The steering committee met to discuss the progress of the local ecosystem project

The YESpecialist steering committee met online on the 20th of October to discuss the project’s progress and the further steps as the programme draws to a close in five months.

The first item discussed was the evaluation of the international workshop in Varaždin, Croatia, that was carried out from the 4-6 October. The workshop brought together young entrepreneurs and VET teachers from Norway, Denmark and Italy. The results of the evaluation survey sent out to the participants indicated that, after the workshop, 75% of participants said they were highly or extremely likely to implement mini projects in entrepreneurial education. A successful workshop!

Then the progress in the best practices map of youth entrepreneurship in rural areas was unveiled: the map now has over 25 best practices to discover.

The Steering Committee also discussed the future of the project and upcoming activities involving YESpecialist partners:

  • The final conference of the project was confirmed for March 2-3, with the details to follow shortly.
  • Our partners from Vestland (Norway) will present the YESpecialist project at the SMART MOUNTAINS European Mountain Convention on the 25 – 27 October in Italy
  • Our partners from the Autonomous Province of Trento will host a discussion on the entrepreneurial challenges in Trento
  • Our partners in Ringkøbing-Skjern (Denmark) are hosting a working entrepreneurship festival this week

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Future young entrepreneurs and VET teachers from Norway, Denmark and Italy joined an international workshop in Varaždin

YesSpecialist project brought together future young entrepreneurs and VET teachers to participate at the second international workshop on topics agriculture, tourism, creative industries from 4 to 6 October 2022 in Varaždin County (Croatia).

Representatives of partner regions from Norway (Vestland), Italy (Trento and Tuscany) and Denmark (Ringkøbing-Skjern) visited Varaždin County that hosted Second Workshop on topics agriculture, tourism, creative industries as part of the YesSpecialist project. Considering that young people and their teachers are key actors for promoting innovative entrepreneurial models, the delegation of each region consisted of professional teachers, young people with an entrepreneurial mindset from rural areas (e.g. young entrepreneurs, start-up entrepreneurs, young initiators/innovators, youth workers, those who are engaged in the development of their rural area, etc.) and representatives of the project partners.

During their stay, they had the opportunity to try and practice many new informal learning methods in order to create a new modern methodology that will later help them build local ecosystems promoting innovative entrepreneurship concepts.

They also visited the RezervArt Association (Croatian Association for the Promotion and Development of Intellectual and Artistic Creativity), a self-sustaining “hub” of the creative industry, where they got familiar with the concept and programs of the Association. There they were especially motivated by the works of the world-renowned sculptor from Varaždin, Nikola Vudrag, and the owner of the company “Lola Guitars” and “Drevo”, Lovro Vujanec.

High School “Arboretum Opeka” Marčan, declared a Regional Center of Competence in Agriculture, was a second stop. Thereby, they got acquainted with the future place of excellence in vocational education and training, which will significantly contribute to the needs of the economy and the labor market. They’ve managed to spent some also socializing with young future agro-entrepreneurs.

In addition to diligent students, the best promoters of successful entrepreneurial stories are also hard-working farmers, so a visit to a former student of the School, today the owner of the successful OPG Patrčević was organized. His company is founded for drying pumpkin seeds and producing premium pumpkin oil, awarded at numerous international exhibitions. On that occasion, Yesspecialists also tasted dishes made exclusively from pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil, what was a special experience as some of them heard about this food for the first time, and especially how beneficial it is for human health.

Participants were also introduced to activities of the Varaždin Technology Park, an entrepreneurial campus that gathers an ecosystem of innovative companies, providing them with modern infrastructure and access to a wide range of financing instruments and access to the global market. They were particularly interested in the Makerspace, a collaborative workshop space for rapid prototyping and production, whose goal is to enable the development and production of physical products in smaller numbers in a work environment that at the same time provides tools and knowledge.

Visitors also had an opportunity to learn more about the rich history of the Varaždin County, thanks to an expertly guided tour and going to the concert of the Varaždin Baroque Evenings, where the students of the Music School in Varaždin performed along with the Varaždin Chamber Orchestra.

