European influx at Plymouth Argyle

By WILLIAM TELFORD, Business Editor, Plymouth Herald

WE’RE all familiar with the influx of foreigners into English football teams – but at Plymouth Argyle European students are providing a major contribution off the field.

In the past four years, about 500 students, from all over the European Union, have worked at the club and its charity partner Argyle Community Trust, under various EU-funded work placement schemes, the most recent being Erasmus+.

They provide a benefit for the football club, which receives enthusiastic and well-educated workers and a supply of supporters able to spread the Pilgrims’ name internationally.

The students, some on placements for up to six months provided by Tellus Group, learn important skills they can take home.

And by working with young English job-seekers, the programme helps them find work too.

Trevor Lowman, project manager, at the Pilgrim Centre study facility which is part of Argyle Community Trust, said the Euro students, mostly in their late teens, make willing learners – and more.

“I love working with these people,” Mr Lowman said. “Most of them have vocational skills, many will go on to university, they are always top-end with IT, coming here with a phenomenal amount of knowledge.

“I have to give them practical experience, project-based learning. What we teach them is very much about problem solving. Sometimes they even create faux companies.

“It’s wonderful to watch them develop and their contribution to the football club is great.”

He said the youngsters, boys and girls, can work in IT, electronics, or media, admin, photography and entrepreneurship.

“At the moment, some are setting up a wireless station for the stadium, some are fixing people’s machines; there are a variety of activities,” he said.

Argyle Community Trust uses unemployed English youngsters, supplied by Jobcentre Plus, to act as mentors for the Europeans, and Mr Lowman said this is mutually beneficial.

“Their role is to help European students with their English,” he said. “That’s voluntary, but it gives them status, builds their confidence, while they work on job applications.

“Part of our philosophy is that young people just need a chance.

“So it’s a great combination, English kids coming here and helping the European students, who help them too.”

“And most of the 500 who’ve been here now follow the football club,” he added. “Plus they find Plymouth a very friendly city. So we all benefit.”

Rick Cowdery, head of communications at Plymouth Argyle, said Euro students often work in his department and added: “They are tremendously enthusiastic and able, and bursting with new ideas.

“They take part in everything. It’s a great learning experience for them.

“We pick up a lot of goodwill from abroad too. It’s a really good fit.”

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