testimony by Nik Paddison about Bridges for Trainers and the Guild

The most recent edition of the biennial “Bridges for Trainers” conference took place in late 2016 in Vienna, Austria. It allowed for more than 130 stakeholders in the field of European youth work training, especially trainers, to gather, share practices, network, and discuss current developments. The focus of the meeting was put on the political dimension of European youth work training.

Nik Paddison, a freelance trainer from UK with residence in Montenegro, participated and provides us with some of his insights:

Gather and meet

The end of November saw the 2nd Bridges for Trainers event take place in Vienna, Austria. More than 130 youth work trainers, National Agency staff, SALTO people, and representatives of the major institutions gathered together to discuss trainer issues and related subjects. The main focus of the event was the introduction of the 7th International Trainer Competence: Integrating a political Dimension into the Trainers Work.

group work, a certain Mr. Taylor casually spying in

While the main focus was on the political competence of a trainers work, there was another important aspect of this biennial event, that of a space provided for European level trainers and their colleagues to gather and meet.

Competence framework

Marco Frimberger (NA AT) and Udo Teichmann (SALTO T&C RC) tête-à-tête highlighting the history of the European Training Strategy (ETS)

Two years ago, I attended the first Bridges for Trainers event in Bonn, Germany, where the initial Competence Framework for trainers was being introduced. The introduction of the Competence Framework felt like a big step towards the recognition of trainers in this European youth field. There was a lot of discussion on how this framework could be used to support trainers both personally and in their professional development. Much of this was stated in the context of National Agency pools and of the different SALTO teams of trainers. The discussions were framed around how these different bodies could work to support the trainers and how teams of trainers who work together on a regular basis can work with each other to support each other’s development.

Pools versus independence

As an independent freelance trainer, I do not have such systems or at least I have a very limited version of this. I rarely work with the same person twice, maybe once a year for some of the organisations I go back to on a regular basis. I do have support networks and am part of different pools of trainers for different European youth networks and organisations, and am a member of the Council of Europe Pool. I am probably better off than many others in our field in terms of the amount of support I can access. However, at the end of the meeting in Bonn I made a statement asking the organisers to remember that not all trainers have such support and that many of us are independent freelancers.

no one has the right to obey

This year at the Bridges for Trainers I met quite a lot of other trainers who are independents, who had been selected by various National Agencies or supported to attend by a SALTO. I felt that there was a lot more awareness from the organisers this time that we are not all in these Erasmus+ teams and pools. I don’t say any of this as a criticism, the reality is there are these pools, they should be there, they are necessary, and not everyone can be in them. The fact that there was more recognition of the diversity of trainers in our field I really appreciated.

learning island provided by the IYWT Guild

office X-mas party for freelancers

Bridges felt like a place for European level trainers – regardless of status, position or membership, it was a place that shared current issues, approaches, difficulties and frustrations – as well as a place to learn with peers. It was not the main or official part of the Bridges for Trainers, but the opportunity to be there and to be among people who do more or less the same job is already a huge support and should not be underestimated. The moments of drinking a glass of wine or beer or playing a Ukulele, not even talking about being a trainer, are just as important as the sessions focussing on our competence development.

There are not many opportunities for many trainers to meet on a regular basis. Even if we are connected on Facebook and other social medias, it is not the same as face to face meeting. For sure there were moments of tensions, arguments, and disagreements. But knowing you are a part of something bigger, that is important and reviving and encouraging. As Anita Silva said at one of the dinners during Bridges, “this is the closest a freelance trainer can come to having an office Christmas party”.

an independent supportive community …

Sources of support

What I want to highlight at the end of this blog piece is that the Guild is providing another source of support to trainers. Regardless of whether we are full time independent or part of one pool or another, the Guild offers a form of shared identity and a sense of belonging. The Guild cannot offer regular meetings for large numbers of trainers and that is not its purpose. For me it is a place to share discussions, concerns, issues, new approaches, latest P/political perspectives, to promote and represent trainers to the big institutions, and to further the recognition of our profession. It is a place for me to know I am part of something bigger than just me, my laptop and the next training course I am designing for an organisation somewhere…

About Nik …

Nik has a background as a youth worker from the UK. He is a full time freelance trainer, conducting training of trainers, youth workers, leaders, volunteers and activists in the European youth field. He also works as a writer, consultant, copy editor and wearer of odd-socks. He loves developing educational games, activities, theories and approaches related to the youth field in the context of non-formal learning.

These days he is living by the sea in Montenegro and trying to live a more Mediterranean lifestyle but that North European mentality keeps getting in the way! Having long breakfasts with a book in the sun, growing herbs (the legal variety) and playing board games are his main hobbies when at home.

pictures by Giselve Evrard Markovic