RC4VETS: “PCO”

Eduardo del Reguero
18 min readOct 2, 2023
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Within the framework of the “Real Challenges for VET Students — RC4VETS” project in Slovenia, a challenge involving the company BIZ Brglez was initially planned as part of the application process. However, due to unforeseen delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had already completed the intended tasks. Consequently, they made the decision to withdraw from the project.

Inside PCO we contacted several other organizations, which would be suitable for participating in the project, and presented them with the idea of the project. Some of them have had some ideas, what they would like to have and one of them has been the restaurant Parangal. Although cooperation with the Parangal restaurant was agreed upon, we thought it reasonable to include our work — the work of an educational institution — in the challenge. In this way, we give students an insight into the operation of the school.

The presentation of the challenge has been on the 14th of October for all participants in the project. The coordinator of the project Sergeja Brglez presented the institution and the challenge. Later on she answered also the questions of the teachers and the students.

The LTTA was going on from the 24th — 28th of October in Izola, Slovenia. At the LTTA were present 10 teachers or coordinators and 17 students. During the LTTA were actually two challenges, therefor the days were divided on both challenges, the Parangal and the PCO challenge.

The LTTA has been also rated from the coordinators, teachers and students. On the question “Overall, how satisfied were you with the LTTA?” the participants answered with 91% that they were very satisfied and 9% answered that they were satisfied. The were no lower marks.

After the LTTA the students continued to work on the challenge and prepared the final products of the challenge. They have received additional photos from the restaurant as well as some additional information, which appeared after the LTTA.

The results have been presented to the director of PCO while they arose. This also allowed the students to be immediately aware of the usefulness and results of their work.

II. Business partner involved: Poklicni center Obala

The Professional Center Obala (PCO) serves as the central organisation for vocational education in the southern Primorska region. Initially established to meet the demand for national vocational qualifications, the center has since expanded its scope to encompass various educational domains.

Over time, PCO has established itself as a provider of comprehensive education for young adults and individuals in diverse fields. PCO has secured numerous authorizations for assessing and validating competencies, covering national vocational qualifications as well as other forms of formal and informal education. Distinguished by its comprehensive range of educational offerings and knowledge assessments across diverse fields, PCO stands out as one of the few institutions with such capabilities.

With an array of offerings, PCO serves as a secondary school for aspiring caregivers, nurses, and shop assistants. The center’s involvement in EU projects caters to students and the local community alike. PCO takes a comprehensive approach to education by extending its services to the business sector, offering training to both employers and employees.

While language education has temporarily been put on hold due to workload constraints, PCO continues to excel in specialized educational programs tailored for employed individuals working in specific fields. These programs often incorporate national exams for comprehensive skill validation.

Personal education remains a cornerstone of PCO’s approach, fostering individual growth and development. As PCO approaches its 10 year anniversary, its role as an educational catalyst in the coastal region becomes increasingly evident, driven by a commitment to continuous improvement and a holistic approach to learning.

III. Challenge description

Title: PCO

Main idea:

One of the notable weak points that has come to light for PCO, is its limited online visibility. This aspect has highlighted the need for a more robust and engaging digital presence. With a renewed focus on addressing this issue and striving for greater participation from adult learners, PCO is taking proactive steps toward resolving these issues.

A diverse group of students, each specializing in different areas and coming from various countries, united to tackle PCO’s challenges. These students had distinct skills in fields like marketing, technology, public relations, etc.

The challenge consisted of two main activities:

A: Reinvigorating PCO’s social media engagement.

  • Address the challenge of resuming posts on the current Facebook page.
  • Evaluating whether to revive a current Facebook page or create a new one.
  • Selection of additional social media platforms (maximum 3)

B: Devising an effective marketing strategy

  • Develop a strategy on how to address the reluctance and embarrassment felt by adults in Slovenia to return to school.
  • Develop a presentation video that encapsulates PCO’s mission and impact.

The participants should receive practical knowledge in:

  • Soft skills, especially in communication with costumers, like approach to the client, appropriate communication with the client, target-oriented communication and appropriateness of questions, public speaking.
  • Business relevant skills in public relations, like the overall graphic image of the company, public visibility and the use of the overall graphic image in the preparation of advertising and advertising guidelines.
  • IT and social media skills, with special emphasis on user accounts, multi-functionality and usability in marketing.

