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Go further – what the Turing Scheme offers Further Education

In this guest blog, Emma Meredith, International Director at the Association Of Colleges, looks at what the Turing Scheme can offer the FE/VET sector and its learners.
Students discuss work outside

My earliest memory of international engagement is aged five. The location was a French campsite, and my dad had taught me how to ask some of the French kids (in French) if they wanted to play. As an only child my choice was to ask them or play on my own. With my basic language skills, a mustering of confidence and an open mind about how they would respond, I asked. They said yes, and voilà – the rest is histoire.
Decades later, I’ve made a career in international education and the same interpersonal skills apply (although hopefully I’ve developed them a bit since). Travel abroad – in any capacity – is a privilege, yet not everyone has the chance to experience it. Experiencing another country and other cultures helps with navigating and understanding the world we live in. That is why the Turing Scheme is an opportunity not to be missed for the UK’s education sector, as it funds outbound study and work placement opportunities for students, with a particular focus on those from disadvantaged communities.
For Further Education (FE), the Turing Scheme offers three different types of activity. First, institutions can send their students overseas for study periods at partner institutions. Secondly, they can use Turing Scheme funding for work placements or traineeships abroad. Thirdly, institutions can organise participation in international skills competitions. Furthermore, the Turing Scheme’s schools, FE and HE strands are open to FE providers, so that groups from different study levels can benefit.

Improving employability prospects

At the Association of Colleges, we know from historic data on student exchanges, mobilities and skills competitions how much of a difference an international experience makes to FE students. Completing a work placement abroad, for example, develops interpersonal skills such as team-working, communication and problem-solving. It also helps with personal confidence and technical knowledge, leading to improved employability prospects.
Looking at some of the social media posts of FE students completing some of the first Turing Scheme placements (in a range of enviable global locations), I see young people putting their skills to the test, meeting their international counterparts and having a great time into the bargain. Their testimonials will be invaluable to helping future groups prepare and encouraging other institutions to apply for funding.
The UK college sector has made good use of learning and teaching technology during the pandemic. Technology makes it much simpler, quicker and cost-effective to communicate internationally, and is invaluable to preparations for a successful overseas trip. Yet whilst COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, international travel from the UK is becoming easier again. The Turing Scheme provides the chance for students to now complete work and study placements in person, something that hasn’t been possible for a few years, and that sadly whole cohorts of young people have missed out on.

Begin planning for next year

One of the reasons that I’m pleased to represent the FE sector on Capita’s Turing Scheme Advisory Board is to ensure as many FE students as possible can benefit from the scheme, just as I have benefitted from opportunities overseas in the past.
The deadline to apply for 2022-23 Turing Scheme funding has now passed. But don’t stop reading here. Even if you didn’t apply for Turing this year, the good news is that funding has been committed for another two years. Some £24.8 million was already awarded to the FE sector in year one of the Turing Scheme. Funded visits can be relatively short, to anywhere in the world, and flexible.
So take the time to think about it, to talk to or develop your international connections, and plan for next year. Speak to other FE institutions about how they’ve managed their Turing awards – you can even apply as a consortium – but most importantly, consider how much of a difference the Turing Scheme could make to the student experience and young people’s life chances.
To learn more about FE/VET opportunities with the Turing Scheme visit our dedicated webpage.

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