The European Experience Programme gives young people the chance to learn new skills, a language and live in another country.

Ranging in age from 17 to 27, many of the participants were unemployed and around half of them had never sat the Leaving Certificate. 

Now they're setting out on a new venture which is called the European Experience Programme.

The programme places Irish people in language schools on the continent and then in jobs. 

Paddy Jordan is a passionate believer in the programme and speaking to parents of some of the young people in Castlebar he outlines how the programme offers young people the chance to make a crucial turning point in their lives. 

In 1996, Jacqueline Finnegan took part in the European Experience in France and now works as an Information Guide at Newgrange.  

However, the programme is not for everyone. Natalie Conroy travelled to Germany as part of the programme with her two year old daughter only to return home early. 

David Norman also spent time in Germany as part of the class of 1996. He too returned home early to apply to join the army. Despite the fact that he left the European Experience early, he felt that it helped him to focus on what he wanted to do with his life. 

Participants in the programme receive classes in life skills, languages and computers. The class of 1999 are now preparing to travel to mainland Europe. 

21 year old Bridie McDonagh feels that the programme will provide her with opportunities that she would otherwise not have.  Bridie's classmate, Michael Conway is also hopeful that the time he spends in France will give him a leg up the career ladder. 

For many, they will return to Ireland after completing the programme. Others will stay on in Europe. Maureen Keane, mother of Lisa Keane, a participant on the programme, hopes that she won't lose Lisa permanently. 

The programme is funded by a range of Irish bodies and for Paddy Jordan it is money well spent. 

This episode of 'Nationwide' was broadcast on 22 January 1999.  The reporter is Alasdair Jackson and the programme presenter is Michael Ryan.