Is there value in international study trips?
14 July 2016 at 10:10 am
Applications for 2016 Macquarie Group Foundation Innovation Fellowship are now open. Paul Edginton, the CEO of SYC, a national Not for Profit centred on employment, training and youth services was the joint winner in 2014. Here he reflects on the value of international study trips.
I was recently a plenary speaker at the Social Capital Conference in Adelaide where an audience member asked if I thought international study trips were of value to the Not for Profit sector. In short, my answer was yes. There is enormous value, but why?
Fifteen years of experience in the sector tells me that seeing policy or practice in action, discussing the mistakes, successes and inspirations, is just as important a learning as the final design itself.
My experience as a David Clarke Social Innovation Fellow is a great example of this. I was fortunate to be the recipient of the fellowship in 2014 which allowed me to travel to Germany, Switzerland and the UK to examine youth employment policies and strategies in those countries.
When arriving in Germany, it was immediately obvious to me that in Australia we have many of the same pieces of the education, training and employment puzzle as the Germans and Swiss, however the way we arrange the pieces is inherently different. This was evident in the way both countries create and implement vocational policies – unions and chambers of commerce place a high value on consensus when designing and evaluating vocational education attainment.
As well as learning how different countries construct their policies and programs, it is also the small, nuanced experiences that can only happen when you are in a country and talking with others working in the same field that can offer the greatest learning. I experienced this during a visit to a trade school in Bonn when I couldn’t find where to “sign in” at reception. My German hosts looked at me with amusement as I explained that in Australia adults are not permitted on site at schools without signing in and conducting a background screening check. Their response was, “if you treat your young people like children until they are 20, don’t be surprised if you have 20 year old children who can’t interact with adults”. It made me think that perhaps some of our attitudes and practices could be hindering our young people when transitioning from school to work.
The fellowship also allowed me to visit the UK. I had previously visited in 2010 and thought it may provide a contrast to the German and Swiss systems, as the youth unemployment rate in the UK mirrors that of Australia, whereas Germany and Switzerland both have youth unemployment rates below 7 per cent.
I met with a group of senior managers from one of the UK’s large employment providers who shared with me their experience in helping young people find work. In an almost “by the way” remark, they said it takes a young person between four to seven different jobs in their first year of work before they settle into a steady job. They measure success by the young person remaining in work, with as few breaks in between jobs as possible, and viewing the number of hours worked at each job as a measurement of success.
From this experience in the UK, SYC has adapted these learnings to develop the Sticking Together Pilot Project which will trial in Australia next year. If we can support a young person to maximise their work (irrespective of the number of jobs or pay rates) over the course of an entire year, this can create a feeling of success for a young person, rather than viewed as “job hopping” or seen as a failure to connect with the labour force.
Inspiration for this new project was a result of the trips I completed and the people I met. Seeing and experiencing first-hand is key to expanding, knowing what we can do better and how we fit into the youth employment puzzle.
About the author: Paul Edginton is the chief executive officer of SYC, a national Not for Profit centred on employment, training and youth services. Edington was the joint winner of the Macquarie Group Foundation’s 2014 David Clarke Social Innovation Fellowship in Australia.
Applications for the 2016 Fellowship open on 13 July, 2016. Visit here for more information and to apply.