In 2016, fifteen Flemish apprentices were given the opportunity to do a two-week work placement abroad through the Erasmus+ project MOBILE. These young students were in the process of doing an apprenticeship in the catering and food sector in one of the various Flemish SYNTRA training centres. The host countries were France, in cooperation with URMA Nord Pas-de-Calais, and the Netherlands, through Cingel College in Breda, embedded in the ROC West Brabant.

Participants were selected primarily on the basis of their motivation, with acquiring new skills and being exposed to new cultures being important. Their comments included:  

‘I took part in the project to get to know other cultures and other ways of working, and to learn new techniques and dishes’ (Brent, assistant chef);

‘In the first place, it seemed very interesting to me to work in another country. What the work atmosphere is like, what techniques they use there, what food safety standards they apply, etc.’ (Justine, butcher).

Participant assessment was largely positive and the apprentices indicated that they had learned a lot in their international work environment:

‘I found out that I knew more than I thought, and that I must have more self-confidence and dare to say and do more’ (Marissa, chef);
‘They had a number of extra techniques for boning belly bacon in the butcher shop where I was, which I did not know’ (Seppe, butcher);
‘Then I had to welcome the first guests together with my boss (at the opening of the restaurant) and I was able to apply the strict etiquette together with him’ (Florian, waiter).

Asked whether they would consider another work placement abroad, all the participants answered wholeheartedly ‘Yes.’ As one of them put it:

‘Of course, it is always a positive experience to go and work in another country. As a chef you learn to work with other products, and also different ways to prepare. You make new contacts, and learn to be independent in a foreign environment. On your days off you can discover the location. Every city has its sights, so a work placement gives you also an opportunity to discover the world’ (Diether, assistant chef).

Stimulated by this positive participant feedback, SYNTRA Flanders/SYNTRA consortium has submitted a new project, which has been approved by Erasmus+ (MOBILE2). The project comprises more opportunities for mobility in apprenticeship in 2017; the aim now is to find 50 participants. Cooperation with neighbouring countries has therefore been expanded with a second partner in the Netherlands (Wellant College for the horse sector), and a new host country, Germany, the partner being BBS Westerburg. Here, work placements in administration and sales are possible. At the same time, SYNTRA Flanders will now also organise work placements in Belgium for their foreign partners.

Syntra Flanders strongly believes in the added value of a partially international work placement for apprentices. It not only improves their employment opportunities but also affect personal development: occupational knowledge and skills and attitudes. Therefore, considerable effort is also being made in Flanders to expand a new dual learning system. SYNTRA Flanders has recently started cooperating with education networks to submit a new, even broader project for the school year 2017-18, making it possible for apprentices to acquire international work placement experience in all dual learning sections. The organisation is looking for solid partners for this, initially in neighbouring countries. Part of this project will also be to encourage Flemish partners to host apprentices from abroad.

More information:
Contact: Ben Bruyndonckx

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