Caring about the future

Facing FIRE - SERVICE-LEARNING TO IMPROVE TRAINING AND EMPLOYABILITY IN WILDFIRE MANAGEMENT IN SOUTHERN EUROPE
Coordinator - Agustin Merino
CESAM Responsible researcher - Jan Jacob Keizer
Programme - Erasmus+ Programme
Execution dates - 2020-11-01 - 2022-10-31 (24 Months)
Funding Entity - EC - European Commission
Funding for CESAM - 24983 €
Total Funding - 211584 €
Proponent Institution - UNIVERSIDAD DE SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Participating Institutions
Universidade de Aveiro
IES LUCUS AUGUSTI
CONSELLERIA DO MEDIO RURAL - XUNTA DE GALICIA
FORESTIS - ASSOCIACAO FLORESTAL DE PORTUGAL
ETHNIKO KAI KAPODISTRIAKO
PANEPISTIMIO ATHINON
ELLINIKOS GEORGIKOS ORGANISMOS - DIMITRA
UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI FIRENZE
REGIONE TOSCANA

Project Description
Context
Forest fires are a complex problem in Europe, especially in Southern countries. Fire can seriously impact the environment, rural development and economy. Forest degradation is considered a key to the spreading of human diseases, as COVID-19. Although wildfire research and substantial technical advances have been made in recent years, we have not been able to provide quality training in Forest Fire Management (FFM). This requires inputs from related disciplines and stakeholders, continual updating and hands-on experience. Introducing innovative approaches in the FFM training will contribute to overcoming the shortage of skilled workers and will boost employment in fire-prone regions with high unemployment rates.

Objectives
The overall aim of FacingFIRE is to encourage social engagement among students to improve the capacities in FFM training and gender-balanced employability. FacingFIRE introduces the Service-Learning (S-L) approach to develop training projects in areas impacted by wildfires. The scope of which will be further enhanced by the use of innovative online learning tools and international collaboration. Employability skills, with special emphasis on women, will be boosted by hands-on practices and direct contact with employers. To transfer the project benefits to society, multiple interactions between educators, researchers, forest companies/ NGOs and decision-makers are planned. The project will promote employment among recent graduates. Emphasizing the role of women in forest management will also be an important statement in the project. All this will be done in the context of the current health crisis (COVID).

Number and profile of participants
The consortium comprises 9 partners from the most fire-prone regions in Europe: Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. The 5 academic partners (4 HEIs and 1 VET center) have recognized expertise in FFM and teaching innovation. The 4 professional partners (1 Forest Association, 1 Research center and 2 Decision-makers) and associates will play a key role in identifying the main training needs and enhancing the impact of the outcomes. The coordinator (USC) has vast experience in managing S-L projects and other environmentally-related educational projects.

Description of activities
In order to reinforce FFM training capacities, the project will provide training activities for staff (academic and practitioners) and students. The training will include a) S-L management, b) innovative online learning (ePortfolio) and audio-visuals tools (SPOCs) and c) joint events between academia and stakeholders to exchange good training practices. To enhance this strategy, two types of blended mobility are planned for students. Practical experience and employment skills will be provided via international S-L projects combined with solid online and personalised training. Certain outputs will have strong multiplier effects on academic and professional sectors: a) use of S-L to address specific problems and reinforce employability skills, b) publication of the first guide to implementing S-L in fire-prone areas and c) launch of the first FFM training network to reinforce training capacities. Specific actions are designed to buffer the indirect consequences of COVID-19 on forest fires and employment.

Methods
The project will be divided into three phases:
1. Staff training and production of materials for interactive activities with learners using innovative virtual tools.
2. Development of pilot S-L projects, in which trainees will participate in international hands-on practices and use the online learning tools.
3. Dissemination/multiplier events aiming to a) exchange good practices in S-L management, b) promote flexible and blended training involving both educators and stakeholders and c) launch of the first network in FFM training network.

Results and envisaged impacts
At the individual level, the envisaged impacts include access to innovative training strategies, improvement of language and digital
skills and increased employability. At the organizational level, the associations/policy-makers/research centers will benefit from access to state-of-the-art methods and a greater supply of skilled workers. The HEI and VET structures (teaching innovation, employment, gender equality) will be also reinforced by new procedures and skilled workers. The outcomes will benefit decision-makers and practitioners facing one of the
most serious cross-border environmental and social challenges in Europe.

Sustainability
The network on FFM training network will open multiple possibilities for future cooperation. The outcomes will be maintained after the project as a result of the institution`s structures and procedures reinforcement (e.g. S-L recognition, gender equality).

FacingFIRE is based on different EU policies (“Green Employment Initiative”, “EU strategy on Biodiversity “EU Youth Strategy”) and on the “Strategic framework for European cooperation in Education and Training.




CESAM members on this project
Jan Jacob Keizer
Responsible Reseacher at CESAM
Sandra M. Valente
Researcher

CESAM Funding: