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Executive summary

Continuing vocational training (CVT) is part of the educational process, and it is determined by the social and economic development needs in regions and at national level, the demographic composition of the population, its needs, interests and abilities. The aim of the present report is to summarise and analyse information on CVT in Latvia, to describe the current situation, the present activities, as well as to characterise the challenges and the necessary changes.

Continuing education and training are currently becoming increasingly important in Latvia, as there is more awareness that harmonious economic and social development of the country can be reached only through educating the population life long. Especially the radical changes on the labour market have brought about the new attitude. Continuing vocational training is already and important part of the educational processes in Latvia, however, it should be noted that no specific conceptual approaches or legislation have been worked out or passed as yet. A policy debate has started and several working groups have been appointed for dealing with specific CVT issues and strategic approaches. The expected outcome of the debate is a Conception for Continuing Education in Latvia, Conception for Vocational Training Development and Flexible Learning Strategy in Latvian Higher Education (with CVT in view).

Another important issue in the Latvian governmental policy is to reduce (make more specific) the functions of branch ministries, delegating various relevant functions to non-governmental organisations and agencies (Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers No 356). This is true also in the field of CVT, and a good example for it is the newly established public, non-for profit organisation "Continuing Education Development Foundation" (CEDeF). This organisation has been established in close co-operation with the Ministry of Education and Science, and some of the continuing education and training issues are becoming the responsibility of this organisation.

As CVT services are decentralised in Latvia, information on CVT issues (providers, programs, trainers, participants’ etc.) is incomplete. However, there exist statistical data on adult education in Latvia for the years 1995, 1996 and 1997, and also several CVT providers have made available their own studies in the field which are especially useful for studying the labour market demand and offer in general.

The main CVT organisers and providers in Latvia are:

  • Branch Ministries and their subordinate institutions and collaboration organisations
  • Employers and Employers' organisations
  • Trade unions
  • Universities' Continuing Education Departments; Distance Education Centres
  • State administration School
  • Local governments' Training centres
  • Chamber of Craft
  • Adult Education Centres established by local governments
  • Public organisations
  • Educational institutions, organisations and associations
  • State Employment service

It is essential to note that the offered CVT programs are becoming increasingly flexible and the services more diverse. However, at state level there is lack of effective information system on offered courses and programs, and there are no mechanisms to assure the quality of the programs.

The legislation concerning education in general and CVT specifically is constantly amended and improved. Currently the following laws are in action:

  • "Law on Education of the Republic of Latvia" 1998

  • "Law on Crafts" 1993

  • "Law on Schools of Higher Education" 1995

  • Several relevant concepts have been developed and approved:

  • Concept of Education in Latvia

  • Concept of Adult Education

  • Concept of Adult Business Education

Draft Law on Vocational training has been submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers. Currently legislation on CVT is under consideration, and this would involve the social partners - the employers and the employees. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Science an inter-institutional body - Adult Education Consulting Board - has been established. In the Board the branch Ministries, employers' and employees' organisations, public organisations and other relevant labour market stakeholders are represented.

From the juridical point of view the main drawback for CVT is lack of specific laws, acts and conceptual documents. There is an urgent need for the Concept for Continuing Vocational Training, Law on Continuing Vocational Training. Norms are needed that stipulate the role of state, local governments, employers and employees in the implementation of CVT. In other words, there are no laws to constitute the juridical basis for further development of CVT.

In Latvia there are no direct links yet between initial vocational training and continuing vocational training. This is a serious drawback and may cause problems in future, as unemployment may tend to grow. The role of life long learning is increasing, as the demand for re-qualification and acquisition of new skills during ones professional life grows.

In the existing legislation the limited chapters on (continuing) vocational training do not stipulate essential aspects of CVT in relation to the labour market situation. The state does not provide incentives for employers to invest in CVT, as no advantages have been envisaged for employers prepared to support education. Thus, legislation in Latvia does not encourage employers to train their employees, and the actual investments in education often directly depend on the employers' understanding that education is not mere expenditure but a relevant investment into the long term development and competitiveness of their enterprise.

Very generally the employers interest in education has increased, and their contribution to the CVT has grown from 10% of the total financing of CVT in 1995 to 26% in 1997. The main financial sources are the employers input (26%), the state budget - regarding the unemployed (34%), and the fees paid by the participants (33%). These data refer to 1997. Still, the questionnaires by the various Ministries allow to draw a conclusion that optimisation of the offered and implemented programs is necessary.

The main drawbacks in the current organisation and implementation of CVT are:

  • Lack of CVT legislation and conceptual approaches
  • Inadequate financing
  • Shortage of good quality CVT programs in various branches
  • Trainers and specialists in CVT often being unfamiliar with methodology for the work with adults

The initial discussions on existing CVT models and future development prospects (with the participation of representatives from state administration institutions, local governments, non-governmental organisations, employers and employers' organisations, universities and other organisations - more detailed information to be found in other chapters of the present report - have enabled the key stakeholders to draw the first conclusions on the basic directions of work in developing CVT system in Latvia:

  1. Identification of CVT fields and needs
  2. Development of CVT programs in compliance with the labour market, quality assessment
  3. Implementation of adequate learning methods with subsequent improvement of the CVT quality
  4. Providing the potential clients with the necessary information:
  5. Creating CVT financing system with built in incentives
  6. Harmonisation of Vocational training legislation
  7. Further development of system for qualification certifying documents

The exchange of information and experience with European partners would be of great value in creating a comprehensive CVT system.

