A successful mobility project - especially when it comes to sending a large group of young students on vocational training abroad - is built upon preparation and communication. Udo Schmeiser, an English and economics teacher from Germany, has been our main contact at the school Staatliche Berufsschule III Bamberg for the past few years. Together, we have organised countless work experience placements for his students in London, mainly in the area of administration.
But what exactly does a long term Erasmus+ partnership entail? We turned to Udo, or Mr. Schmeiser as we usually call him, for his side of the story.
What can you tell us about your school?
There are about 1,800 pupils at Staatliche Berufsschule III Bamberg with the vast majority ranging between 16 and 20 years of age, although some can be considerably older. Basically, they're all apprentices who go to school for a day or a day and a half and work for the rest of the week. We have about 15 different apprenticeships in the commercial as well as health sector.
What prompted you to start an Erasmus+ project with ADC College?
The first contact was years ago. We found the concept of language teaching, work experience and host families very convincing. And we also thought that London being just around the corner was an advantage.
How would you describe your last project with us?
By now, ADC College and our school have come to quite a calm and simple working routine in terms of project preparation. As a vocational school, we are quite satisfied with all arrangements and – even more important - our students are as well and really appreciate what is done for them.
What are your aims with the project?
First of all, we want to give our apprentices the chance to work in an English speaking country and see and learn what work is like there, while at the same time improve their language skills. In that way we would like to strengthen their confidence in their own competences.
Furthermore, we would like to broaden their horizon and make them think in European terms. Here the aspect of host families is important for us as daily family routines seem to be a very good way of getting cross-cultural competence.
What's the most important advice you give your students in order to set the right expectations for this project?
Get away from your experience in your companies and their well-structured routines back home. Things will be different. Approach the experience as a valuable and unique challenge.
What would you advise first time group leaders who are preparing their students for the Work Experience Programme?
Work carefully with all administrative and organisational matters. According to our experience, it seems helpful to have three preparatory sessions every two months once the group of participants has been confirmed. There, we discuss the anticipations of the students and clearly express our expectations and conditions for a successful participation. We also prepare them briefly on language and cross-cultural competence.
It seems quite important to have a platform where the participants can ask questions between sessions. We therefore use an app called Moodle for communication as well as documentation related to the project.
How do you motivate your students to engage with the project?
Well, less than you would imagine. Usually they come to us because former participants have told them about the project. We make it clear that, on one hand, it's quite a challenge and, on the other hand, it's a unique experience and an opportunity which most of them will not experience again in the near future.
What do you think students learn from a trip like this?
On the professional side, students become aware of the quality of their own skills and competence because they realise that they can fall comparatively easy into the daily workflow of a company. Quite obviously, it also boosts their oral skills in English. Furthermore, our students notice and experience the cultural differences when it comes to working life and their host families. Living together in pairs provides an element of security, but also requires a level of compromise.
At the end of their stay, we feel that their self-confidence has grown considerably - having managed quite a number of new situations.
The organisational work for teachers is quite immense. However, going to London with a number of individuals and returning with a group can also be immensely rewarding.
The Work Experience Programme is a London project eligible for funding from Erasmus+. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about what we do and how to get funding. Call a Country Manager today on +44 2084249424 or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.