Over €75 million has been invested in European exchange programmes for schools, youth groups, colleges of further education, and community organisations in Ireland through Erasmus+, since 2014. That’s according to Léargas, who highlighted the social and cultural impact of international exchange as part of their national forum today (03.11.20).
Hosting their first virtual annual forum, this year Léargas celebrated the flagship EU programme, Erasmus+, which will give way to a new European exchange programme launching in 2021.
Since 2014, over 65,000 places for young people and educators have been funded and supported through Léargas to train, work or volunteer abroad, with a view to improving ‘mobility’ of young people, learners and educators. Léargas has also facilitated exchange programmes for educators to share good practice and develop innovative new approaches to shared challenges such as digital literacy, mental health and climate change.
Addressing the Léargas Forum, Minister of State for Skills and Further Education, Niall Collins TD said: “Taking part in a European project is all about reaching out to others, and the importance of that impulse has never been clearer than it is now. The European Union is a union of solidarity, and that solidarity does not come from being in other places – it comes from connecting with other people. As participants and supporters of European projects, I urge you to maintain those connections in these difficult times.”
Speaking about the challenges of Covid-19 to European programmes, Chief Executive of Léargas, Lorraine Gilligan, highlighted the need for digital readiness in light of the ongoing challenges of Covid-19 travel restrictions: “We don’t believe virtual activities will ever be a substitute for the experience of meeting and working with people in other countries, but we know that they are a way to complement and maintain existing relationships.
“Next year we will launch the 2021-2027 programme which will explore the possibilities of blended mobilities and new opportunities for participation and partnership. Our goal is to make programmes such as Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or wherever they imagine their future might take them.
“The stories we’ll hear today show us how these experiences can open new doors for young people and educators alike, and demonstrate the powerful social inclusion across Europe which will be even more important as we recover from the impact of Covid-19.”
New European exchange programme to emphasis accessibility
Léargas has been involved in European Commission working groups to develop the new programme, which like Erasmus+, will provide opportunities for learners and educators from across the youth and education sectors in Ireland.
Gillian Byrne, Head of Beauty Therapy at Blackrock Further Education Institute in Dublin, said at today’s event: “We started the Student Mobility Programme through Léargas with 12 students going on international placements. Our current two-year project involves 60 students, and some of our staff. As well as beauty students, our Make Up and Design students have taken part in the carnival celebrations in Tenerife and IT students have taken up placements in Holland – they learned new skills and made lifelong friendships, but more than that, it gave students from Blackrock new horizons to aim for when they’d finished their studies.”