FROM designing events educating British youngsters about the arts in London, to living and working in Slovakia producing the very material that is used to educate youngsters: Felicity Appleby has travelled a long way to put her work experience to use as part of an internship at an NGO.
While her position in Eng-land required her to use existing educational resources, Appleby describes her role in Slovakia as being at the opposite end of this task.
‘I’m coming up with [the resources] from scratch now’ she explained to The Slovak Spectator.
As part of a European Union-funded initiative to mobilise residents from countries within the EU, Appleby travelled to Slovakia as part of a group of ten British graduates, who have all found work placements around the country. From Bratislava to Košice, the participants are interning in a variety of jobs utilising their home-grown skills and experiences.
The group arrived in Slovakia on September 13, as part of the European Training Services (ETS) scheme. Although this scheme has been running since the mid 1980s, 2010 is the first year that Slovakia has been available as a destination for European participants.
Anne Wendt, an ETS representative, said the decision to include Slovakia among the programme’s host countries was due to “a demand in the UK for destinations where participants don’t necessarily have to speak the language in order to do the placement”. She adds that there was a strategic element to the decision; ETS also considered “the potential of eastern European countries and their growing economies”.
As well as the opportunities offered to participants, Wendt told The Slovak Spectator that the host organisations involved in the scheme benefit from the arrangement too. “Native English speakers are very welcome in terms of translation work, researching contacts in the UK, and networking.”
The operation receives funding from the Leonardo da Vinci mobility programme to fund coordination of the scheme in Slovakia, and in other countries.
It works on a multi-level basis. It is funded by the Leonardo da Vinci grant, which is designed to assist the mobility of European citizens, and to encourage international work relations. It is put into practice by ETS, which has bases in England and Wales, and which arranges the open days to which successful applicants are invited in order to be interviewed. It is then conducted within the host country by a local organisation which sources placements for the participants.
Appleby and the rest of the group began their time in Slovakia with a two-week language course in Bratislava, getting to grips with the basics of Slovak. Although the programme in Slovakia is offered as English-speaking – as are others in Italy, the Czech Republic and Estonia – Appleby notes that a rewarding aspect of her time in Slovakia has been using the language.
The participants have been placed in a variety of sectors in the Slovak labour market; from fashion to finance, and in many cases are working for international companies such as KPMG and Jacob Fleming.
As for Appleby, her role – based in Bratislava at Habitat for Humanity, an NGO that aims to provide sustainable housing – involves creating educational packs that are sent out to children around the globe. The packs are completed in English, as they are sent to English and American international schools in countries in central Europe and Asia. Appleby adds that she hopes the resources may also be sent to schools in the Middle East and Africa, where there is currently no project like this.
Her internship will benefit the NGO by raising participation rates, Appleby hopes. Her work for the organisation has helped it create more resources to be distributed around the world. She explains that the packs are aimed at children aged 7 to 14, in order to garner interest in the organisation’s work before they are legally old enough to partake in any of the projects: “we are trying to get them excited about the programme before they actually go on it, get them fundraising, earn[ing] some money before they actually do anything physical.”
In return, the experience has rewarded Appleby with a focused career aspiration. “Before I came here I never thought about working in development, but I really do enjoy it”. Talking about her future ambitions, she comments: “I would definitely either stick with development or education.”
The experience continues for the trainees until the beginning of December. At that point they will have gained three months of work experience in a field related to their career ambitions, and will also have acquired a wider cultural knowledge.
“I think it’s a really good way to see a country; to get involved with an organisation and to work for them, and to actually live there for a while,” says Appleby.
Interviews for Slovakia were conducted by Karol Ovesny from the host company of the Slovak arm of the scheme.
Once the successful applicants were chosen, they were each interviewed once more by the Slovak organisations that offered them an internship. Only after the organisations had registered their approval of the candidates were the interns informed of their success, and could begin preparations for their work.
This differs from the interview process for other European organisations partaking in the ETS scheme. These programmes are arranged on the basis of a single interview, with that country’s host company, at ETS’ sending base in Lichfield. After this, participants are interviewed for internship positions once they have arrived in their destination, during their two-week induction period.
ETS is based in the UK, but Wendt notes that it tries to work “on a reciprocal basis” with its partners. “Organisations send to us, and we send to them”. She notes that one difficulty with coordinating the scheme is in reaching out to unemployed people, explaining that they “lose their benefits when they take part, which prevents many who would really need the programme from participating”.
The mobility scheme offered by the Leonardo da Vinci programme comes under the umbrella of the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme. This means participants can achieve a qualification that traverses borders within Europe, a key factor for many jobseekers.
“I think these days it is really important to have an international dimension to your CV,” said Appleby, adding: “I think there are so many people from different parts of the world with degrees and with masters, and post-grads; that having an experience like this will make you stand out.”
Emily Boyd worked as an ETS intern with The Slovak Spectator.
6. Dec 2010 at 0:00 | Emily Boyd