October 2013

Students get a taste of working life at top European destinations

Read time: approx 4 mins

Ambitious FE students are being urged to apply for coveted free work placements at top European destinations.

UCB has secured funding to give second-year students the opportunity to improve their professional skills and broaden their experience in countries including Cyprus, Portugal, France and Denmark.

Trainee bakers, for example, get the chance to work alongside top craftsmen in the South of France through participation in the prestigious Leonardo Mobility Overseas project.

The EU-backed scheme, that seeks to promote the value of vocational education, is open to young people studying travel and tourism; health and social care; sport; hair and beauty; hospitality and catering; and chefs.

The Level 3 students’ expenses, including flights, local transport, accommodation and a weekly allowance, are paid for.

Selection interviews conducted by UCB’s project co-ordinator Beverley Lord and subject tutors take place in October and November.

Successful students will be informed before the Christmas break and the first group will begin their placements in May 2014. Groups in each of the destinations are assigned experienced mentors who brief them before the placement, encourage team-building activities and provide information on local culture and language lessons.

The mentors accompany students during the placements to ensure their safety and well-being and provide on-the-spot assistance.

The idea is that the students build on their skills, including their confidence and their independence. They get a terrific opportunity to compare the techniques and working practices taught at UCB with those of their European counterparts. The programme helps students to enrich both their professional and personal skills and is a great addition for any CV.

Beverley Lord, UCB’s project co-ordinator

The scheme, which aims to improve the training, skills and employability of participants, continues to go from strength to strength at UCB.

When Bev, a former tourism lecturer, started working on the Leonardo project in 1999, placements were found for 16 UCB students. In 2013, a total of 55 students took part in the three-week placements. Spain will be offered as a destination in 2014, joining France (Marseille and Lyon), Portugal, Cyprus and Denmark.

Competition for places is tough, however, and there were 200 applicants at UCB for the available places in 2013.

When selecting candidates, the panel looks for good class attendance, meeting assignment deadlines, a tutor reference, the correct attitude and a good performance at the interview.

Students often consider working abroad following their courses and the Leonardo scheme provides an opportunity to get a taste of employment, and life, overseas.

Case study: Reece Dunne

Trainee chef Reece Dunne enjoyed a placement in Denmark as part of the Leonardo programme – and seized the opportunity to cook his own menu to paying customers.

Reece, who has now progressed to a Culinary Arts Management foundation degree, said his experience at Brøeggeriet restaurant in Sonderborg delivered a huge boost to his confidence.

The first few days I got used to their menu, the method of working and came to terms with how their kitchen is run. I also had to come up with a menu for their staff food – typical British food! Then through the end of the first week and second week I was mainly working in the à la carte restaurant, which opened only at night. Finally, in my final week I was given the task of coming up with a three-course meal of my own choice which would be sold in the restaurant as a special menu, and only me and Jo [a fellow UCB student] would cook, without any aid from the other chefs. This was definitely the highlight of the trip as I was given freedom in the menu choice. My confidence grew because the head chef put his faith in me.

Reece Dunne, Trainee chef

Reece’s menu featured a starter of glazed sole with mushroom pickle and samphire and a main course of roast poussin, pomme fondant, glazed carrot and a cep jus. The student did his own take on a piña colada for dessert: pineapple consommé, coconut panna cotta and banana brûlée.

My confidence shot up and I came to terms with the fact I am a decent chef, better than I thought. I highly recommended the Leonardo scheme as it gives an insight into how other cultures run their establishments. There was an evident respect from employer to employee.

Reece Dunne, Trainee chef

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