Competences+ is an ERASMUS+ project with the objective to help participants in transnational work-based mobility projects to access the labour market upon their return in order to continue the educational process they had started before departure. This involves creating attractive tools for participants and promoting the added value of mobility projects to employers.
The project is managed by ADICE from Roubaix in France. ASPEm from Italy, blinc from Germany and European Placement Network from the UK are partners. The project is built on four specific outputs, all linked to each other, thus creating an integrated training and support programme for mobility participants to help them to access the job market.
The first of these outputs has now been completed and involved an Investigative Study with 97 employers from France, Germany, Italy and the UK to thoroughly analyse the skills they expect from participants to value, promote and develop. The study aimed to identify what employers expect from people coming back from a mobility project: which competences to value, how to promote it and through which means. Employers were asked to present directly what they expect in terms of competences so that the partners can better adjust the three additional project outputs, outputs created, a phone app and the training programme before and after the period of work-based learning abroad.
The study produced some interesting and often surprising results. Employers’ expectations of a future employee are very high. Recruiters tend to favour the ‘safe option’ by choosing a candidate someone who has already worked in the company’s sector of activities and who can be quickly operational. This has implications for the way that vocational training programmes are constructed and underlines the importance of quality work-based learning if a trainee is to secure employment.
There are no key competencies that companies do not value. Technical skills, organisational skills, relational/personal skills and the capacity to adapt are all highly valued. Applicants other skills acquired are also viewed as bringing added value.
Mobility experiences help to develop transversal skills sought by employers. If the definition of these competences differs from one interlocutor to another, they include common elements, such as autonomy, adaptability, creativity, mastery of a language, intercultural competences.
The study has shown that although companies generally believe that the undertaking a transitional work placement is not considered essential, it has a highly positive effect on a trainees’ chances of securing employment. However, the degree of benefit is linked to how well the applicants can showcase the benefits of their experiences and the competences that they have developed.
It is important for young people to learn to describe their experiences abroad in context. These skills, which are well developed, can help to make the experience relevant to obtaining a job, an internship or a return to education and training. Employers will not be impressed simply by the fact that the young person has completed a period of work-based learning abroad. Applicants need to learn to contextualize and present their experiences to employers and not just make general statements about their stay abroad.
The Compétences+ project aims to help create the bridges between what has been learned and being able to showcase these competences to employers. This is why it is very important that mobility operators play a role in helping to link the mobility experience with the future work of young people. There is a need to help participants make connections based on concrete examples, transferable skills and acquired competencies.
The benefits are also linked to the length of the placements, the nature of the placement, the preparation and to the way that the acquired learning is assessed, evaluated and capitalised upon. Indeed, the capitalisation of benefits for easier transition into the labour market and to help young people into enriching and challenging careers.
One of the unexpected advantages of the Compétences+ project is that undertaking the interviews has generated interest amongst the companies and we have found that the companies seem more enthusiastic to host trainees, are they more open and aware of the benefits of international experience.
The process has also been beneficial form members of the partner organisations, and has increased awareness of the added-value and benefits of a professional mobility experience The National Erasmus+ Agencies aim to increase the number of young people who go abroad to undertake a professional work experience and the number of companies who encourage employees to gain experience in the European work-space. The Compétences+ project is therefore certainly be in line with stated objectives of National Agencies and can make a positive contribution to the achievement of these aims.