Local agency to participate in international student exchange program

The U.S. Department of Education, Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education, has announced the award of a grant to the Building Bridges in ConCert Program to fund international exchanges of students from YouthBuild programs in the U.S. and Europe. Comprehensive Community Solutions Inc. and its YouthBuild Rockford program is one of the three U.S. partners in this endeavor, the first of its kind awarded to a non-college organization.

YouthBuild (U.S.) and YouthBuilding (EU) are programs for socially excluded youth who are primarily dropouts, combining secondary education, life skills and construction training. Program graduates have virtually no options for studying abroad. The construction certifications that graduates earn are generally recognized only within their own countries, limiting opportunities for foreign employment.

In this three-year consortium implementation project, operators of three U.S. YouthBuild programs are joining with operators of three EU YouthBuilding programs.

The ConCert Program will allow each consortium patron to send eight graduates and one staff member on three-month foreign exchanges with sister programs on the other side of the Atlantic. During exchange, they will study in the areas of construction management, carpentry-joinery, bricklaying and painting/decorating.

Students from Rockford will conduct exchanges with students from the Zukunfstbeau Program in Berlin, Germany. The lead agency in the U.S. is the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, Columbus, Ohio. American Youthworks, Austin, Texas, and Comprehensive Community Solutions Inc., Rockford, Ill., are co-partners.

The lead agency in the European Union is Zukunftsbau GmbH, Berlin, Germany. Co-partners are Young Builders Trust, London, England, and Lampaalan kunta, Lempaaia, Finland. In the United States, this coordination and evaluation will be done by Duane Gautier, ARCH Training Center, Washington, D.C., and in Europe by Kenneth Claxton, Building Futures, London, England.

One of the main objectives of the ConCert Program is to improve the quality of transatlantic monthly in the construction field by promoting transparency, mutual recognition of periods of training, and portability of vocational credits. The ConCert Program therefore includes, as strategic partners, construction skills credentialling bodies on both sides of the Atlantic that will use the student exchanges as a laboratory to undertake assessments of foreign construction certifications in the chosen skill areas to establish systems of reference leading to articulation agreements recognizing extranational vocational credentials. The strategic partners’ efforts will be facilitated by Dr. Roger W. Liska, professor and chairman of Clemson University’s Department of Construction Science and Management. Locally, officials from Rock Valley College will join with the other strategic partners to undertake the component of the program, and Rockford College will provide language and cultural training for exchange students.

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