‘I’ve become an entirely different person. I can now stand in front of a crowd and talk. I can even speak another language!’ Liam, student and Erasmus+ participant
Through its many international activities, Lancaster & Morecambe College is helping to build the cultural awareness of its student population, leading to increased confidence, new skills and improved employment chances.
Lancaster & Morecambe College provides technical education to around 1,500 full-time learners and reaches a further 3,500 through its varied outreach programmes. Many of the students face personal, social and demographic challenges, and more than 20 areas in the district are among some of the country’s most deprived according to the Office for National Statistic. Historically, the college’s learners also have limited exposure to people from other cultural backgrounds within their own communities.
Building cultural awareness through international activities
The college organises an array of international learning opportunities to enable learners to increase their understanding of different cultures and interact with peers from other countries. Recent years have seen students leading summer camps in Estonia, Bulgaria and Slovakia, and carrying out work experience and job shadowing placements in a host of different countries. Through Erasmus+, more than 175 students have carried out learning experiences in other European countries, and more than 75 have undertaken overseas exchanges and participated in international learning projects at the college. The impact of welcoming international volunteers and students to the college as part of international programmes and projects has led to an increased spirit of cooperation and collaboration and new ways of working across the campus.
Boosting employability and increasing confidence
Undertaking mobility placements overseas has had an extremely positive impact on participants, with the college recognising a significant increase in the employment chances and personal development of its learners. International activities have opened students’ eyes to the possibility of working in other countries, and in 2017 alone, four students were offered employment in other countries, while a further two returned to their host countries for extended, self-funded placements. Others have been inspired by their heightened confidence and enhanced skills to pursue new life experiences and opportunities abroad, such job placements in the USA through Camp America. One Erasmus+ participant even returned to his original training destination as a European Voluntary Service volunteer to undertake a gap year before starting university.
‘I can work and live independently, and I have made friends from different backgrounds that I would have never had the opportunity to meet,’ says Erasmus+ participant Liam. ‘I can now say for sure that this has been one of, if not, the best years of my life.’
Improved teaching and learning
Staff who have participated in projects and training abroad have returned revitalised and reinvigorated with new ideas, and they now approach their roles with more enthusiasm and increased confidence. There are now plans in place to integrate European Voluntary Services volunteers to work and learn alongside the college’s support teams, including ICT and Student and Learner Services, as a way of further embedding the new international outlook within the fabric of the college.
‘I’m delighted to see the positive impact of international activities on the college and, more importantly, on the students who come from a diverse range of backgrounds. There are numerous examples of how these opportunities enhance our students’ lives and raise their aspirations whilst increasing their employability.’ Wes Johnson, Principal
Impacting on the wider community
Erasmus+ activities have helped establish new partnerships with local community groups, universities, schools, non-governmental organisations, support agencies and businesses, and these have been sustained after individual projects have ended. Thanks to a partnership project with a local drop-in centre for people with neurological conditions, for example, students continue to have a valuable volunteering opportunity and the centre benefits from improved perceptions within the community. The college’s new dissemination strategy will also ensure that students, staff and the wider community are aware of the positive impact of all international activities.