Even before leaving for Spain for Youth 4 Europe, I knew I had a busy week upon my return to the UK. First on the agenda was to attend a two-day training course held by Eurodesk UK in Birmingham. I made my way from the train station to the hotel, navigating not only the pavements and roads, but also the network of canals for which the city is famous.
It’s equal parts charming and confusing when you’re in a rush! It meant I was a little late getting there, but was greeted warmly nonetheless and joined the group just as a round of introductions were being made.
It was a good mixed bunch of people, about seven or eight in total, each coming from a different background but professionally, in one way or another, all working with youth and youth opportunity.
We were all there to discuss and learn how best to approach young people who have absolutely no idea of the international opportunities which are available to them. The training itself played out like a mock outreach workshop which could be put into practice in a variety of real-world situations. We would have an introduction, run through an exercise (maybe an energiser to start off with) and then give feedback on how we felt about the exercise; its potential outreach possibility, where best it might work and where it might fall short, or how it could be modified or improved.
And before you know it, it’s late afternoon and time to draw things to a close for the day. We ended with a group feedback session. One member of the group offered that it had all been a little ‘soft-core’ so to speak; that we were all professionals and could really be using this opportunity to get down into the nitty gritty of youth engagement, rather than focusing on energisers and activities. I understood where he was coming from and echoed the sentiment. But quickly I heard from numerous others within the group that the training was providing a real insight into some practical elements they didn’t normally encounter or consider, so I was confident that on the whole we were not wasting time.
We had dinner at a local Indian restaurant that night and in the morning took up where we left off. I realised that even if the training wasn’t going to provide me with new skills to deliver youth exchanges, there was still much for me to learn. I turned my focus more onto the group members themselves, for there was a wealth of experience in the room around me.
I made a particularly good connection with a man called Patrick Ambrose, who has been working with youth in Yorkshire for a good chunk of his life, focusing on NEET young people in need extra support, but is also with active with the UK Youth Parliament and Fire Cadets.
And so I began to see the opportunities for networking at training events such as these. Given that our greatest difficulty is often filling spaces on projects with participants, getting bums on seats as it were, it seems essential to me that a strong network of interconnecting people and organisations work together to get more young people on Erasmus+ projects.
So when we eventually gave our final feedback at the end of the second day, my outlook was much more positive. I was full of enthusiasm, I’d learned a lot more about what services Eurodesk UK offers, I’d started to appreciate that I was no longer a novice at what I was doing and that I could offer a valuable opinion, and I had made some good connections. Now to chase them up…