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ColegauCymru

For the team at ColegauCymru/CollegesWales, the Turing Scheme has opened up new opportunities for international study and work experiences, including the first overseas placements taught in Welsh.
Sian Holleran in front of Colleges Wales banner

Some £1.4 million of funding secured under the scheme will be shared between 13 member further education (FE) colleges in Wales after the organisation made a successful consortium application.

The money will be used to send more than 500 learners from across the country on trips involving 28 partner organisations in 19 countries around the world, with activities involving vocational learners, apprentices and A level students.

Extending reach and opportunity

Sian Holleran, International Coordinator for ColegauCymru, feels that FE colleges, with their focus on vocational skills, are the key to turning the UK Government’s ‘levelling up’ and Global Britain objectives into reality.

“We wanted to extend the reach of activities, so we are working with partners worldwide rather than just Europe,” she said. “We have also widened participation from a purely vocational model in previous programmes to involve academic A-Level students.”

The Turing Scheme aims to make access to international experiences more accessible to students from disadvantaged backgrounds or with additional learning needs.

“We’re targeting those learners.” Sian said. “We are giving opportunities to students who might not otherwise get these chances.

“We thought around a quarter of participants would fit the profile, but it has ended up being nearer 50% in that category, it may be even more in some subject areas.

“Lecturers explained the programme to their cohort of learners and took expressions of interest through a letter explaining their motivation for wanting to take part in the placement. They were surprised at the people who made it through the selection process. It successfully measured their level of commitment.”

Rural health care

One initiative that is already at the advanced planning stage is being organised by Aberystwyth-based Coleg Ceredigion for their health science students. The planned visit will enable 10 learners to travel to Alberta, Canada, to experience the challenges facing rural health and social care services in the province and compare them with the methods used to deliver similar services in rural areas of Mid-Wales.

“The recruitment process has tried to make learners feel as if they have earned their place. They have chosen 10 learners from the course including disadvantaged students and one student with additional learning needs,” said Sian.

Taking Welsh to Patagonia

Another, particularly exciting, project will see Welsh-speaking students visit the Patagonia region of Argentina. Patagonia has a historic connection with Wales and has around 5,000 speakers of Patagonian Welsh. The visit will aim to strengthen ties between the two communities as well as provide students with professional experience.

They will be working with a community college in Patagonia and helping to deliver lessons and sports coaching sessions in Welsh. The international scope of the Turing Scheme funding has made it significantly easier to fund the visit.

With a Welsh Government target of having one million fluent Welsh speakers by 2050, Sian feels that colleges have a role to play, particularly for people wanting to follow a more vocational career path.

“In areas such as health and social care, childcare and sport, there is a real demand for Welsh-speaking workers, so colleges are being encouraged to run courses through the medium of Welsh,” she said.

Other trips currently being developed include a visit to Zimbabwe by animal care learners from Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion who will assist on a programme that trains dogs to work alongside anti-poaching rangers. Bridgend College students with additional learning needs will be working with partners in Cincinnati, Ohio and Kentucky on a ‘transition to work’ programme.

ColegauCymru acts as the voice and is the first point of contact for the FE sector in Wales and used its 10 years of experience in international programmes to support and facilitate bids for Turing Scheme funding from colleges across the country.

“One of our worries was that we had built up a strong network of European partners, but not that many worldwide. Some of these exciting visits are from partnerships the colleges have had for a number of years but have lacked the funding to do anything with,” Sian said.

For more information on which organisations have received Turing Scheme funding, visit our funding results page.