Project managers: Get involved in an Erasmus+ project!

In three years, Esben Skov Laursen and Lasse Christiansen, design and technology lecturers at UCN, have managed the Erasmus+ project TEFFIC. The project seeks to improve the alignment between the teaching at educational institutions and the industrial demands that have occurred because of digitization – often referred to as Industry 4.0. The result of TEFFIC was an educational framework which can be used by teachers to plan their lecturers in a way that provide students with the necessary skills for working life. The project was conducted in collaboration with the five educational institutions: Thomas More, University of Applied Science (Belgium), Europa-Universität Flensburg (Germany), Aalborg University (Denmark), Fagskolen i Viken (Norway), and Tallinn University of Technology (Estonia). 

Neither Esben or Lasse had any experience with organising an Erasmus+ project, and although they have tried to lead projects at their previous jobs in the industry, they admit that managing an Erasmus+ project is completely different. New challenges and opportunities occur. Both Esben and Lasse have gained new knowledge and experiences as project managers that they believe others could benefit from.

Build a strong team
Multiple competences play a part when you start an Erasmus+ project. Therefore, you should spend time in the beginning of the project to consider which competences are needed on your team. “An Erasmus+ project is not a one-man job, but a team effort,” Esben says.
Since the team at UCN had the overall responsibility of leading TEFFIC, the project managers made sure to build a team with diverse competences: Esben was able to manage the project, Lasse had strong professional expertise within the subject area, and the other team members offered administrative competences and past experiences that the team could draw on. This wide range of competences helped elevate the project.
There are many ways to build a strong team, but above all you have to know your own strengths and weaknesses. Accordingly, you can start searching for team members with the competences that you lack.

Consider the topic of your project
In the start-up phase, it is important to find a relevant topic. The demands of educations or industries can easily become the basis for a project that seeks to explore and if possible solve these demands. For instance, TEFFIC is based upon the educations’ demands for tools that can strengthen the skills of their students.
Another Erasmus+ project called DigiDemo, which began in September 2020, draw inspiration from the topic of TEFFIC. Thus, your project also becomes part of a greater context because it can lead to further research within the field.

Spend time on networking
As mentioned, Esben and Lasse were working on TEFFIC along with different collaborators across Europe. Even though it may be difficult to work with new colleagues, especially from other countries, the project managers admit that networks formed through Erasmus+ projects are valuable.
In order to form relations to your colleagues, you need to spend time on getting to know them. This can be done by holding and attending meetings either physically or digitally. However, your collaborators may prefer different approaches. For instance, Esben and Lasse held physical meetings with their German colleagues because the distance between them were shorter while they met with their Estonian colleagues online. The main thing is to keep in touch during the project.
When you have formed a relation to your colleagues, working on the project and delegating tasks become easier. In addition, your new network can pave the way for future collaborations. This happened for Esben who now works on another project with his colleagues from Norway.

Gain new competences
During an Erasmus+ project, you can develop your professional and personal competences. Esben and Lasse explain that they have learned many new skills throughout TEFFIC. To name but a few:

  • How to manage a project
  • How to match collaborators with specific tasks that fit their competences
  • How to set goals for the quality of your knowledge and project
  • How to communicate with colleagues from another culture or line of work

As part of the project, the educational institutions also ran pilots. By doing this, the project managers also learned how to build a bridge between the project and their lecturers. The pilots were conducted as well-planned lesson plans that can go on even after the TEFFIC project is finished.

Last but not least, Esben and Lasse adds: “You should not be afraid to get involved in an Erasmus+ project. The EU provide a great setting for the projects, and you can easily get in touch with your contact persons.”