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Europe-wide project to support young people progressed at University Centre Shrewsbury

  • University Centre Shrewsbury, NEET team

Representatives from universities and other organisations across Europe joined together at University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) to develop an innovative project to support young people who are out of work in gaining confidence, new skills and employment.

People from universities in Estonia, Slovenia and Romania, social inclusion organisations in France, Italy and Spain, and European project co-ordinators from Spain and Denmark, who are part of the NEET U (Not in Education, Employment or Training) initiative, were invited to the University Centre recently to progress the plans.

The project provides opportunities for unemployed young people aged between 16 and 24 years old to benefit from the skills and experience of people aged over 50, who will provide advice, mentoring and support.

UCS is one of the project partners after a successful bid to Erasmus+, the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport, which is overseeing the scheme.

UCS’s Geraint Lang, who organised the visit, said: “The main aim of the project is to enable people who are aged over 50 to pass on their knowledge to young people who are not in employment, education or training.

“It is not about improving the young person’s communications skills in a classroom, or teaching them how to use a computer, nor is it about assisting them to produce a legible CV. Instead, the NEET U project is more about getting the young people to look at their own community’s needs, and seeing how they could effectively respond to those local needs, supported and guided by their mentors.

“This is about building capacity, relationships and engagement within the local community, where an opportunity could be created for a diverse range of tried and tested skills to be passed from one generation to another; it’s a two-way process where hopefully not only everyone involved benefits but also the community as well.”

The visit in April brought together the first mentors from the partner countries, along with the project partners who will be their managers locally, and provided them with the information and resources they need.

During their visit to UCS, European colleagues also visited the Social Enterprise Zone at Shrewsbury’s Riverside Mall. Former Town Mayor and Shropshire Councillor Jon Tandy provided a comprehensive overview of the project. It is hoped that the Riverside Mall initiative could be modelled in other countries, and in so doing engage both target age groups.

Professor Anna Sutton, Provost of UCS said: “This is one of four European Erasmus+ projects that we are currently working on with other organisations, Higher Education Institutions, and social inclusion groups from across Europe.

“Action-based research, relevant to challenges facing Shropshire but also touching on major issues facing Europe and beyond, is an important part of the work taking place at UCS. We were honoured to host this week-long session at Guildhall, our learning and research base, show our partners the institution and the town, and play a central role in progressing the initiative.”

UCS is primarily a knowledge partner, where due to the experience and involvement in previous activities, projects and other roles, staff are able to offer guidance to EU partners. However, they are also looking at setting up a small scale initiative linked directly to the project in Shrewsbury.

The project runs for two years. At the end of this time, UCS and its partners will make recommendations to the EU based on the work that has taken place.

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