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Celebrating Skills for Life: Reflections from The Gathering 2023
Work of Graphic Recorder Esther Blodau capturing The Gathering 2023
From European Year of Youth to Year of Skills
Each year, the European Commission launches an awareness campaign encouraging EU countries and their National Agencies, non-profit organisations, and citizens to engage in various activities and discussions around a central theme.
In 2022, the theme was European Year of Youth, calling all young people to make their voice heard to build a greener, inclusive, and digital future. Léargas was the designated National Coordinator for the European Year of Youth and funded over 100 projects ranging from creative arts (Make a Movie: Tell Your Story!), mental health (Mindfulness and Wellbeing at Loch Dann), and climate change (Climate Action Days School programme).
In May 2022, we held our highlight event All Aboard where we invited young people from all over Ireland to hop aboard a train from Dublin to Cork to discover the opportunities for Youth in Europe, like DiscoverEU, European Solidarity Corps, Eurodesk, and Erasmus+.
Next stop: Year of Skills 2023
The European Year of Skills 2023 is all about helping people acquire the right skills for employment, enrichment, and enjoyment by showcasing skills development opportunities and activities in Europe.
To celebrate and encourage skills development, we packed our annual flagship event, The Gathering, with inspiring speeches, networking opportunities and a panel discussion that emphasised how EU programmes enable participants to acquire personal and professional skills that will remain with them for life.
Speaking at The Gathering, EU Commissioner for Ireland, Barbara Nolan, stated that,
“The overall objective of the European Year of Skills is to promote a mindset of upskilling and reskilling for the labour market, with a particular focus on green and digital transformations which are opening up new types of job opportunities in the economy. The Year of Skills is a unique opportunity to deliver on the ground. The goal is to shift from policy to action. The European Year of Skills will build on last year’s European Year of Youth, highlighting the urgency to equip young people with skills for the future.”
The Gathering was a great opportunity to showcase the work of Léargas especially through our workshops, which ranged from Digital Storytelling for Impact and Dissemination to Recognition of Non-Formal Learning, and through our Human Library, where participants could ask questions and discuss project ideas with Léargas staff. It was amazing to see so many people engaged!
It’s never too late to start learning...
Fostering a culture of continuous upskilling and reskilling is one of the goals of the EYS, and the importance of lifelong learning was greatly emphasised at The Gathering by all our inspirational speakers. We first heard from Andrew Brownlee, CEO of SOLAS, who spoke about the transformation of Further Education and Training (FET) and how building international links can help with the learning journey, and from Dr. Nuala Whelan, Researcher and Lecturer at Maynooth University, who spoke about the critical role of guidance in helping people flourish on their path of lifelong learning. This powerful concept was also echoed by Minister Seán Fleming TD:
"The EU Year of Skills promotes a lifelong learning mindset. Education skills and continuous learning are the most robust and lasting means to ensure our country's greatest asset is our people. International experience is a massive plus and a star on any CV. European programmes, such as Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps, are without doubt a core part of these strategies."
There is nothing more inspiring than hearing beneficiaries describe how EU programmes have improved their life, and we made sure to capture their voices.
One of our past beneficiaries, Eurobug, an Irish NGO which promotes diversity and social inclusion of ethnic minority youth, decided that words were not enough to express the spirit of the EU programmes and performed a touching song in front of the audience. We are not gonna lie - we still get goose bumps every time we listen to it!
In line with this year’s topic, we asked some of the past participants to tell us about the skills they have developed thanks to EU programmes, and we collected their impact stories in a video which was shown at the event.
Finally, the floor was given to our six panellists, all who are past beneficiaries of European programmes. Each panelist brought with them an object that represented their time abroad and shared how their participation in EU programmes impacted their professional and personal lives.
You can read about their touching stories in our blog "No matter your age, take that step".
From left to right, radio presenter Michaela Hayes, Abigail Fonlari, Nisa Aga, Sally Galiana, Aisling Brown, Amy Ennis, and Lisa Downes.