Participants involved:

In the challenge were involved 25 people. From this, there were 10 coordinators/teachers and instructors, as well as 15 students from all participating schools.

Further on the statistical analysis will be focusing only on the participating students, and not on teacher/trainers or instructors.

The group has been mostly represented by female students. In the challenge participated 10 female students and 7 male students. The average age of the participants has been 29 years, where the oldest has been 51 years old from Slovenia and the youngest 17 years old from Spain and Portugal.

In the challenge were involved 25 people. From this there were 10 coordinators/teachers and instructors, as well as 15 students from all participating schools. In this challenge PCO has had the most students as it was a local challenge, where the students have had access to the restaurant.

Further on the statistical analysis will be focusing only on the participating students, and not on teacher/trainers or instructors.

The participants have been from different professions as well as from different qualification levels. Most of the participants were students from the EQF (European qualifications framework) level 4.

The participants have been from different professions as well as from different international organizations.

The fields of study inside the the learning teaching and training activity were also quite different:

- Cooking and pastry: Kitchen and pastry technician

- IT: IT and systems Technician,

- Healthcare: Nurse, Nursing assistant

- Economics: Commerce, Public relations, International trade, IT and entrepreneurship

Based on the different fields of study the students could connect their different types of knowledge and so have very interesting discussions inside LTTA, which later on during the LTTA also visible.

Expected results:

PCO has set forth a series of tasks aimed at bolstering its initiatives in marketing and social media engagement. The specific endeavors proposed by PCO encompass the following activities:

Activity 1: Attracting adult learners

Goal: Addressing apprehension and embarrassment among adults in Slovenia who are considering returning to complete their secondary education.

Here, it was desired that students give their ideas about how they would like to be invited to further education and what would be the things that would make re-entering the educational process attractive enough.

  • Developing tailored marketing strategies that emphasize the benefits and opportunities of resuming education.

At this point, we wanted to see through discussions; how to reach the target group and what are the channels through which individuals could encounter the content.

A big focus in this segment was the debate about where they as young adults encounter the promotion of expungements, what effect this would have on their future life/career path.

Activity 2: Presentation video creation

Goal: Designing an engaging presentation video that captures the essence and impact of PCO.

This activity did not take place, as there were no students or institutions registered for this part of the challenge.

Activity 3: Reinventing social media presence

Goal: Exploring strategies to revitalize PCO’s presence on Facebook, which has been dormant.

Prepare concepts with IT students on how to re-integrate Facebook back into the promotional channel and win back the editorial rights that PCO lost due to not using Facebook

  • Evaluating the decision to revive the existing Facebook account versus creating a new profile.

Discuss with IT students and possibly prepare a new Facebook profile that will be adapted to the needs of individual user groups, as the basic profile was intended for more general use.

  • Identifying and creating suitable alternative social media platforms for PCO, with a maximum of 3 choices.

Debate with IT students and find out which application or online program would be more suitable for the target groups and our users. In doing so, choose a maximum of three more suitable ones and make profiles on them.

The challenge followed the timeline of the entire RC4VETS project, which we developed in transnational meetings. Here, we focused on not overlapping the challenges too much, as this would cause too much confusion between the individual challenges.

Within the timeline, in the 2022/2023 school year, we in the PCO were focused on making this challenge as much of the activity as possible in the preparatory period and the implementation phase, with the aim of not burdening the students too much after the LTTA.

The period after the LTTA meeting was quite long in order for the students to devote themselves to the needs of the project in addition to their regular school obligations.

October and November were the busiest months. The PCO has already prepared a challenge in advance and presented it to the participating project coordinators at TM in June 2023. The challenge itself was presented to the students on October 14 at a joint ZOOM meeting.

The ZOOM meeting that took place on October 14th basically presented both challenges. First was the presentation of the PARAGAL challenge and then the PCO.

