News about internationalisation


Photo: Satu Haavisto

Photo: Satu Haavisto

Employability and collaboration with employers on the agenda in Barcelona

A seminar on Sustainable Employability gathered representatives of educational and working-life organisations to Barcelona in the spring. The seminar focused on links between the worlds of education and work, and reflected on how education meets the changing demands of employment.

The seminar was hosted by the Leo-Net network of international training mobility, which has more than 100 member organisations in 33 European countries. CIMO is one these organisations. The network members exchange ideas and find partners on a Leo-Net mailing list, and they can also announce and explore work placements in an internship database. Employability and collaboration with employers are emerging as major areas on the Leo-Net agenda.

Collaboration makes us stronger

The seminar workshops raised discussion on issues such as collaboration between different educational levels in, for example, the EU’s Erasmus+ programme (2014–2020). Project collaboration is one thing, but how about collaboration during the mobility periods of students, teachers and other staff? What matters most to employers is not the level of education but skills and competences. Higher education institutions in the Netherlands, for example, would like to work more closely with vocational education and training, as Dutch VET providers are large and have good working-life contacts.

Consortia were also seen as a means of promoting collaboration with the world of work in educational institutions. Consortia are all about sharing information and skills, which serves to enhance the working-life competences of individual actors, too. The seminar also agreed that it would be a good idea to increase the links and contacts between various consortias internationally.

Which skills are needed in working life?

A key theme of the seminar covered students’ employability, skills needed in working life and the fact that the demands on skills and competences change fast. Some skills even become superfluous over time. Which skills do students have and what are the skills that the world of work needs? How to make sure that employees can learn new skills as the needs change? There should be more dialogue between employers and higher education institutions on the kinds of skills needed now and in the near future. Not only is continuous feedback necessary, but the students should also be made aware of the demands of working life.

Sonia Hendy-Isaac (Birmingham City University) and Vincent Merk (Eindhoven University of Technology) talked about higher education’s responsibility and intercultural communication in the context of employability. This is where the seminar also got to hear about the Hidden Competences survey conducted by CIMO and Demos Helsinki. The participants were also interested to learn more about the toolkit Find your hidden competences, which has been developed on the basis of the survey. The toolkit will be translated in English by CIMO.

Sonia Hendy-Isaac highlighted the importance for job-seekers to recognise and communicate their skills and competences. The students should become better at this, and institutions could focus on this aspect while giving guidance on writing the traineeship report. The key aspect is reflective criticism: what one does, how one does it and – most importantly – why it is done.

International experience promotes employability

Luca Pirozzi (European Commission’s Erasmus+ office) shared the findings of the Erasmus Impact Study, published in 2014, from the vantage point of employability.

The study found that the unemployment rate of Erasmus students was 23% lower than of non-mobile students. Also, more than one thirds of Erasmus trainees had been offered a job by their host company. Two thirds of the employees regarded international experience as important for recruitment, while 64% also found that graduates with international experience were given greater professional responsibility. As a whole, 92% of the employees valued transversal skills. All this against a backdrop of 5 million unemployed young people in Europe, translating to a youth unemployment rate of over 20%.

Among the students, however, the main motivation to take part in an Erasmus work placement lies not in improving employability but in having experience of living abroad, improving language abilities and developing other skills and competences.

The Erasmus Impact Study also serves as a basis of a follow-up survey comparing student mobility and the development of skills, competences and employability in various European countries and regions. The report is due towards the end of 2015.

Read more

Internationalisation pays off, says research - Erasmus Impact Study, 24 September 2014

Erasmus+ Programme

Elsewhere on the web

Powerpoint presentations of the seminar can be found also under TraiNet: Finnish Network of Professionals in the field of International Traineeships

Leo-Net website

[6 May 2015 / Text by Jaana Mutanen and Sari Turunen-Zwinger]

European Commission news about culture, education and youth