Creating opportunities for informal interactions between learners and staff can help build trust and create positive relationships.
Why is this approach useful?
The moments of informal interactions between students and staff can create opportunities for young people to open up about their problems, and for staff to offer support. Such moments can contribute to building trusting relationships between the young person and members of staff, which can be key to the prevention of early leaving from VET.
Why is it a quick win?
Informal interactions can be promoted at a low cost. For instance, by reorganising the physical environment of a VET school or accommodating schedules to arrange for moments where staff and learners meet (e.g. by sharing the canteen and lunch breaks).
Activities outside the formal education and training programme such as artistic activities, sporting activities, youth exchanges, trips and other activities aimed at motivating young people, also facilitate informal interactions. The costs of organising these types of activities can also be low, especially by cooperating with local services and organisations, such as sports clubs and municipalities.
How to make this approach successful?
Any changes in the physical environment or schedules intending to promote informal interactions need to be discussed with staff and students. Teachers might perceive it as additional work; students might perceive it as an increase in control. It is important that any changes are the result of a process of dialogue involving both staff and students.
Informal interactions need to take place in a respectful environment where young people feel accepted and welcomed. VET providers have an important role in facilitating conflict resolution, and detecting and acting upon situations of discrimination and bullying.
Examples of measures using this approach
The Polish Voluntary Labour Corps is a nation-wide state-run organisation supervised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. One of its aims is to reach out to young people aged between 15 and 18 who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of education and training to help them complete their compulsory education and to obtain a vocational qualification in a given profession. Each young person is assisted and supported by an educator. Among others, educators organise cultural activities, sports, events, etc. to stimulate the development of young people's interests as well as their personal and social skills.
The Second Chance School of Matosinhos (Portugal) is an independent school run by an NGO in partnership with the relevant local and national authorities. It targets youths aged 15-25 who left school without obtaining the minimum qualifications to access employment or another education and training programme.
Artistic activities are used for re-socialising young people and re-establishing human relationships. For instance, they use a ‘forum theatre’ where learners have the opportunity to explore potential solutions to their problems through acting. Some learners are invited to act out difficulties from their daily lives, while others (the spectators) are asked to propose solutions and are then invited to take on the role of the protagonist.