Internationalisation strategies in VET - Bad Neuenahr, Germany

More than 40 representatives from 19 institutions met in Bad Neuenahr, Germany for a three-day training on strategic internationalisation in vocational training and education (VET) and to work on the internationalisation strategy of their own Organisation.

The participants represented VET schools from eight different European countries (Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands and Slovenia) so that the seminar also facilitated partner finding for potential future cooperation. Each school sent two participants, one involved in coordinating mobility projects at the school and one decision maker, to ensure that the ideas that were developed during the seminar reflected both perspectives and that the decisions made had a good chance of being implemented back in the institution.

The training’s content and methodology had originally been developed by the Dutch, Finish and Hungarian National Agencies (NA) and had been updated for the training in Germany in cooperation with NA BIBB, the German NA. Since the topic is central for Erasmus+, similar seminars will be run regularly in the future.

Picture Gallery

Due to the storm over large parts of Germany, the first group building activities on the evening of arrival were carried out with a smaller group. Nevertheless, participants made the most of the opportunity, first introductions were made, and contacts shared.

The seminar started with an overview of the topic, exploring what “internationalisation” exactly means and why it is important for organisations, including VET schools, to work on their internationalisation strategically.
In order to get an idea of the different situations of the participating organisations, several lining up activities were carried out. These showed the large differences between the participating institutions in terms of size, number of qualifications on offer and the degree of autonomy regarding strategic planning and decision making. This exercise, together with the following one, in which participants used picture cards to explain their view of the current state of internationalisation at their schools, helped everybody to understand the variety of starting points and approaches to internationalisation that were represented at the seminar. Throughout the seminar, the exchange of ideas and best practices against the background of these institutional differences was one of the central ideas.

After a general introduction to strategic planning, Mieke Veenink from the Graafschap College in the Netherlands presented her institutions’ strategic planning process. This process is quite advanced, but Mieke also shared the challenges and pitfalls the college had encountered, and a lively discussion followed.

In the afternoon, the two participants of each school worked in pairs on their vision, reflecting questions such as: “Why exactly do we want to engage in mobility projects? Five years from now, what will we have accomplished by our internationalisation strategy?” Having developed where they would like their institution to go, the participants then worked on the “timeline” of their internationalisation. They took stock of the accomplishments, challenges and changes in the past and discussed potential future developments. These two exercises helped them later to identify the steps needed to move from one (what have we done so far) to the other (this is where we want to be).

The day ended with a wine tasting and dinner at the world’s oldest Wine Cooperative in Mayschoß-Altenahr.

After a short reflection on the day before, the seminar’s second day started with a focus on stakeholders, i.e. the groups and institutions which are relevant for each school and which therefore have to be taken into account when designing an internationalisation strategy. Once the main stakeholders had been identified, they were positioned on a “stakeholder map” according to their level of influence and importance. Depending on their position on the map, the schools would need to consider them differently in their strategy.

Next Dr. Folene Nannen-Gethmann from the school supervisory division for VET colleges in the department for EU projects at the Cologne Government Regional Office presented how her department helps the VET schools in their area of responsibility to internationalise. The presentation added another (a stakeholder’s) perspective to the discussion and highlighted once more the importance of taking stakeholders and decision makers into consideration when writing an internationalisation strategy.

During the two following sessions participants had the opportunity to define some first strategic goals for their institution and receive feedback from other institutional pairs on questions such as “Are the goals strategic enough? Are they targeted enough? Are they really goals, not activities?” Five strategic goals chosen by the entire group were then discussed in-depth in an open space setting. Participants identified the next steps to be taken and drew up the first outline of an action plan for each of these goals.

The evening was officially a “free evening”; however, many participants joined the NA for a guided tour of the government bunker in the town of Ahrweiler.

On the last day participants reflected on their organisation’s culture and how it might affect their work on internationalisation.
As final exercise, they practiced the definition of indicators of success so that in the future they will be able to determine whether goals set in a strategy were actually reached. The seminar ended with a reflection on all the work done and methods learned.

The spontaneous feedback on the last day as well as in the official evaluation after the seminar showed a high level of satisfaction with the training and its contents. While it was a lot to take in in just three days, many commented, it was very much worthwhile to be able to concentrate on one specific issue, internationalisation, without the everyday work commitments getting in the way.

More information

 1.1 Introduction

 2.6 Action Plan