From the Valleys to Venice, these learners went the extra air-mile for their future career

A group of learners from South Wales have jumped on the opportunity to get an international perspective on their dream careers working with children, after swapping the Valleys for the Mediterranean to take part in an intensive work placement in northern Italy.

Keira-Lee Walker (18), Sian Lawrence (17), Gemma Lynch (35) and Leah Oakes-Bickford (18), have spent the last fortnight working abroad as part of a trip arranged by their college tutors.

Organised as part of the ERASMUS+ EU funding programme, the trip allowed the four children’s care learners from Coleg y Cymoedd to gain experience with a nursey and primary school in the Northern Italian town of Castelfranco Veneto, just 25 miles from Venice.

The two-week trip was an opportunity to experience different education systems and approaches to childcare and early years education. During the placement the learners gained insights into how the Italian curriculum and culture differs to the UK, while also sharing the child care skills they’ve gained in Wales.

Keira-Lee Walker from Aberbargoed hopes to become a teaching assistant after completing her studies. Reflecting on the opportunity she said: “I’d always wanted to experience teaching in another country and this trip has been incredibly eye-opening.

“It’s so interesting to see the differences in how early years are taught in Italy and I hope the experience working aboard with children from different cultures will help me to stand out when I finish college and look for my first job. Everyone at the schools was very friendly, I felt at home amongst the staff and felt like a part of the school despite the language barrier.”

Sian Lawrence, from Caerphilly added: “When I heard about the placement, I knew I had to apply. I saw it as the perfect chance to push myself and try something new. Going to Italy was lovely, but I think it’s the confidence gained from facing the challenge of trying something so different that will really benefit in my future.”

As well as gaining hands on work experience in Castelfranco, the learners also got the chance to explore some of Italy’s culture, taking part in sight-seeing trips in the region and visiting the nearby city of Venice.

Discussing the benefits of a placement abroad, mature learner Gemma Lynch, who hopes to work as a community nurse added: “If anyone else has the opportunity to study abroad, I would say go for it. You’ll learn so much, both professionally and personally.”

Back in Wales, each of the learners is studying for a level 3 Extended Diploma in Children’s Care, Learning and Development at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach campus. At the end of the year, they’ll have the choice of progressing to university or launching careers as teaching assistants, one-to-one support assistants, nursery nurses, or children’s holiday reps. 

Leah Oakes-Bickford, plans to take the university route to a career as a one-to-one teacher: “It has been so interesting to see how other children are taught in another part of the world. The experience has increased my skills working with children and helped me to build my confidence.” Angela Jones, course tutor at Coleg y Cymoedd’s School of Care said: “The trip to Italy was a great chance for Keira-Lee, Sian, Gemma and Leah to seize the opportunity to experience different styles of teaching and utilise the skills they have worked hard to develop here at the college.

“Experiencing different approaches to education in other cultures offers a chance to explore new practises which they can use in their future careers. It’s a skillset that is sure to help them stand out from the crowd and we will continue to offer our learners the chance to access similar opportunities that will to help them excel.”