to vocational training will be a top priority for the current Government,
This is one reason that we are so keen to Stop Brexit. it’s not just about the economic impact, jobs, or our ability to trade with the rest of the world, it’s about ensuring that our young people, on whose shoulders the future of this country depends, are not denied the fantastic opportunities that others, throughout Europe enjoy!