An international workshop in Trento as part of the YESpecialists project

Partners of the YESpecialists project organised an international workshop in Trento (Italy), from 11 to 13 May 2022, with the aim of learning and promoting successful experiences in the field of entrepreneurship education. In this context, project partners from Varaždin County, Vestland County, Tuscany Region, Autonomous Province of Trento, Principality of Asturias and Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality  visited numerous facilities in order to identify synergies and learn from best practices. They were accompanied by Vocational Education and Training teachers, youth workers, but also by local and regional officers.

One of them was the Bruno Kessler Foundation (FBK), a top research institute in Italy. According to the latest quality of research, the foundation is ranked as 1st for scientific excellence in three different subject areas, including economic and social impact. With its community of over 400 researchers, 140 PhD students, 200 visiting associates and students, 700 affiliates and accredited students, FBK acts as a science and technology hub, hosting a vibrant ecosystem of joint ventures, spin-offs, projects and training opportunity.

Then, participants were introduced to the SENSAT model, an example of cooperation between the research organization, numerous high schools and the real sector. Throughout the school year, students from different schools collaborated with FBK researchers to create different products ready for the market, which represents a real model of school-work combination.

The model simulates a company composed of specialized departments, where each department has its own area of expertise. In the process, all elements that characterize the innovation chain are covered, including legal aspects, market analysis, business plan development, impact assessment and the development and design of the technology itself. Multidisciplinary work teams are being created and each school takes care of one area of ​​development, based on its specific skills and expertise. Students have the opportunity to understand how research can have a real impact on the market and the local area.

Guests also attended the round table: “Entrepreneurship and youth contexts: megatrend, school, territory”. It was moderated by Martina Togn, President of the Association of Young Entrepreneurs Trentino, and one of the speakers was young digital entrepreneur who shared his experiences of working in Silicon Valley, but also the reasons for returning to Italy.

Participants visited the Istituto Pavoniano Artigianelli, a high school where they were introduced to the Artigianelli ecosystem for innovation. The school develops a specific, real market-oriented, educational model of graphic training. It was good opportunity to visit numerous school practicums and laboratories for innovation in business start-ups and business development. Then each of the partners had to design and present the model of launching similar initiatives in their local environment.

In the town of Rovereto, representatives of all partners were introduced to the interesting project “Progetto Manifattura Rovereto”, an incubator and center for companies with sustainable projects managed by the Trentino region. It is a model designed for sustainable growth that educates the public and fosters the green economy, essentially a platform for productivity with several purposes: office rental, smaller production, test labs, providing opportunities for research, education and services, skills and specialized knowledge. The project is the result of combined actions between companies, research laboratories, business-oriented services and other actors with the common goal of growing environmentally friendly companies. Progetto Manifattura Rovereto plans and manages buildings and infrastructures for green businesses, offering a stimulating, creative work environment through a combination of public and private activities. In addition, it builds and remodels buildings and delivers systems that have the least possible impact on the environment and promotes innovation through a mix of education, training, research, development and production that is used by many young entrepreneurs from this region and elsewhere in Europe.

Participants were extremely satisfied with the whole program of the workshop as it was interactive and facilitated by non-formal education methods. They had the opportunity to get familiar with bests practices and were able to connect to other European regional actors with similar characteristics by bringing to the table specific challenges and working together to solve them in order to secure innovative entrepreneurship ecosystems.

YESpecialists partners met with their local ecosystems

YESpecialists project partners organised three online discussions in February and March to meet with their local ecosystems. Teachers, youth workers, students and young people had the opportunity to discuss, share best practices, and get to know what the other local ecosystems are doing.

The first meeting was held on 9 February 2022 with teachers from Varaždin (Croatia), Asturias (Spain) Tuscany (Italy), Vestland (Norway), Trentino (Italy) and Ringkøbing-Skjern (Denmark). Teachers presented different learning methods to foster their student’s entrepreneurial mindset. These include problem-based learning, design thinking or learning by doing. They had the opportunity to ask questions to one another and exchange on their different education methods/practices.

The second meeting, organised on 23 February 2022, gathered young people, youth workers and students from the six regions listed above. Project partners and young people presented different activities developed in the rural areas. In Varaždin, for example, the Varaždin Underground Club is the oldest youth association in the County, where activities such as youth festivals in cooperation with the cultural sector are organised.

