The fact that Maria José Arias Fernandez from Spain loves her job and is profoundly convinced of the benefits of international exchanges is clear to see. “It is crucial that the mobility networks identify what they have in common and leverage these synergies so that we can make real progress with mobility in Europe. The more we can do together, the better,” explains the energetic director of EURES Spain. This was her mission at the Learning by Leaving conference, which took place from 19 to 21 November 2018 in Cologne as the first of a series of conferences over the next few years.
Learning by Leaving is the conference of the four major European networks that provide information and guidance on mobility: Euroguidance, Eurodesk, EURES and Europass. The aim is to create closer rapport among the networks and make better use of existing synergies.
“Although we serve different target groups, we all share the same objective, which is to encourage more mobility across Europe,” says co-organiser Robert Helm-Pleuger from Eurodesk Germany. “The mobility experts who work for the networks play an important role in this respect. The conference in Cologne is a great opportunity for them to exchange notes on their professional practice, learn from each other, and build stronger connections,” explains Ilse Lore Schneider, coordinator at Euroguidance Germany. And Isabel Götte from Europass Germany adds, “This is not just an occasion for exchanging information, it’s also a place to get together with new project partners. We are delighted that follow-up conferences have already been scheduled for 2019 in Italy and 2020 in Austria. Those are great opportunities for the networks to continue the work that starts here in Cologne.”
Plenty of food for thought came from the keynote addresses of Dr Wolfgang Müller, the Managing Director for European Affairs at Germany’s Federal Employment Agency and head of Euroguidance Germany, and Professor Birte Nienaber from the University of Luxembourg. Dr Müller outlined why in today’s VUCA world – which is characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – it is so important for advisory organisations to respond to megatrends and global changes and to adjust their concepts accordingly. Professor Nienaber discussed the outcomes of the MOVE project, which has delivered valuable insights on youth mobility in Europe. MOVE, a multi-year pan-European study, is a quantitative and qualitative analysis of six different forms of mobility, namely by university students, apprentices, school students, volunteers, employees and entrepreneurs. The project identified the factors that promote or hinder mobility and produced an extensive set of recommendations for each of these target groups.
Day one of the conference closed out with a number of forums on relevant current developments at the EU level, such as the second round of DiscoverEU, the changes in the EURES network and the continued development of the Europass, with an opportunity for informal networking during the evening.
On day two, the conference continued with a number of workshop sessions on specific topics. How can peer-to-peer communication be improved? How to build effective, inspiring awareness and mobilisation campaigns? What innovative tools are there for providing information, guidance and certification? What are employers’ expectations when it comes to mobility? The general idea behind the workshops was to gather existing knowledge of these issues from the networks and on that basis, come up with joint project ideas. To ensure that the process maintains its momentum, interested representatives formed smaller groups that will continue to pursue the resulting ideas. The most promising suggestions will be presented at the next conference in Italy in 2019.
The organisers of the 2018 conference can be more than satisfied with the outcome. All participants were very enthusiastic about what they had heard and learned, stating they would be returning home with a wealth of proposals and ideas for their work. For instance, Maria and Zuzana from Euroguidance and Europass Slovakia have already planned their first working meetings. And Maria José from Spain is looking ahead, too. “Maybe the fourth Learning by Leaving conference could be held in Spain?” she thought aloud.