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Home » Education » How to meet new people and learn new skills — the EU programme way

Lorraine Gilligan

Executive Director, Léargas, The National Agency for Erasmus+ and National Support Office for eTwinning and EPALE

European Union programmes — such as Erasmus+ — give participants the chance to learn a range of new skills, meet new people and experience different European cultures.

Participants in EU education and training programmes emerge with new skills and a deeper understanding of European cultures and values, which they can adopt into their work and life in Ireland.

EU programmes open to all

Erasmus+, eTwinning and EPALE (Electronic Platform for Adult Learning) — these transformative initiatives are open to people of all ages and backgrounds. They include school pupils studying at partner schools; teachers working or training at educational establishments abroad; or young people on youth exchanges.

Whoever they are, EU initiatives are hugely positive cultural experiences for people, says Lorraine Gilligan, Executive Director of Léargas, the agency that manages national and international programmes in youth work, education and training and sport. “These programmes allow participants to acquire new skills,” she explains. “By immersing themselves in a different country and language, they also develop solidarity and friendships with a diverse range of people. They’re unique intercultural engagements.”

EU initiatives are hugely
positive cultural experiences.

Types of EU training programmes

The agency works with various partners, including public and private organisations, that are interested in becoming involved in EU programmes. This includes Erasmus+, which funds mobility and cross-border projects on inclusion, diversity, digital transformation, environment and participation in democratic life. Then, there’s the European Solidarity Corps (ESC), a volunteering programme for young people who want to work on projects that benefit communities in Europe and EU partner countries.

Not all programmes involve face-to-face engagement or travel. For instance, eTwinning is a free online platform connecting over 1 million teachers across Europe. EPALE is a news and discussion hub for educators and researchers, supporting the EU’s strategy ‘to promote more and better learning opportunities for all adults.’

Benefits of taking part in EU programmes

Any organisation active in adult, school, vocational education, sport or youth activities can apply to Léargas for funding to facilitate projects promoting European exchange, cooperation and learning. However, they’ll need a partner in a European country. “If they don’t have one, the eTwinning and EPALE community networking spaces offer ways to find them,” says Gilligan.

There is a high level of participation because EU programmes are extremely popular. Léargas’ annual flagship event — The Gathering — showcases Erasmus+, ESC and other EU initiatives. This year’s event, held online, was exceptionally well-attended. “It’s a chance for us to connect with curious organisations that want to learn more about these programmes — and demonstrate the real benefits that they offer to staff or students,” explains Gilligan.

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