Based on the ZOOM meeting, preparations also began for the LTTA in Izola. The focus during this period was primarily to obtain all the missing data that the students pointed out as missing in order to be able to complete the challenge. Since it was an internal PCO challenge, this information could be passed on to the mentors.

LTTA in Izola took place from October 24 to 28. The students actively worked on this challenge especially on October 26 and 27. On October 26, a day was dedicated to challenges, where the director of the institution presented all the activities they carry out and then engaged the participants of LTTA in a debate. The following day, October 27, in the morning session, students prepared content for the presentation and results in groups. On the last day of the LTTA, the prepared results and contents were also presented.

After the LTTA, the participants prepared some smaller content for the PCO and reviewed the usability of the prepared content (more in the contribution from participants chapter).

IV. Contributions from participants

Like already mentioned, that partners chose different topics in which they wanted to be involved.

It was interesting that the LTTA participants, despite the fact that some of them were not planned to participate in the PCO challenge, later nevertheless attended the workshop and contributed with their ideas to the development of more active participation and discussion in the group.

FIELD of EXPERTIESE

In this challenge, Submeet did not plan to involve any students. During the LTTA the students still participated in the meetings and gave their contribution in discussions as well as other students.

Activity 1: Attracting adult learners

Goals:

  • Addressing apprehension and embarrassment among adults in Slovenia who are considering returning to complete their secondary education.
  • Developing tailored marketing strategies that emphasize the benefits and opportunities of resuming education.

The debate, which the students had with the director of PCO, opened a very broad and very interesting discussion, which actually showed the point of view and view of education from the side of the students. Despite the fact that most of the students were younger and only a handful were older, the common points of both groups were revealed in the conversation. As a result, PCO gained insight into the thinking and needs of the target group, where we identified the following, among others:

- Financial and family background, where most of them would not be able to afford to participate in education themselves, if their families did not support them and education was not free (or paid for by the state).

- Work and family obligations (these were highlighted mainly by the older generation of participants);

where they emphasized time constraints, when lectures take place, how much time per week they have available, how their employers allow them to make adjustments — here the older participants expressed that sometimes motivation is present , but there is no possibility due to work or family obligations (taking care of children, elderly family members, etc.)

- there is no motivation because there are no jobs or those you would like to do

During the debate, a number of factors were highlighted.

Activity 2: Presentation video creation

Goal: Designing an engaging presentation video that captures the essence and impact of PCO.

This activity did not take place, as there were no students or institutions registered for this part of the challenge.

Activity 3: Reinventing social media presence

Goal: Exploring strategies to revitalize PCO’s presence on Facebook, which has been dormant.

Prepare concepts with IT students on how to re-integrate Facebook back into the promotional channel and win back the editorial rights that PCO lost due to not using Facebook

  • Evaluating the decision to revive the existing Facebook account versus creating a new profile.

Discuss with IT students and possibly prepare a new Facebook profile that will be adapted to the needs of individual user groups, as the basic profile was intended for more general use.

With the IT students, we reviewed the possibilities of getting an inactive Facebook profile back for PCO needs. The students reviewed the options before arriving and set about getting the profile back during the LTTA. Since it was not certain whether the profile could be retrieved or not, at the same time the students of marketing began to think about the idea of a new Facebook profile that would be more targeted and suitable for users.

At the time of writing the report, we can say that we were unable to restore the Facebook profile and that based on the suggestions and content prepared by the students. The contents were mainly:

- The PCO profile should be designed as an entrepreneurial one, even though the PCO is an institution.

- a strategy should be prepared for publications that will be prepared beforehand and should be such that they can be used again (reducing costs)

- the activities carried out by PCO at the international level should be published, but not too long, because no one reads long posts on FB, but they should rather have a link

- When a new page is created, the Professional dashboard should be set up and allow employees to access the profile and to moderate, but they do not have all the functions of the account creator

- the feature should be enabled for users and site visitors to post their experiences on the site, not just as comments

  • Identifying and creating suitable alternative social media platforms for PCO, with a maximum of 3 choices.

Debate with IT students and find out which application or online program would be more suitable for the target groups and our users. In doing so, choose a maximum of three more suitable ones and make profiles on them.

