Micro-qualifications encourage rapid competence acquisition and wider participation in lifelong learning
Amendments to the Adult Education Act have been prepared to provide the definition of micro-qualifications, establish the volume of study programmes leading to micro-credentials, principles of provision and quality assurance mechanism. The amendments to the law are intended to provide for the following:
- Training leading to a micro-qualification can be carried out on the basis of a study programme that meets the requirements set out in the continuing training standard (including conditions for enrolment and completion, learning outcomes and volume of studies).
- The learning outcomes of the program correspond to the level of the micro-qualification, programme or professional standard in the Estonian Qualifications Framework.
- The volume of studies required to obtain a micro-qualification is lower than for formal education and the acquisition of learning outcomes or competences is assessed according to appropriate and transparent assessment principles described in programmes or professional qualification standards.
- Training leading to micro-qualifications for the acquisition of specific work-related knowledge, skills or competences can be provided by higher education and vocational education institutions and other training providers (i.e. private in-service training institutions) recognised through the national quality assessment mechanism. Higher education institutions may award micro-qualifications in cases where these are part of a degree programme;
- Micro-qualifications may be obtained as part of a formal education programme, through in-service training, by taking a professional examination or by studying/working independently, and by proving the acquired knowledge, skills and competences to the competent authority using VNIL. However, not all micro-qualifications need to be part of a full qualification; higher and vocational training institutions may use VNIL for micro-qualifications, whereas in-service training institutions may not;
- Acquisition of a micro-qualification shall be certified by a microdegree, a partial qualification obtained via formal training in a VET school or a partial profession awarded by employers, a certificate or license awarded by the competent authority. Validators of micro-qualifications can be bodies awarding professional qualifications (also partial qualifications that may be equated with micro-qualifications in the future). Such a solution would work if the validation by an awarding body is sufficient for employers, so that they do not have to re-validate the compliance with the requirements of the micro-qualification (i.e. introduction of VNIL into the professional qualifications system);
- To ensure the uniqueness of the micro-qualification programmes, it will be required that a private in-service training institution can only offer a part of a formal training programme as a programme leading to a micro-qualification if it is agreed with HE institution. Without such agreement, the programme will be considered as a continuing training that complies with the quality rules, being validated (VNIL), but cannot be accumulated to build up to a full qualification.
The draft will be completed in 2022 and is scheduled for adoption in autumn 2022. Beyond legal regulation, it is planned to intervene in the provision of micro-qualifications through funding using the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
State-funded free training courses help people to cope with the COVID-19 crisis
This year, nearly 10,000 people will be provided the opportunity to participate in vocational training funded by the state and provided free of charge. These include 403 courses for 5,053 learners held at vocational training institutions and 102 courses for 4,817 learners held at higher education institutions. Most of the courses are ICT-related: this is partly based on the necessity of supporting people in coping with the COVID-19 crisis, but also on the recommendations from the OSKA labour market monitoring and future skills forecasting system.
Compared to past periods, significantly more courses take place online; in many cases, however, the provision of the courses can still depend on the spread of the virus in Estonia and the restrictions currently in force. Starting from 2020, in addition to vocational schools and professional higher education providers, the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research also funds courses provided by universities. Courses provided by vocational schools and professional higher education institutions support the acquisition of field-specific ICT skills and the development of digital skills required for distance working. The courses provided by universities and professional higher education institutions are intended to support the adoption of new technologies in different economic sectors, facilitate raising the awareness of technology users and contracting parties as well as development leaders, and support businesses and organisations in digitising their products, services, and business processes.
The share of workers without professional training is still high in Estonia, and the skills of many older workers have become obsolete. Free training courses provide people the opportunity to expand and update their professional skills regardless of their economic situation or education.
New OSKA reports will be completed
The labour market monitoring, forecasting and feedback system OSKA will analyze the need for skills and labor necessary for the development of the Estonian economy over the next ten years. By the end of 2020, all economic sectors will be analyzed and reports will be published in the areas of public administration, finances, and personal services.
An analysis of the impact of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 on labor and skills needs will also be completed by the end of the year. The Estonian Qualifications Authority has also mapped the need for sector-specific ICT skills. Inter alia, the analyses pointed out that the development of digital and technological skills is crucial in shaping future-readiness.
Based on OSKA reports, practical advice for career development and useful information about future work and skills are made available to all learners on the education portal haridusportaal.edu.ee
Labour market monitoring and forecast system OSKA continues and expands its activities
The labour market monitoring, forecasting and feedback system OSKA provides comprehensive information on how many people and with what skills will be needed in the next five to ten years in all economic sectors. OSKA analyses the labour force and skills needs of the Estonian labour market, using a uniform methodology. The economy is divided into twenty-four OSKA areas. Every year, five or six OSKA areas are analysed and proposals are made to better match the needs of the labor market and the training offer. Thus, in five years, all positions in all spheres of life in Estonian society will be covered. OSKA´s results provide input for the development of qualifications and career counseling system and curricula, for the provision of initial and continuous training, and for financing.
Since 2019, the monitoring of proposals made in sectoral studies has begun within the framework of OSKA. In 2018, the development of the OSKA web environment started to present the results and proposals of the research. The web environment (https://haridusportaal.edu.ee/oska) has been available to all learners from the spring of 2019.
In 2019, OSKA analyses were completed in the following areas:
- Film and and Video, Art and Design, Journalism, Content Creation, Language, Marketing and Communications and Printing
- Performing Arts, Music, Libraries, Museology, Crafts, and Sport
- Real Estate Services and Facility Maintenance
- Security and Law
- Water, Waste and Environmental Management
People with low level of education or outdated skills are offered professional development opportunities in state-commissioned courses
In 2019, almost 15,000 adults acquired new skills in state-commissioned continuous training courses in vocational education institutions, and 93% of them got a certificate for completion. The priority target groups of the trainings were adults without professional education, adults without secondary education and adults with outdated skills and aged 50+. 62% of the participants in the courses belonged to the listed target groups, and the share of participants aged 50+ increased to a quarter of all participants.
The recommendations of OSKA analyses were taken into account when planning the training offer. In addition to developing the content of the courses, the target groups in the areas of OSKA analyses were expanded in accordance with the recommendations of the analyses, i.e. the trainings were also aimed at adults with higher education. In order to support educational institutions in conducting courses, seminars were organised, where cooperation opportunities related to quality assurance of trainings, possiblities for cooperation in the regions and with the Unemployment Fund were introduced, opportunities for informing target groups and gathering feedback from participants was discussed.