Noelia Cantero is the Director of EARLALL, the European Association of Regional and Local Authorities for Lifelong Learning. EARLALL is a Brussels-based network of regions aiming to contribute to EU policy-making and strengthen multilevel cooperation in the field of lifelong learning. Based on the unique strengths of every region and local authority, EARLALL facilitates regional collaborations and partnerships, as well as an open and rapid exchange of knowledge in a context of trust and confidence. The network was established 25 years ago under the initiative of regional governments willing to build a solid cooperation in the field of lifelong learning. Indeed, EARLALL believes that regions and local authorities have a privileged role in designing and implementing strategies related to it, since they are in direct contact with educational institutions, the business environment and, most notably, citizens.
The EXAM 4.0 project is coming to an end, what are the main achievements you can identify so far? Are there challenges remaining?
Apart from the technical deliverables that the partners have been producing during these months and which are complying with innovation criteria and quality standards, for me the most important achievement has been to develop a good project dynamic and team atmosphere, despite the fact that the partners have not had all together any single physical meeting in more than one year. As regards challenges, excessive workload and time effort to invest in the project is a common issue for most partners. The project is rather ambitious and it is running for only two years. Apart from this more management-oriented challenge, I think that the promotion of the project at local and regional level and the involvement of local stakeholders is proven to be more demanding than what one could think. Challenges and risks have all well being identified by the partners and we are working to overcome them with the best suited solutions.
What does “excellence” mean to you?
Excellence is for me a talent that is outstanding and surpasses commonly agreed or accepted standards in a given area or field. It is not an elitist or excluding “concept” and should be understood as a comprehensive and reachable element and not as an impossible goal. I also believe that to achieve people’s excellence, organisations need to focus on the growth and development of individuals. It is about building capacity, letting people own the process and empowering them. Our responsibility would be to accompany and support them, but to let them shine.
Why is it important that an initiative such as EXAM 4.0 is developed at European level?
As one can well imagine, many are the reasons to defend European cooperation through EU-funded actions in general (including projects as EXAM 4.0): peer learning, sharing of best practices, knowledge acquisition, having fun and meeting new colleagues, etc. However, under the Centres of Vocational Excellence initiative, I believe that the EU support provides a holistic approach, a common understanding and a reference regarding European VET excellence to the rest of the world. Present and future challenges are global and, although they need to be tackled at regional and local level because territories are different and have their own specificities, these challenges need to also be discussed in major international and European hubs.
Discover other initiatives by EARLALL
→ BRIDGE+ (Building up Regional Initiatives to Develop Skills-based GuidancE: A digital multi-actor approach): In the framework of this project, the participating municipalities, regions and partners aimed at building up, testing and implementing new strategies of skills development on a regional level supported by innovative technology.
→ S4Stride (Stride for stride for skills adaptation/anticipation in European regions): With the objective of aligning the education and training provision with regional smart specialisation strategies (S3), the Stride for Stride project (funded by Erasmus+) will work on building up the concept of Regional Skills Ecosystems through best practice exchange.
→ DAMAS (Digital Apprentices Mobility in the Automotive Sector): The project will support the development and use of digital applications for Vocational Education and Training (VET) teachers, boost the digital facilitation of learning processes and integrate supportive, innovative technologies along with digital applications including gamification and virtual reality.