The last event took place on 16 March 2022 and gathered all the participants of the previous meetings: teachers, young people and students. The meeting started with a lecture from Mr. Robert Kelemen, Director of the European Talent Centre of Croatia. He gave 12 advices on how to develop the habit of creativity among students. He explained how to encourage creativity at school and the way it can create new opportunities for students. Mr Kelemen also highlighted the challenges to the development of creativity in non friendly environments. At school, students are supposed to gain practical skills that can be quantified; however, it is not possible to quantify creativity.

He was followed by three high school students: Luca, Giuseppe and Nicola from Trentino who presented creative videomaking, storytelling and digital marketing. They also explained their entrepreneurship concept to the audience and exchange with teachers present in the meeting on it.

Student involvement in strategic planning in rural Vestland

On the left: teacher Hilde Gjester Hoel, Odda Upper Secondary School
Young students: Hanna and Ylva
Below: Inge Håvard Aarskog, Head of economic development in Ullensvang Municipality

Good collaboration between our school and enterprises is important. Show us better which opportunities does Ullensvang give us?
We need to utilise all resources we have in Ullensvang for development and innovation.
-More variation in job offers, good work climate and gender equality.
-Ullensvang needs more local meeting places for all citizens in all ages, not only sport activities.
-We need something to come home to in the weekends and after finished higher education

These are just a few of the comments the students at Odda Upper Secondary School made during the 45 minutes digital meeting with their municipality this week. Teacher Hilde Gjester Hoel had prepared the students (aged 16-17) in her class, well in advance of the meeting. As part of their social science class, they had analysed the proposed strategic business plan of Ullensvang municipality.

The students showed that they are very much interested in the development of their rural home area. They want to make their rural community more attractive for inhabitants and attract new people to Ullensvang. The students have many concrete ideas and they liked to be invited to this dialogue meeting with their municipality. They touched on several topics, from good housing, leisure activities, public transport and safe roads to better language training for immigrants.
The young students also called for more collaboration among enterprises and for more innovation and new ideas, for example in the field of tourism. They want to put their municipality on the map by better promoting already existing festivals in Odda and Ullensvang. The students mentioned also some new concrete ideas, like “cycle for rent” and “building a cider-centre”.

Inge Aarskog, Head of Economic Development, was impressed after the meeting:
“They showed that they really care about the development of Ullensvang.”

Teacher Hilde is directly involved in YESpecialists project and said:
“It is very inspiring for the students to be actively involved in the development of the place where they grow up. Through this dialogue meeting with the Municipality they learned about strategic planning. We need to link entrepreneurial skills to all subjects in school, and we should preferably start already at kindergarten level.”

Next on the agenda is a meeting with the Head of Culture Else Marie Sandal, who was observer during this first dialogue meeting. She is looking forward to co-create the Culture plan together with the young students, not only listening to their good input but also challenging them: How do you see your role in this?

3rd YESpecialists transnational partners meeting hosted by Ringkøbing-Skjern municipality

YESpecialists partners met in Ringkøbing-Skjern (Denmark) and online on 26 – 27 October 2021 for their third transnational partners meeting. The meeting was successfully held in a hybrid way as some partners’ organisations still have restrictions to travel in place. During these two days, partner representatives discussed the project: its work in progress and further steps but also had the opportunity to discover local initiatives held in Ringkøbing-Skjern.

The first day of the meeting was mostly dedicated to internal discussions on the project. However, in the afternoon, Andreea Elena Oprea, Project Manager at DGI Vestjylland,presented some best practices in the region. She introduced the way DGI managed to create communities which encourage young people to join local sport associations through the concept of “village clusters”. The aim of these villages is to strengthen the rural life by establishing a common organisation that coordinates the villages. Citizens are directly involved through dialogue meetings which enable them to collaborate with the municipality, so that the citizens and the municipality can jointly optimize the municipal service. DGI also wanted to involve young people in the village clusters, so they created the “young clusters”, which involves young people from 15 to 25 years old. Young people can share their ideas and initiatives and be more involved in the local community.

During the second day, partners representatives present in Denmark visited the UCRS Vocational School in Skjern which was holding the UCRS Innovation Championships. Young students were presenting their innovative ideas and it was the occasion for partners to exchange views with them. Judges composed of teachers, local entrepreneurs and professionals had to vote for the idea they found the most interesting. In the afternoon, partners visited the “Yellow room”, (GUL STUE in Danish), a youth organization based in the southern part of Ringkøbing-Skjern municipality. It is called this way because the room and all the items present in the room are painted in yellow. The room hosts different activities for young children and teenagers, which makes the rural area livelier. Partner were welcomed by two young people of 20 years old. They explained how they managed to renovate the yellow room, which was an old shop, with donations, help of volunteers and a good dose of willingness. Partners finished this day by visiting the small lighthouse in Hvide Sande and seeing the north sea.

