Programme: Erasmus+ – Call : 2021

Key action : KA2 – Action type : KA220-VET – Cooperation partnerships in vocational education and training

PROJECT TITLE: ECHOES – Extended Classrooms for Higher Opportunities Enhancing Skills

Project Start Date: 1.11.2021

Project End Date: 1.5.2024

Project idea and Background

In line with the ERASMUS+ Programme and its support to the process of recovery from the COVID-19, the project will address the promotion of innovative methods and tools for teaching, training, learning and assessment as drivers of improvements in lifelong learning. Vocational Education and Training (VET), especially for unemployed persons, is still carried out with a preference for in-presence modalities, which is sometime blended or based on alternation of face-to-face lessons and distance learning. Throughout Europe, the financial resources for this kind of training come largely from the Regional or National Authorities, with the support of regional, national, or European funds. The health emergency in Europe left both funding authorities, training institutions and professionals largely unprepared to switch the entire training cycle activities from in-presence modalities to distance and virtual ones. The lockdowns that followed, in many European countries, the state of emergency from COVID-19 have highlighted the fragility of the economic systems in many sectors and the learning systems as well. In many countries, workers have experienced significant difficulties in doing their work remotely. Many of the training courses for the employed or unemployed have been interrupted or suspended. The low digitization degree and the scarce digital readiness are the main reasons for that, but also the lack of adequate training methodologies and tools are not negligible. The new health safety regulations impose certain distances between people in all areas: in offices, trains, shops and even in the classrooms. Therefore, online and virtual environments in many sectors and the virtual and ‘extended classrooms’ in the training sector become more and more important. The proposal aims at bringing together Vocational Training Centers (VTC), Mentors, Intermediary Organizations, Incubation Centers, with the support of digital technologies specialists, to get professionals in the field of VET ready to manage virtual training and extended classrooms tailored for unemployed people and people with little job experience or education.

It is well known that the vocational training is structured around actions, in most of the cases funded by public funds, where the attendees receive support in the acquisition of job-specific skills through education and certification programs, also called career and technical education, or on-the-job training. Programs may include job search assistance and personal development resources. Some programs provide participants with financial compensation for the duration of their participation. Finally, programs may include orientation, counselling, and accompaniment to work for the participants, sometimes connected with the acquisition of the skills and capacities to become self-employed or start a small business through assistance given by mentors. The use of the distance learning during the current COVID-19 emergency phase has highlighted, in several European countries, the need to review in depth both the training programs (contents, methodologies, tools) and the methods of delivery and use of the online training. The wide availability of e-learning platforms and their increasingly use among professionals, teachers and users appears not sufficient to ensure the correct and timely implementation of training programs and for job inclusion. The products available on the market are not tailored for the specific scopes of the users (both professionals and learners), while they are not conceived for allowing exactly the completion of the entire training cycle (from delivery to the evaluation and certification of the competences acquired). New platforms or adjustments to the available platforms sometimes requires long time and huge investments. At the same time, the result could be not beneficial for the duly management of the training activities in line with the requirements of the funding bodies (e.g., Regional Authorities in different Member States). Moreover, the lack of digital skills among trainers and staff dedicated to training processes prevents the adoption or effectiveness of technologically advanced solutions.

Key Activities and main outputs

To solve these problems, the project includes the following activities and outputs:

  1. Review and analysis of the best practices (environments, programs, methodologies, and tools) and skills gaps of trainers and staff in the field of virtual training and the extended classrooms for VET projects addressed to unemployed people and people with little job experience or education. Classification and selection of the training programs and the didactical and technology resources and determination of the needs or conditions to meet for the implementation of the Pilot in different countries. Methods: analysis of the best practices, focus groups with key-actors (training/mentoring/coaching experts, research centers, regional/national/local authorities, technology providers, etc.). Intellectual Output: Report.
  2. Design and implementation of a Pilot Course, for the trainers and the staff implicated, dedicated to online/virtual training processes in the field of VET projects for unemployed people and people with little job experience or education in different Countries. The Pilot will be differentiated based on the different stages and levels of the VET courses: training sessions, job search assistance and mentorship for accompaniment to work/ start-up of small businesses. Intellectual Output: Pilot Course.
  3. Elaboration of a Toolkit with virtual training resources and materials. Intellectual Output: Toolkit.
  4. Creation of an Open Educational Resource.
  5. Multiplier Events: Echoes Multiplier Conference (full day event); 4 Echoes Multiplier events (half day events) in partner countries. The events in the project areas are aimed to communicate the intermediate and results of the project and the intellectual outputs to a wide range of audiences.

Target Groups:

Vocational Education and Training (VET) Institutions, public and institutional actors, trainers, educators, students.

Project partners:

  1. ASS.FOR.SEO. Società Consortile ar.l. Italy, Rim (lead partner).
  5. Wolfsberg, Austria.
  6. Wematica Srl, Italy.