Support for employers in promoting skills development in Latvia
In July 2021, the European Commission's (EC) Directorate General for Structural Reform Support, in cooperation with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), started implementing the Technical Support Instrument project Support to Employers in Promoting Skills Development in Latvia. In Latvia, the implementation of the project is coordinated by the Ministry of Education and Science.
Technical assistance (expertise, including expertise of international experts) is available under the EC Technical Support Instrument and does not require national co-financing. The project will include extensive consultations with Latvian stakeholders, in-depth data and policy analysis, learning from other countries that also face similar challenges, good practices, as well as the identification of potential barriers and the search for solutions.
As a result of the project implementation:
- an assessment of the main obstacles has been performed and the conditions that promote the investment of Latvian employers in the skills of their employees have been clarified (2nd quarter of 2022);
- identified examples of international good practice that encourage employers to invest in the skills of their employees (3rd quarter of 2022);
- practical guidelines have been developed to develop a regulatory framework to support employers and promote investment in employee skills development (2nd quarter of 2023);
- developed monitoring framework, incl. the methodology and monitoring indicators that will facilitate the evaluation of the implementation of the implemented support measures (3rd quarter of 2023), and
- a roadmap for further action on a support system for sustainable and socially responsible adult education has been developed (3rd quarter of 2023).
The proposals developed within the project for the regulatory framework of employer support measures together with the Skills Funds initiative, the Individual Learning Accounts initiative and other activities will create a basis for a sustainable and socially responsible adult education support system. It will ensure the right of employees to supplement their knowledge with a certain regularity, while employers will create obligations to ensure the development of employees' skills, as well as define the rights of employers in this process, as well as create a legal framework for directing state budget investments to support employers.
Vocational education institutions also started implementing a competency approach in general teaching subjects
From 1 September 2020, the implementation of the competence approach in general teaching subjects started in all vocational education institutions, in accordance with the updated state vocational secondary education standard and the state vocational education standard (Noteikumi par valsts profesionālās vidējās izglītības standartu un valsts arodizglītības standartu).
The new standard offers options according to the interests of each student of a vocational secondary education institution. Thus, a student will be able to complete a vocational secondary education programme in 3.5 years, will be able to obtain a professional qualification and enter the labor market. 4th year students will have the opportunity to choose to take in-depth courses at the highest level of study content in order to prepare for studies at tertiary education level. It is important that VET institutions will have to offer at least two courses at the highest level, thus providing engaging and specialized education programmes for the needs of the industry and the region.
Unlike the previous standard of vocational secondary education and vocational education, where the basic parts of educational programmes - theory and practice - were defined, the new standard is based on other principles. The compulsory content is divided into a main part and a variable part, which covers the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competences specified in the professional standards or professional qualification requirements according to the profession. The basic part of the vocational secondary education and vocational education program is 70% of the amount of the education programme, but the variable part is 30% of the amount of the education programme.
The new framework also expands the implementation of the modular approach to education, including the assessment of each student's achievement. The students will have the opportunity to receive official certificates of the modules they have acquired, which may be necessary if the studies have been interrupted or if the studies are being continued in another educational institution.
In order to reduce the administrative burden, vocational education institutions will not have to carry out additional licensing and accreditation of VET programmes, allowing non-essential changes to be approved by order of the school head. The school will have to inform the State Education Quality Service about the changes and enter the relevant information in the State Education Information System (VIIS).
The support of EU funds for the improvement of professional qualifications of employees is significantly increased
In order to expand and promote the involvement of employed adults in the development of professional qualifications and reduce the negative impact of the crisis caused by the Covid-19 virus, the European Union (EU) funds programme has significantly improved support conditions for employee participation in further education programmes.
In June 2020, the government approved amendments to the regulations on improving the professional competence of employees prepared by the Ministry of Education and Science. The amendments envisage to increase the funding available for this purpose by more than 21 million euros, the total support under the programme reaching almost 47 million euros. Opportunities to increase support for professional development of employees have been found through redistribution of funding from other EU fund programmes. The new support conditions extend the support programme for in-service training of employees by one year - until 31 December 2023, the range of beneficiaries is also expanded by 17 000 people.
In the future, the offer of professional development of employees is expanded with the possibility to choose one of the further education programs also for the acquisition of a study module or study course at a higher education institution or college. Until now, it was possible to use the professional development support programme for employees once, in the future within the project it will be possible to improve professional competence twice, if the studies have not been interrupted.
Support for employees in the implementation of in-service training opportunities has also been extended to include travel expenses to and from the place of qualification practice. On the other hand, for employees who have not been granted the status of low-income or person in need, the costs of continuing vocational education, including modular vocational education programmes in continuing vocational education, are covered in the amount of 95% (currently 90%).
The State Education Development Agency provides more information on training, including application for training.
Funding for professional development of teachers in VET institutions is increased
In 2020, 400 thousand euros will be available from the European Union Structural Funds programme for the continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers of vocational education institutions. This will ensure the introduction of new curricula, improve teaching methods in accordance with the requirements of the modern labor market, as well as strengthen the competitiveness of vocational education institutions.
The support is intended for the professional development of teachers, practice managers, work-based learning trainers and craftsmen representatives of the industry in vocational education institutions, as well as for ensuring effective management of educational institutions and acquisition of modern teaching methods.
The additional funding will provide an opportunity to address the crisis caused by the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the world and in Latvia, providing pedagogues and administrative staff of vocational education institutions with the planned training activities also in a remote form.
The implementation of the EU funds program “To ensure efficient management of vocational education institutions and improvement of professional competence of the involved staff” is ensured by the National Centre for Education. The total funding available for the implementation of the program is more than 6.4 million euros.
Recommendations for the development and licensing of non-formal adult education programmes have been developed
In order to promote the development and licensing of non-formal adult education programmes, the Ministry of Education and Science has developed guidelines for adult non-formal education providers and municipal staff on the development and licensing of non-formal adult education programmes.
Recommendations (available in Latvian language) include the stages of developing a non-formal adult education programm - identification of the need for non-formal adult education programmes, characterization and needs of the target groups (adult learners), identification of learning outcomes, curriculum content and development steps, description of recommended teaching methods and resources, and approaches . The material also contains recommendations for the development of licensing procedures for non-formal adult education programmes.
Recommendations for non-formal adult education providers and municipal staff were developed within the framework of the Erasmus + project "National Coordinators for the Implementation of the European Program in Adult Education" implemented by the MoES.
Preparation of work-based learning trainers and tutors
The Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia has started a series of national and regional seminars/ dissemination events to promote the tandem training approach for work-based learning (WBL) trainers and tutors, developed within the framework of the Erasmus+ project “Testing New Approaches to Training VET and Workplace Tutors for Work Based Learning” (TTT4WBL).
In total, 17 such seminars have taken place over three years and 300 practitioners have been trained (131 from vocational education institutions and 169 from enterprises). Training took place in Rīga, Rēzekne, Daugavpils, and Ogre.
The seminar program was developed within the framework of the TTT4WBL project and approbated in three Baltic countries. The aim of the project is to test an innovative learning approach by preparing WBL training managers from business and vocational education institutions. This promotes a common understanding of WBL training and leads to closer and more successful collaboration between VET institutions and businesses.