During the debate with IT students (and also other students, which were working on other tasks and were at the time present) we found out which application or online program would be more suitable for working with several different social media at the same time — in context — one post that would appear on several different social media. This was an option, which PCO did not consider before that and was taken as a possibility to be present on more social media accounts not just on the mentioned 3.

ONLINE COOPERATION

During the preparation process we collected the data from the owner of the restaurant and his daughter about information needed for the challenge. We prepared a Powerpoint presentation about the restaurant and the owner has prepared itself for possible questions.

The ZOOM took place on the 14th of October at 10:30 CET. Present were the daughter of the owner, which is at the same time the manager of both restaurants, the coordinator of PCO, which was at the same time also functioning as the translator for the manager, all partners in the project including students.

The presentation took about 30 minutes and additional questions were asked from the students. The meeting lasted for approximately 55 minutes up to 1 hour.

Picture taken during the preparation meeting on October 14th on ZOOM

LEARNING, TEACHING AND TRAINING ACTIVITY IN IZOLA, SLOVENIA

The LTTA offered both challenges, the PARANGAL and PCO challenge, at the same time. The LTTAs main purpose was it to teach the students the communication between the customer and the company, which went quite smoothly. Especially the PCO challenge was meant for the purpose of communication.

During the LTTA:

  • On Monday the 24th of October PCO: Presented itself and its activities, the teaching programs and European projects. During the presentation of the challenge it presented more in detail the structure of students, their work obligations and school obligations. The students on the LTTA presented also their point of view
  • On Wednesday the 26th of October PCO: The students presented their work achievements done before the LTTA about PCO. The students had first the time for questions to the director- Then the students and the director were starting different debates about the topics to be solved and how things could be done, what support students need to enroll, where and to do, when preparing PR actions, how to use the social media to attract them as target group,… Exercise: During the PCO day the director and one the teachers prepared also an exercise for the students — your job — your responsibilities, where the students and the teachers discussed how it is, when you enter the labor market and what will their responsibilities be — based on that the whole LTTA further on was concepted as students being employed, with leaders of the groups responsible for the tasks during the next days
  • On Thursday the 27th of October PCO: The students worked in groups like in companies — the leading teacher of the activity and also the director of PCO were working with the groups as they were employees of the specialized companies which were handling the tasks of the customer. The students were also preparing presentation based on the achievements of the brainstorming activities. The presentation were done between the brainstorming activities, as well as later on in the period meant for the preparation of presentations. Computers were available and some computers had students with them.
  • On Friday the 28th of October PCO: Prepared the room for presentations and the “board of costumer (meaning teachers, which were at some activities not present on behalf of PCO — to enable students the best possible creative space) — the students presented the teachers their ideas and achievements during the LTTA. Although it was planned, that the certificates will be on Friday, we decided during the LTTA, that the best location for handing our certificates would be at the Parangal restaurant as it was already part of the challenge and the location is very suitable for the certificate ceremony
  • At the end of the LTTA the students/teachers and trainers filled out the questionnaires about the LTTA and finished the LTTA with a farewell drink.

Analysis of the survey

Like mentioned the students were asked to fill out a questionnaire on the last day of the LTTA, here are the results:

  • PCO challenge PARTNERS

The participant’s organization effectively cooperated with project partners, ensuring timely completion of tasks and equitable distribution of work.

The participant’s responses indicated varied levels of impact on students’ job prospects. About 12.5% of students reported a significant contribution, while another 12.5% stated that most of them experienced positive effects. Similarly, 12.5% of participants observed some of them benefited. While 25% noted that only a few of them saw changes, and a larger proportion, 37.5%, perceived no impact on students’ job outcomes.

EU Dimension: Collaboration in the project resulted in participation in new international projects for 87.5% partners, showing a strong fulfillment of the project’s goal to enhance international engagement.

  • PCO challenge INSTRUCTORS/TEACHERS

Enhancing professional skills in teamwork: All participants reported improvement in their professional development through the project, acquiring new skills as VET teachers and innovative pedagogical practices. The integration of these skills into their teaching methods was noted by a majority (87%).

