The world of education is in a bit of a pickle today. To quote the British educator Sir Ken Robinson: “How do we educate people today to live and work in the economy in 20, 30 years, when we do not know what the economy will look like at the end of next week?” Influenced by demographics, globalization, and technological progress, our workplaces are presently undergoing a rapid change. Today, people in their 20s must accept that they will change not only their jobs, but also their professions, several times during their career. At the same time, youth unemployment in the EU is decreasing so the challenge is not finding any job, but a high quality, rewarding one. Young university graduates enter the workplace well prepared in terms of theoretical knowledge, IT skills and a good command of English, but they often lack communication skills and the flexibility so greatly desired by employers. That is why it is so important that their professional portfolio is a collage of diverse experiences, professional roles, responsibilities, but most of all – competences.
It has become evident that formal education alone is not able to satisfy the skills demand and that non-formal and informal education play an equal role in providing young people with new types of skills, adjusted to new types of jobs, that require more often the ability to cooperate in a multilingual and multi-cultural team, with creativity, initiative and the ability to communicate effectively.
However, Eurostat statistics show that the participation rate in informal learning, although growing steadily over the years, differs to a high extent across Europe, with Poland and Lithuania at the very end of the ranking. The figures clearly reflect the lack of awareness and appreciation of informal learning in many countries, (including Poland) where certificates and diplomas matter more than the actual skills. It ,is time to note that people learn at work, they learn by doing and collaborating, and to appreciate and recognize the skills developed in this way.
Therefore, it is of paramount importance, especially for young people, to provide spaces and opportunities to learn outside school. How can this be done? For example, by gaining professional experience abroad with the Erasmus + Programme. This offers opportunities for over 4 million Europeans to study, train, gain work experience, and volunteer abroad, among others a traineeship abroad, during which young people not only learn the profession and have the opportunity to work for innovative employers, but also learn foreign languages, develop intercultural and social skills, and a sense of initiative.
As the evidence shows, vocational mobility abroad is an important experience in the lives of young people and has a major impact on their career choices.
Also, university students’ mobility can contribute to the development of competences and influences which significantly improve their career development as well as soft skills.
A similar experience can be gained through a long-term volunteering placement abroad within the European Solidarity Corps. A volunteering activity abroad can be a valuable life lesson for young people to test in practice what they learned in formal education.
Today’s young generation in Poland is the best educated in our history. It is also valued for their high educational attainment, enthusiasm and diligence. It should not however rest on its laurels. Lifelong learning and constant professional and personal development within formal and non-formal education might just be the key to building a successful and rewarding career.