The next meeting of the YESpecialists project is expected in Trentino in spring 2021.

This article was originally published at EARLALL’s website on 3 November 2021:

Youth engagement discussed at the #EURegionsWeek 2021

On 12 October 2021, EARLALL co-organised with E40 Group, an international consultancy, and ZSInnovation, the Centre for Social Innovation in Vienna, a workshop on Smart recovery in rural communities through youth engagement and social innovation. This workshop took place in the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2021.

On 12 October 2021, EARLALL co-organised with E40 Group, an international consultancy, and ZSInnovation, the Centre for Social Innovation in Vienna, a workshop on Smart recovery in rural communities through youth engagement and social innovation. This workshop took place in the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2021.

This session was focusing on how rural recovery can be made a reality through inspiring stakeholder engagement methods – with particular focus on youth engagement, and social innovation. Among others, the session aimed to demonstrate how various funding schemes support creative citizens’ engagement methodologies that can help local communities become more resilient.

The workshop brought together knowledge and bottom-up experiences from various EU-funded initiatives. Edina Ocsko, E40 Director, presented the Preparatory Actions on Smart Rural Areas in the 21st Century project, funded by DG AGRI. The aim of this initiative is to develop and implement smart villages approaches across Europe and to draw conclusions and support future policy interventions on smart villages. Then, Wolfgang Haider, Project coordinator, presented the CERUSI Interreg Central Europe project, which implements a rural social innovation lab caravan to build skills and capacities for social innovation and social entrepreneurship. The last initiative presented was the YESpecialists Erasmus+ project. In this occasion, Barbara Harterink, Vestland County Council, coordinator of YESpecialists, presented the project and the possibilities it offers to young people. Barbara Harterink summarized the aim of the YESpecialists project saying: ‘What we want is to boost youth entrepreneurship, enabling young people to live in rural areas’. She also presented examples of young people with concrete projects, who struggle to find their place in the rural areas. She was followed by Tina Ellingsgaard, Youth worker from Ringkøbing-Skjern (Denmark). Being a member of the Youth advisory board, she gave some concrete grassroot experience of their achievements.

The event ended with a round table discussion, moderated by Edina Ocsko, tackling the question of youth involvement in local ecosystems. Among others, the question of the sustainability of the projects was also raised so that project could continue to live, even after the end of the European fundings.

This article was originally published at EARLALL’s website on 15 October 2021:

Young entrepreneurs from Trento gathered to exchange experiences

The Autonomous Province of Trento organised on 8 July 2021 an online meeting in collaboration with Confindustria (General Confederation of Italian Industry). Three young Trentino entrepreuneurs were invited to present their experiences and challenges. The aim of the webinar was to promote an entrepreneurial spirit among young participants, mostly youth workers and students. A focus was set on two rural areas identified for the project, namely Valle del Chiese and Primiero.

Serena Beber, Ecotop manager, Luca Cattoi, founder of Graffiti 2000 and Valentina Togn, owner of the Wine cellar Valdadige presented their exeperiences in three differents sectors.  Ecotop deals with environmental challenges and waste management; Graffiti 2000 is a web marketing and communication agency, while Valdadige produces wines.

The discussions revolved around the following question: ‘What are the core elements of a good entrepreneur? It was interesting to see that all three Trentino entrepreneurs converged to a common point of view and stressed the following features: idea/creativity, ambitiousness, perseverance and optimism. However, according to them, the most challenging element to acquire was the skills.

Luca Cattoi declared: ‘If you want a successful business, you need great expertise. When you are young, it is possible that you make some mistakes. However, over the years, you should make fewer mistakes. We are talking about agile working,  doing things one step at a time, doing a small piece, validating it and seeing if it works, the BIG goal is done with many small goals’. Another relevant aspect that was underlined is that you have to test your business every day to verify strengths and weaknesses and find adequate solutions to face the problems.