Internationalization of employment and entrepreneurship: The majority (95.7%) had prior experience in international teams, and the project further strengthened their ability to work in such settings (100%). Participants have all recognized the importance of language skills for employment and found commonalities with peers from other countries.

Intercultural insight: The project substantially broadened participants’ intercultural understanding. All participants gained insights into different cultures and working practices. Interaction with peers from diverse backgrounds led to an enriched perspective (100%).

Social inclusion: The project offered valuable experiences through real challenges (100%) and instilled confidence in participants’ future employment prospects (87%). It contributed significantly to promoting social inclusion among students from vulnerable backgrounds (91.3%).

Eliminating language barriers: Fully successful communication with participants from different countries indicated effective language barrier elimination and inclusive interactions.

EU dimension: The project successfully enhanced every participant’s sense of European identity, prompting them to reflect on the advantages and challenges of European citizenship (100%).

  • PCO challenge STUDENTS

Enhancing professional skills in teamwork: The participant’s VET center effectively embraced teamwork (92.9%), with clear role awareness (100%) and a positive impact on their ability to work in teams (100%).

Increase of employment and entrepreneurship: All assignments met expectations, and the quality standards were upheld. Positive feedback from both peers and organizational leaders (100%) highlighted the quality of work. The participant actively contributed to peers’ success (78.6%) and shared knowledge (92.9%). Effective communication skills were evident. The project yielded varied outcomes regarding students’ employability. A considerable proportion (50%) felt their participation contributed significantly to students finding jobs. However, some indicated limited impact (37.5%) on employment outcomes. This diversity of responses underscores the complexity of employability enhancement through such projects

Internationalization of employment and entrepreneurship: Most participants had prior experience in international teams (71.4%) and all recognized the importance of language skills. A significant majority (85.7%) effectively worked in international teams.

Intercultural insight: The participant engaged with local students (71.4%) and everyone connected with peers from different VET centers. They acquired insights into diverse cultures (92.9%) and appreciated the collaboration (92.9%). This illustrates the project’s success in fostering intercultural awareness.

Social inclusion: The project offered a better life perspective to 78.6% of participants, exposing them to real challenges that led to valuable experiences for everyone involved. An overwhelming 92.9% felt that their participation would empower their future employment prospects. Additionally, the project significantly contributed to social inclusion, benefitting students from more vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds (92.9%). The project’s commitment to promoting differentiation, diversity, and multicultural education was apparent, with 100% agreement. Interestingly, while the majority did not feel discrimination during their participation (92.9%), a small percentage (7.1%) did express experiencing discrimination.

Every of participant indicated high motivation to continue studying or training due to their participation. Moreover, the project enabled a profound understanding of respect in the context of diverse cultural interactions, with 85.7% reporting a high level of learning in this aspect.

Eliminating language barriers: Unanimous agreement that communication with participants from other VET centers was effective and mutual understanding demonstrated the project’s success in eliminating language barriers. Moreover, a significant portion of participants improved their fluency in a foreign language (64.3%).

EU dimension: The project enhanced participants’ sense of European identity, for nearly all participants, enabling them to identify both advantages and challenges of European citizenship (92.9%).

V. Recognition

The students in the challenge received different curricula recognitions as they have been working on different tasks and have had different obligations within some tasks. Each partner gave us the information about the curricula recognition of the students.

  • The CIFP César Manrique and DIEK GLYFADA’S students were exempted from the relative courses final exams.
  • The PCO students being present on the LTTA were getting an additional mark for their contribution in the project and the students previously working on the challenge were excused from writing a seminar paper either at the subject dietetics or ZNSO (zdravstvena nega in socialna oskrba v domačem okolju) — nursing and social care in the home environment.
  • The Submeet and Proandi students were exempted of an exam based on their learning outcome.
  • For the BRCCI students there have been two types of recognition: The students presented their work to their classmates within the school subject Entrepreneurship and received additional grade (mark) for their work. BRCCI elaborated a special Certificate for their participation in the PCO Challenge.
  • The SUBMEET students

Additional photos:

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Eduardo del Reguero

Profesor en Ciclos Formativos FP. Ingeniería Informática - Universidad de La Laguna. Learning English