Findings and general guidelines

The participation in the "Catch it! Non-formal academy of activities" project allowed for important learning and sharing experiences for the project partners. Please find them below.

• An increased focus on soft skills - and understanding of the importance of soft skills, to ensure success in the student’s first job.
• When we get feedback from our internship-organizations, they mention ‘cooperation’ and ‘ability to get things done’ as important skills for their interns. And these skills are much better supported through non-formal learning than through formal learning. This underlines the fact that the labor market is actually asking more for soft skills than hard skills.
• We have been forced to think the non-formal learning into a formal setting. And awareness of the challenges that this clash may give.
• Especially the formal structures often challenge the non-formal concept.
• Before the non-formal learning can have the most successful circumstances, the formal frames must be clear.
• Non-formal learning activities are especially effective when used in a multicultural context.
• The students are more motivated when they decide themselves which tools and principles they will use while solving the case.
• Using non-formal learning makes it possible to involve young people with different backgrounds, knowledge.
• We are more aware that we need to tell the learners that now they are part of a non-formal learning process. Then they will have better understanding for the non-defined methods.
• It is also important for a teacher to accept that not everything is planned when teaching non-formal learning, and he/she can have an overall control of the process.
• The process in non-formal learning is just as important as the product.
• A discussion of how to assess non-formal learning in a formal context where grades are required.
• For obtaining the best results, it is important to follow up on the participants’ individual outcome during the process.
• Always be clear about the purpose and plan the process in relation to the people participating in the program.

• there is a big need to assess skills, competences and attitudes, developed via non-formal learning
• employers take into consideration skills as well as carried-out non-formal learning activities when reviving CVs, job applications and during interviews with candidates
• employers take into consideration skills as well as carried-out non-formal learning activities especially if applicants have a relevant experience from those activities, in relation to the position they are applying for
• young people should present the skills and competences developed by participation in non-formal learning activities in their CVs and job applications, not only if they are asked about it during an interview
• as involvement in youth organization is usually voluntary, it can show employers the motivation of a candidate to get engaged with something
• when university students or vocational upper-secondary students pick an internship company, they are not always free to choose the one they would like (usually it has to be an internship connected with their field of study, specialization); offering a non-formal internship scheme gives opportunities to get engaged with any topic they find interesting
• participants get more engaged when they know that a solution for a real case is open - not set by a teacher/professor
• being engaged in non-formal activities helps young people to: function more independently; work in a group with people they would not make friends when socializing; develop contacts - do networking
• participation in a non-formal internship scheme helps young people to be more aware of employment opportunities
• non-formal learning can be used by companies to develop soft skills of their employees, such as: communication skills, planning skills and team work skills
• young people are aware that they develop their skills and competences through their involvement in non-formal learning activities and that it can help them to find a job in the future
• NGOs offering non-formal learning activities should cooperate with companies to be better recognized as a provider of learning opportunities for young people, which give valuable skills and competences for young people; this will lead to a better recognition of skills and competences of future employees (especially during an assessment for a job opening).

The participation in the project allowed for important learning and sharing experiences at two main levels. Firstly, the sharing of experiences and practices from different project partners significantly allowed for the expansion of understanding and characterising the potential of non-formal learning opportunities and its relevance for qualifications of young professionals. The project gathered different countries, but importantly, partners with different organisational profiles and therefore different target segments of young professionals. For an academic partner, like the University of Aveiro, that is usually focused on university students’ qualifications and learning. This type of blending is of utmost importance  because it widens the scope of analysis, action and impact. Also, because the university students will be involved in very diverse teams in their future jobs and ventures, it is important to foster contacts and understanding among professionals with formal academic education with others who followed different qualification alternatives. Secondly, the project promoted a discussion on a specific dimension of qualifications that are on the agenda of discussions about the future of jobs and qualifications: the competences required to interact and work in internationalised contexts. This is a demanding future where young professionals will have to make use of intercultural intelligence in order to effectively work in international teams, but will also have to be familiarised with technological competences which enable them to conduct effective work, often, in geographically disperse project teams to which this scenario, while developing the method of Non-formal academy of activities, was addressed. It led to an agenda of activities that included face-to-face as well as technology mediated interactions among the young people involved, and therefore, promoted intensive (experiential) learning. There was also a pilot scenario for educators and others involved in qualification of young professionals to observe emerging qualification needs that must be addressed in the near future.