Another milestone has been reached for KBT Vocational School: The first group of part-time students and the second of full-time students have completed the higher vocational education for Peer Supporters. Now principal Karl Johan Johansen is even more sure it was the right call to start up this education programme.
Developing a brand-new education
A year ago, we looked back at a year of achievements and challenges. We did it! And so did our students. Together we developed a brand-new, higher vocational education for Peer Support Workers. The education even gives university credits, which we are very proud of.
Many of the first students now work out in the field, in various places in the Norwegian welfare system. For example, we have former students working at NAV (the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration) and in mental health care services.
After the second year of educating peer support workers, we now know even more about what works well in the education programme. The staff are looking forward to the autumn, when we will welcome fresh students. We are eager to use the knowledge from the last year to give the new students an even better offer than the previous two years!
Looking forward to meeting new students
The number of applications for the KBT Vocational School is still high, which make us very pleased. That confirm that this education has a place in Norway. On the other hand, we are sorry that we don’t have room for all the people who want to take this education this year. It’s never a good feeling to reject people, and especially not in this field. All our applicants have experienced some challenges in their life, which they want to use to help others.
Students in internships get hired afterwards
An interesting and good effect we have seen the past year, is that internships become employers. The education consists of 50% practical work out in the field, and 50% theoretical subjects. Some of the places our students have been getting their practical experience, didn’t have peer support workers before. When the students come to work there as interns, they find that they fill up a gap in the service the internship did not really know existed beforehand.
And when they discover the importance of having peer support workers, they sometimes find room for a new post at the workplace. This is great news for everyone, as we see it: for us, the students, the service users and the services.
This year we have also experienced that some employers who already have peer support workers hired, want them to take the education at KBT Vocational School while they continue working there. This is also great news for us. That means that the education is beginning to get credibility out in the field.
Even if we all have learned to handle different digital tools, like Zoom, the KBT Vocational School were going to be digital anyway. There are several benefits with this. Our students can learn from wherever they want or need. Even prison. Many of our students are adults with little room or need to move across the country to take a one-year study programme, when they can do it from home.
We have students from all over Norway, and when they can take the education from home, we also have students in internships all over the country.
Rings in the water
In our experience, it’s not only the student who learn during this education. The tuition consists of much dialogue and reflection. In this way, the teachers learn from the students too.
As do the colleagues at the internships. Not just new theory the students learn in the theoretical subjects. We see that the students also ask good questions when they are working out in the field, that make their co-workers reflect about how things can be done differently. In a way, the students can make the services better just by asking the right questions.
More than an education programme
The last year have been more than educating the futures peer support workers. KBT Vocational School also have been able to get involved in international projects, through the Erasmus+ program.
In the SMAB project (Smart business for all), we are aiming to give migrants tools to start their own businesses in their new country. The project has six partners, from Norway, Greece, Germany, Spain and Poland.
In the PIA project (Peer Support Workers as an Innovative force in Advocacy in dementia care, we aimto make sustainable and competence enhancing services for persons with dementia. We want to find new ways to involve users and relatives in the development of services. In this project, we have partners in Greece, Romania and Italy.
Additionally, there have been some international networking this year. In March we met the board of a German organization, EX-IN, which have their own model of training peer supporters. At the meeting we learned quite a lot of each other, and we hope we can exchange more experience in the future.
We also got fundings to try and start up a Nordic network, where we can exchange experience about peer support workers and education in the different countries. The field of peer support workers are still new and developing. Therefore, it is good to have the possibility to learn from each other. For example: How to start up a new higher education for peer support workers.