Eurodyssey, the AER’s flagship youth mobility programme, has been facilitating opportunities for young individuals across the participating regions since 1985. The programme offers remunerated traineeships, completed with accommodation and language training, along with a range of cultural and social activities. Every year, the Eurodyssey Forum, the programme’s flagship event, is hosted and co-organised by one of the participating regions. There, Eurodyssey correspondents, coordinators, trainees and alumni from all over Europe come together to discuss and assess the programme’s implementation, achievements, challenges, and the developments they wish to see for its future. The Forum also offers the opportunity for regions interested in joining the programme to attend, to provide them with an opportunity to meet in person with the participating regions, and to discuss the implications, benefits and obligations of being part of Eurodyssey.
The Eurodyssey Forum 2023 took place in Ponta Delgada, Azores, 6-9 November, marking the second in-person gathering since the pandemic, the previous one being in Cyprus last year. Representatives from member regions were keenly anticipating this reunion, drawn by the appealing location and engaging activities. The event saw a remarkable turnout, peaking at 150 participants on the first day. The regional Government of Azores, through the Regional Directorate for Professional Qualification and Employment, co-organised the event together with the AER Secretariat, ensuring that all participants could benefit from an enriching experience at the Forum.
The Forum began with a lovely welcome reception at a traditional Azorean restaurant, opened by distinguished speakers from the AER and from the host region. The attendees had the chance to discover local food, and to experience a cultural showcase of traditional Azorean dances and music.
The firstday of activities at the Forum began on the 7th of November, with keynote speeches from the AER President, the Eurodyssey President, and Maria João Carreiro, Regional Secretary for Youth, Professional Qualification and Employment. The speakers began a paramount discussion about youth unemployment and the necessity for mobility programmes such as Eurodyssey in upskilling young people and preparing them for the job market.
Delving further into the topic, the Forum continued with a plenary session focused on ‘Youth mobility and skill development in rural and peripheral areas’. Here, Sofia Marques da Silva, representing the Centre for Research and Intervention in Education at the University of Porto, Susana Mira Leal, Rector at the University of Azores, Antonella delle Donne, European Projects Director at the Sardinian Agency of Active Labour Policies (ASPAL), and Quentin Legouy, Young Elected Politician at the European Committee of the Regions, debated on the role of mobility programmes in upskilling youth from rural and peripheral areas, providing concrete examples of the issues young people from such areas encounter when seeking employment or professional development.
The panellists addressed the many reasons why young people choose to leave or to return to their home regions. They mentioned the need to develop opportunities and mobility at local and regional level, for young people to have access to quality education, training and employment at home, and also valued the access to international mobility programmes, for young individuals to broaden their horizons and gain experience in other countries and regions.
Eurodyssey stands as an exemplary model of a mobility programme meticulously crafted to enhance the skills of young individuals, providing them with the chance to acquire valuable professional experience in diverse European regions. Participation in the programme facilitates numerous advantages, and fosters a necessary immersion into the cultural, social, and professional customs of the host region. This unique experience significantly contributes to both personal and professional development.
The Forum continued with the first capacity-building workshop, focusing on the intricate dynamics of hosting and sending Eurodyssey trainees. Here, correspondents from the participating regions had the chance to gather in a more relaxed setting and to share, through peer-learning, their best practices, challenges, difficulties and ideas on the day-to-day management and development of the programme.
The following day included two other pivotal workshops, one dedicated to internal communications within the programme, and the other centred on external communications and promotion of Eurodyssey. The overarching objective of these workshops was to foster collaboration between the participating regions. The first workshop, through coaching, aimed at improving cohesion, understanding, sharing of information and internal communication flows among the Eurodyssey regions. The second workshop, through sharing of experience and good practices, aimed to collectively outline optimal communication and promotion strategies for the programme.
Testimonies from Eurodyssey Trainees and Alumni
The Forum also included a special moment dedicated to Eurodyssey Trainees and Alumni, allowing them to talk about their experiences with the programme. Miguel Borges Pombo, Eurodyssey Alumni, shared insights into his transformative journey as a Eurodyssey trainee in Brussels and the subsequent success of his entrepreneurial venture – a renowned skincare company, Ignae. He made a direct link between the skills he acquired during his participation in the programme, and the establishment of his company. The latter incorporates natural ingredients from the Azores, thereby making a direct and positive impact on the region’s economy. In doing so, Miguel presented a tangible example of regional development stemming from the combination of youth mobility and skills enhancement, when young people come back to their home region upskilled and with their horizons broadened.
A group of trainees currently in the Azores shared details about their Eurodyssey experience, emphasising the many opportunities and benefits offered by the programme. They showcased their professionally-realised video, featuring other trainees in the region showcasing their daily work and talking about their traineeships in the Azores.
On the final day of the Forum, exclusive activities were reserved for the Eurodyssey member regions, specifically the Statutory Matters, State of Membership, Activity Report, and the elections of the Steering Committee for the next two-year mandate. Representatives from each participating region cast their votes for the Eurodyssey President and the Steering Committee members. Esther Estany (Catalonia) was unanimously re-elected as President. The elected members of the Eurodyssey Steering Commmittee and their contact details can be found here.
Exploring the Azores
The Eurodyssey Forum incorporated two enriching study visits to key attractions on São Miguel Island, including the breathtaking Sete Cidades, the Gorreana Tea Factory, and Furnas, where participants explored an active volcano and savoured delicious food prepared in volcanic craters. These outdoor visits beautifully complemented the event, transforming it into an unforgettable experience.
Eurodyssey in the local press and news!
Local media outlets showed keen interest in covering the event, resulting in the Forum being covered on regional TV, radio broadcasts, and dedicated columns in the local newspaper throughout the week. This media attention not only highlighted the significance of the Forum, but also underscored its impact on the local community and beyond.