OVER 500 health and social care trainees and professionals working with vulnerable people will benefit from an innovative University-led Erasmus+ project using artificial intelligence for training.
The University of the West of Scotland co-ordinating the ‘Digital Bridges’ project, and Glasgow youth organisation Xchange Scotland, are two projects successful in securing European Union (EU) funding through the Erasmus+ programme.
The two organisations’ Erasmus+ projects will be showcased at the first annual Erasmus+ conference to be held in Scotland. Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme for education, training, youth and sport, with the EU committing £12 billion to the programme between 2014 and 2020. In the UK, the programme is managed by the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK. 155 projects in Scotland share €12.9m* of EU funding in Erasmus+ projects for 2014.
The Erasmus+ annual conference takes place at Edinburgh’s John McIntyre Conference Centre on 22 September with the conference theme of ‘My Story’. The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) and Xchange Scotland will be amongst other organisations speaking about their Erasmus+ projects and sharing their experiences on the impact of taking part in the programme.
UWS was allocated more than €1m in funding in 2014 for four projects including the ‘Digital Bridges’ project - Simulated Practice for Skills Development in Social Services and Healthcare, where they are working with the Scottish Social Services Council and other partners in Finland, Italy and Lithuania.
Professor Thomas Connolly, EU Project Coordinator, said: “The importance of health and social services is increasing as European society grows older. This growing demand for public services is creating unprecedented pressures on health and social care systems.
“In many parts of Europe, the health and social care sector has a strong emphasis on learning and assessing skills for job roles in real practice environments in which in some qualifications can be almost 40% of the total learning time. Finding placement opportunities is difficult and there are risks associated with work-based learning and the safety and well-being of vulnerable service users.
“To address these challenges, this project will develop an immersive 3D virtual environment, built on gaming architecture and driven by emotional artificial intelligence, to provide a risk-free environment where university and vocational education and training students and professional social workers who deal with vulnerable people can learn the basics of the job role, by interacting with NPCs (Non-Player Characters) in a simulation of a real world service.” It is expected that 500 higher education and vocational education and training students and social services professionals will be trained using the game.
In 2014, Erasmus+ provided funding for schools, colleges, universities, youth and adult education organisations across the length and breadth of Scotland, from Dumfries to the Shetland Islands.
Youth organisation Xchange Scotland is one of the 12 exhibitors at the conference. Since 2007 Xchange Scotland has taken part in various EU programmes, from the predecessor programme Youth in Action to current programme Erasmus+, to provide invaluable experiences to young people aged 17 to 30 years old, from socially deprived areas of Scotland.
Xchange Scotland will receive more than €42,000 to run three Erasmus+ projects in 2015. Through the Erasmus+ projects that Xchange Scotland runs, growing numbers of young people are given the chance to take part in European Voluntary Service (EVS), for a few weeks at a time, with other European voluntary organisations.
Through their Step-by-Step programme, care leavers have spent time in France, Italy and Spain to develop their confidence and transferable skills. After their voluntary service, Xchange Scotland works alongside the young people to prepare them for future employment, training, education or apprenticeships in Scotland.
In October, a 15-strong group of 18-21 year olds from Springburn, Glasgow will be taking part in a youth exchange with young people from France for a project on European Citizenship and Intercultural Education, with the young people coming from deprived areas of both countries. A similar project is planned for next year with young people from Greece.
Like UWS, Xchange Scotland has also started a health and social care project, sending young people on longer term EVS of up to a year, in humanitarian centres in Bosnia and Georgia, to develop the young people’s experience of social and public health careers, through creating community projects tackling sectarianism.
Carla Fyfe, Xchange Scotland Acting Director said, “In the last two years we have seen an increase in the number of young Scottish people from all walks of life who want to take part in longer term European Voluntary Service (EVS). The young people include college leavers and care leavers, those on a sabbatical from managerial roles and higher education students on a gap year. Numbers have grown from 7 in 2013 to 25 this year and those who take part contribute to the social and economic fabric of Scotland when they return. A recent Social Return on Investment study found that for the investment of sending 30 young people on EVS, the investment is returned by a ratio of 8.57 to 1. Though the statistics measure the difference the project makes – the real value is in the increased confidence and skills of the young people, which breeds more opportunities for them.”
For more information about funding opportunities visit see www.erasmusplus.org.uk or use the hashtag #epluspeople to see what other projects are doing across the UK.