All three Trentino entrepreneurs agreed on the fact that schools should teach ‘how to learn’, practical work and not only from books. The learning does not end with school certificates but it continues throughout the whole life. Young people have to steadily learn and upskill by undertaking experiences in different sectors and also abroad.

Varaždin County spreads youth entrepreneurship spirit

In the context of the YESpecialists project, co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union, Varaždin County is configuring local ecosystems that promote entrepreneurial mindsets among young people in rural areas. This is done thanks to two youth workers, Igor Pičuljan and Tena Terzić, who are conducting research among youngsters and teachers at school to find their needs and form viable solutions.

Their first step was to introduce themselves to school principals and teachers who are assigned to the project to have a common ground on YESpecialists mission. They talked about what is preventing them from enabling their students to be entrepreneurs at their age and how this can be enabled. Challenges in relation to the system and law were identified, so alternative options are being explored always from a legal perspective. An initial idea might be that the school or a third party takes care of legal and tax aspects, while youngsters focus on their passion and develop it.

Then, meetings are also being held with school classes, during which YESpecialists is being introduced. The main focus of presentations are always young people and their answers to questions such as: What makes you happy? What are your plans after school? What do you want to do in life? What is missing to achieve it at home? Do you think possibilities are higher in town? Did you ever think about starting your own business? Do you know what is an ecosystem?

Key outcomes are that young people are often scared of the idea and are not able to see a straight way forward since they lack knowledge and role models. Youth worker Mr. Pičuljan explains: “I could see in their eyes a spark of hope when I was talking to them, but we need to encourage them with our frequent activities and setting small milestones which can be measured and show them results of their actions. Also, we need to connect them with role models which are good examples of successful business. Those connections need to be related to the domain to which the students belong, not putting them all in a one big basket, but rather approaching them personally with tailored programmes. It is up to us to be wise and see which ones can be in a same group because they are sharing the same professional field but they are not covering the same topic.”

In order to better connect with young people in the area, a Facebook page and an Instagram account have been created (in Croatian) so that they can follow updated information and actions. During the next school year (2021-2022), individual meetings will be held with students to form a plan of actions in which some light yet measurable milestones can be set in order to increase motivation. The ultimate goal is to fuel their passion.

This article was originally published at EARLALL’s website on 29 June 2021:

Virtual trip to Asturias: second YESpecialists transnational meeting

YESpecialists project partners met online for their second official transnational meeting, hosted by the Principality of Asturias, on 7 and 8 April 2021. During these two days, partner representatives embarked on a digital trip to Asturias that allowed them to familiarise themselves with best practices in the region for boosting entrepreneurial spirit among young people. Best practices were introduced by representatives of the Tourism Office, Valnalón, and two VET schools (IES Luces and IES Pando) in the region of Asturias. Furthermore, the case study of Varaždin’s European Talent Centre was presented by a representative from the county, followed by internal project discussions on its work-in-progress outputs and further steps.

On the first day, Delfina García, from Asturias’ Tourism Office took the partners on a digital journey through Asturias, presenting its landscapes and local traditions. Then, best practices were introduced by Iván Diego Rodríguez, from Valnalón (Ciudad Industrial del Valle del Nalón), who presented of the incuVET’s project (2014-2016), aimed at supporting and promoting an innovative role for VET schools as local or regional hubs for entrepreneurship. Mr. Rodríguez also presented the TRACKTION program, which focuses on improving the tracking of VET graduate at institutional level. The goal of this initiative is to record information on graduates, regarding their learning progress and employment pathways.

This second transnational meeting also showcased interesting initiatives by two VET schools (IES Luces and IES Pando), aimed at developing new skills; incorporating new technologies; encouraging creativity, talent and entrepreneurship; and setting up relationships between schools and companies. In particular, the interesting case study of spirulina algae cultivation was introduced by M. Soledad Martínez (IES Luces) in the context of its agriculture innovation projects.

Furthermore, in a more project-specific context, the case study of Varaždin’s European Talent Centre was presented by Robert Kelemen from Varaždin County, followed by internal project discussions on its work-in-progress outputs and further steps. Finally, Eva María Gómez Castaño, the YESpecialists logo designer and young creator from IES Pando selected among a competition held between students in project partners’ regions and VET centres, explained its meaning and narratives.

The next transnational meeting is expected to take place in Ringkøbing-Skjern in the summer-autumn 2021.

This article was originally published at EARLALL’s website on 13 April 2021: