John is in the unique position of having been involved in projects from all aspects of the Lifelong Learning Programme: Leonardo, Grundtvig, Erasmus and Comenius. We caught up with him about his experience of Leonardo:
Q: How did you first get involved in Leonardo
A: I think I first heard about the programme through a leaflet from the national agency. I remember thinking it would be a valuable opportunity for staff and students here to undertake work experience in the European Union. Our first project was called ‘Malta Chefs’ and it began in 2004. We sent four chefs to experience life working in a five star hotel there.
Q: What were the benefits for the staff and learners involved?
A: For staff, attending job shadowing placements abroad represented a valuable professional development opportunity. Similarly for students this was a chance to experience living away from home and to gain awareness of other cultures. They also had to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers – so it was a great way to boost their soft skills.
Q: What would you say were the benefits for the college as a whole?
A: The education sector has become very competitive, especially among colleges in the north-west. The involvement in Leonardo was something unique in the region, and this has helped us to promote the college, time and time again, through our marketing materials.
Q: What has been the most memorable aspect of your involvement in the Leonardo programme?
A: I have found it especially rewarding to see students when they get back from their placements. It is always a major event in their lives and they’re so excited about it. We try to keep in touch with students who went on placements in order to find out, 3-4 years down the line, how it changed their lives. The best comment I heard so far was from a participant who was involved in the first Leonardo project – Malta Chefs. The first thing the participant remembered was: “I had to wash my own clothes”.
Q: What has it meant to you on a personal level to be involved in Leonardo? What has been the most fulfilling or beneficial part of your involvement?
A: Being involved in the Leonardo programme meant huge amount to me. I started from zero, but built up a very large network very quickly. I am now working in 30 different countries on a variety of projects. There’s never a dull moment.
Q: Are there any challenges you have faced on a specific project? If so, how were these overcome?
A: The most challenging project was ‘Animal Care’ in 2008. Students wanted to do a work placement at a Zoo. It was challenging to find the right organisation for them. However I did manage to find the Antwerp Zoo and I’m still working with the organisation to this day.