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Leonardo – Vocational training in Europe

Are you thinking of moving abroad to work, but put off by fears about how you’ll fare? Language barriers and the fear of being distant from family and friends are named as the main reasons for immobility. But another hindrance can be the lack of specific skills and qualifications required to succeed in a foreign job market. Luckily, help is at hand – read on to find out just how much support you could receive.

In 1995, the European Union launched the Leonardo Da Vinci programme (Leonardo for short – website available in English, French and German). Leonardo focuses on the needs of those involved in vocational education and training – both those teaching and those learning – and aims to help European citizens acquire new skills, knowledge and qualifications.

Who can apply?

If you are a new or existing trainee in initial vocational training, someone already established in the labour market (i.e. graduates, employees, independents, and jobseekers), a professional who is active in vocational education and training, or a representative organisation active in the vocational learning field, then Leonardo could be for you. The programme funds a wide range of projects, including mobility projects amongst others; in fact, at least 60% of the programme’s total funding is spent on mobility activities. The number of mobility traineeships, for instance, increased from 36,600 in the year 2000 to 81,500 in 2006.

How long can I go for?

Trainees in initial vocational training can stay in another EU Member State for between two and 39 weeks. Transnational placements in companies or training institutions for people in the labour market can last for between two and 26 weeks. Teachers and trainers can stay abroad for up to six weeks to learn from best practice in another country.

How can I apply?

If you’d like to participate in the programme as a trainee (whether or not you have already been working), you will need to do so via an intermediary organisation in your own Member State (for example, a university or learning association). You can find out which organisations in your country participate in the Leonardo scheme by checking out the list of National Agencies on the European Commission’s website. These agencies can provide you with information about the application procedure, about the available financial support and the ongoing projects, which may serve as best practice examples for potential applicants. You should also take a look at the Guide for Applicants (Individuals), which has a wealth of useful information for people in all kinds of circumstances.

If you are an organisation that would like to send individuals abroad for practical training or would be interested in hosting trainees, you can receive financial support to cover certain administrative tasks, the preparation of participants (pedagogical, cultural and linguistic), and the participants’ travel and stay abroad. Take a look at the Guide for Applicants (Organisations), which provides advice to all different kinds of sending and hosting organisations.

“We are looking in particular for companies interested in running a Leonardo project,” says Erna Kerschbaum, responsible for the Leonardo Mobility programmes at Austria’s National Agency Österreichischer Austauschdienst. “Educational institutions and associations have become regular partners, but the corporate sector has yet to be convinced of the great benefits of Leonardo and its programmes.”

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