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Volunteer International is a Community Interest Company registered in the UK (reg: 08606732)

Case Study: Caroline

Caroline Browne is the Careers Coordinator at Central Foundation Boys' School in Islington, London. She joined a small group of their Business & Hospitality BTEC learners on the school's first ever Erasmus+ trip to Prague.

Our careers programme at Central Foundation Boys' School, for both the secondary school and sixth form, is dedicated to providing our students with a tailored curriculum that will ensure our young people will have the skills and knowledge to pursue their chosen career pathway. A European work placement offered a wonderful opportunity for our students not just to develop their professional skills, but also their personal and interpersonal skills that can be greatly strengthened by delving into a new country and culture. Being in an unfamiliar environment, often away from friends and families for the first time, is a unique chance to develop a sense of independence for a young person, and combining this with a professional work environment is a truly great learning experience.

I think this was a really great chance for the students to get an idea of how it will be when they go to university in the Autumn. Both students are very close with their family, and although there were a couple of rough patches they really developed their sense of independence and dealing with situations on their own. In terms of professional/soft skills, I think both students developed their time-keeping as they were required to be at their placement quite early some days, and also their ability to multi-task. As they were on a hospitality-based placement specifically in the restaurant, there was a lot going on and the students had to be able to handle multiple different tasks at the same time. This atmosphere also gave them a good experience of how it will be working in any professional environment. A key skill both students said they developed were their communication skills – both students said since that not many people who they came into contact with spoke English, they had to find different ways to communicate.

For myself, I do feel it has helped me professionally as it developed my ability to work with someone outside of my institution (project managers at Volunteer International) to solve any issues that did arise. It has also enabled me to work with colleagues in other departments. One of our requirements was that students needed to have completed their coursework before going on the placement, so I worked with the Business department to ensure that this happened. We are hoping to expand this programme to our ICT course next year, so I will have the opportunity to work closely with two departments quite closely to ensure students have completed the necessary work to attend the placement.

Although the group that went this year was very small, I think it still had a positive impact on the school. Many students who heard about the opportunity in Year 12 were very intrigued by the prospect of take part in Year 13, and there was a lot of excitement over the programme while I was organising. It’s a great incentive for our younger students who have chosen these BTEC courses, and I think will be a really powerful motivational tool moving forward. I absolutely want to continue to offer this to our students. It really is an opportunity that should not be missed, especially for young people.