The reality of today is that throughout Europe, almost 14 million people between the ages 18 and 29 do not follow traditional pathways to education, training and jobs. Many of them live in remote rural areas, and lack the opportunities, tools, or motivation to participate in the labour market. The project ‘From Outdoors to Labour Market’ or ‘FOLM’ has an innovative approach to helping young people get out there - literally by bringing them out there.
The future is out there - The Plan
From Outdoors To Labour Market (FOLM) wants to help young people to advance their life and professional skills, so that they can become confident and active citizens. The project is available for anyone aged 18-29, who is not in education, employment, or training (NEETs), and lives in one of the project areas in Poland, Spain and Ireland.
The foundation for this project is the so-called ‘Model for Social and Personal Growth Through Outdoor Learning’, of the University of Edinburgh. In short, this model says that immersion in nature can be a stimulating and innovative means to activate young people. It can help them to recognise their strengths and talents, strengthen their soft skills, build self-esteem and increase self-awareness. It gives them access to the skills and tools they need to take charge of their future.
The project takes place in three European regions: Warmia-Masuria (Poland), Cantabria (Spain), and the Midwest (Ireland). These rural areas show a relatively high percentage of inactive youth and are likely to benefit from innovative plans and activities.
The FOLM project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment.
- Lead partner: Center for Innovative Education, Warsaw Poland
- Beneficiary partners: Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland; Food Bank in Olsztyn, Poland; Council for Education, Culture and Sport of Cantabria, Spain; and the Femxa Group in Spain
- Expertise partners University of Edinburgh & The Venture Trust from the UK are involved to train the trainers of outdoor learning.
You won’t know if you like it until you try it - The execution
Because the project aims at a long-term effect, the programme consists of two parts: a week in nature, and continuous guidance and mentoring afterwards.
Part 1 - Into the wild
After a recruitment period, participants leave the safety of their homes to trek through the wild, in small groups and under the guidance of trained coaches. During this one-week journey, they need to fend for themselves and their groups: sleep in tents, cook in campfires, use what nature has to offer to survive.
The daily activities require an open mindset and invite participants to try new things and work together, while targeted coaching helps them learn more about themselves, their capabilities, and ambitions. After a week in the wild, participants have discovered a new sense of self, a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses - and how to translate them into their daily lives.
Part 2 - Coaching and mentoring - up to 6 months
After spending a week outdoors, the project continues with individual mentoring and practical resources. Participants have access to a Virtual Campus, designed and implemented to contribute to guidance, training, advice, and technical support while finding a job. Job matching activities with employers help build professional networks, which further facilitates integration into the labour market.
“This has changed my future life” - The Results
Over the last few years, a total of 990 young people followed the programme in the three areas. While completing the programme cannot guarantee participants a job, they do find themselves in a much better place to find one. Group members say they have accomplished things they never expected and are finding their way to new plans - through training courses, internships, and a useful network.
“I became more sociable and outgoing, which led to a kickstart of my videographer career,” says Andrey Shamray - one of the early participants. After documenting his own journey on video, he remained involved with the project, recording other expeditions for the FOLM YouTube channel. Now, he is running his own audiovisual production company Shamray Vision, working for clients throughout Spain.
“A year later, I can say that it was the FOLM project that became the starting point for my personal growth. I can definitely recommend it to all those who are a little confused and are looking for support. This project is for you.” Andrey Shamray, FOLM- participant
Unfortunately - like many other initiatives - this project was seriously challenged by the COVID-19 situation, as participants are often in close contact with trainers, coaches, and other participants. The expeditions will start up again as soon as local measures allow for it and in the meantime, there are online activities to stay in touch with each other.
Ready for the next adventure - The Future
From the very beginning, the goal of the project managers has been to implement this innovative approach to education wherever it is needed. After the first pilot phase in 2018, the project scaled up from 30 to 300 participants per country. The uniqueness of the project is that it has a thorough foundation of scientific substantiation and operational and policy recommendations. Each area follows the same programme, which enables a comparison of the effects and structured implementation in other areas.
“We know that outdoor learning is the future when it comes to education, not only for the inactive youth, but for communities as a whole. It is our great ambition to implement the FOLM-model in other regions as well.”
Jorge Gimeno Pawlowski,
Center for Innovative Education
Want to contribute?
The organisation is always on the lookout for new regions that would benefit from this leaning model. In addition, any business, company or institution interested in working with the FOLM programme, and promoting the employability of unemployed young people between 18 and 29 years of age in Ireland, Spain or Poland, can become involved. Get in touch with the organisation through https://www.folmweb.com/en/institutions/collaborate,
This is just one of many projects funded through the Fund for Youth Employment, brought to life by EEA and Norway Grants Programme to contribute to sustainable and quality youth employment in Europe. Do you want to learn more about our projects? Visit our programme page here.
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