Introduction. The state of play of CVT in general

There is yet no uniform way for gathering information about Continuing Vocational Training in Latvia, as Continuing Vocational Training is basically decentralised in Latvia, which makes the task more complicated. However, some degree of centralisation can be observed regarding the major CVT providers and their network. Especially the training of the unemployed is done in a centralised way and organised by the Employment State Department through its central office, the affiliated offices in regions and by training organisations that have won the tenders for organising training for the unemployed. Thus, in Latvia Continuing Vocational Training can be accessed by individuals who are or are not actively employed and consequently the target group in CVT is not homogeneous - it includes highly qualified specialists, specialists with lower qualification, the unemployed, and also young persons with insufficient professional qualification.

In Latvia uniform understanding has not been reached as yet as to the definition of continuing education. Traditionally, after finishing a continuing education program, no diploma is issued like it is in the regular education system. Usually it is a certificate on finishing a specific course. In Latvia a broad range of CVT programs are being offered aiming at re-qualification, at skills improvement, at broad competencies etc.

CVT is organised by several major providers who will be described in greater detail in other sections of the present study. The major CVT providers are:

  1. Branch Ministries. Branch ministries have the Personnel Departments, which jointly with State Administration School organise training for the civil servants of the specific Ministry. The courses are not tailor-made but roughly the same for all. The Ministries normally do not have special CVT departments, however CVT for the specialists and workers in the given sector is provided through various subordinate or collaboration institutions of the given Ministry. E.g. the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Regional Development has the following collaboration and subordinate institutions and organisations (which also provide CVT) – Latvian Environmental Data Centre, Environmental Consultancy and Monitoring Centre, State Hydrometeorology Department, State Geology Service, Regional State Inspection, 8 Regional Environmental Departments. Thus, every Ministry has its own system of subordination or collaboration institutions.
  2. Employers are major providers of CVT, however, the existing legislation does not encourage the employers to spend resources on CVT. CVT is provided also by employers associations - The Training centre of the Chamber of Commerce, Business Advisory Centre and other.
  3. Trade unions are currently becoming more active CVT providers in order to defend the rights of the employees.
  4. Universities' Continuing Education Departments are potentially very important actors in CVT. However, they still need support for restructuring their work and for becoming strong professional teams operating on self-financing principles.
  5. State Administration School provides CVT for the civil servants, and due to their questioning the civil servants from various Ministries, the spectrum of the offered programs is becoming much wider.
  6. Local Governments' Training Centre with its 8 regional branches is a major provider of CVT for local governments’ officials and specialists. This network is well developed and with strong capacity – training more than 6000 persons per year which is much for the scale of Latvia. The work of the Local Governments’ Training Centre will be presented as a case study further in the report.
  7. Public organisations and private training companies are doing a great deal of work in CVT. They are marked by their ability to react on the labour market demand in a flexible way, as basically they are working on the basis of self-financing. Also their staff are comparatively well trained, as they have gained experience through EU funded, also bilateral and multilateral international co-operation projects.
  8. Chamber of Craft
  9. Adult Education Centres established by local governments
  10. State Employment Service.

The unemployed is a special category, as their training costs are covered by state budget. Thus, in the case of the unemployed the basic challenge is how secure effectiveness of the training.

The development of CVT in many ways is hindered by absence of corresponding specific CVT legislation. Although the existing laws in the field of education have chapters on continuing education and training, this is not sufficient to serve as a basis for modern CVT developments in the context of constantly changing labour market and life-long learning demand. Several Ministries and other institutions have pointed out in a questionnaire which was sent out to them in connection with the present study that lack of specific CVT legislation is a serious obstacle for further developments in the field, specifically because no funds can be allocated for CVT from the state budget, unless CVT provisions are stipulated by law.

The existing basic legal framework in the field of education is:

  • "Concept of Education in Latvia" (accepted by Cabinet of Ministers (1995)
  • "Law on Education" (1998)
  • "Law on Crafts" (1993)
  • "Concept of Training for Craft" (1992)
  • "Law on Higher Education Institutions" (1995)
  • "Concept of Adult Education" (accepted by order of the Ministry of Education and Science 24.02.1998)
  • "Concept of Adult Business Education" (accepted by Ministry of Education and Science))

The following draft Law has been submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers:

Draft "Law on Vocational Education" (submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers in 1998)

The existing short chapters on CVT in the existing legislation do not stipulate important aspects in connection with the modern labour market situation. The State does not promote employers to invest the funds in continuing training. Professional continuing training is financed by the employers, by the state (the unemployed) or by the participants themselves.

The fact that no specific laws on CVT exist is also the reason why funds specifically for CVT are not allocated in state budged. The funding for CVT to a great extent depends on organisations’ and institutions’ good will and their understanding of CVT needs, and largely it also depends on individuals possibilities to pay the fees. This leaves many outside the labour market or professional development possibilities, as additionally to other problems, many lack initiative to take new challenges in trying to re-enter training, especially if it implies seeking for funds.

The specific aims of CVT must be viewed in the context of the current situation. On the one hand, CVT is meant to increase the employability and competitiveness of the population of the country in order to secure economic, social and cultural development of the country and provide high living standards for the population. On the other hand, the limited contribution the state can allocate for the development of CVT (in terms of securing corresponding legislation, funding of long term programs etc.) contradicts these aims. This is well manifested in studies recently made in Latvia. Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Craft and Latvian Employers Confederation organised surveys among employers due to summarise their opinion on professional continuing training and professional training.

Certainly, the roots for the current situation can be traced to the previous decades. After the collapse of the USSR when the big enterprises stopped operating, the new enterprises' basic challenge was to survive under the politically and economically grave conditions. They were focusing on the production of demanded goods and rendering services, and using the local labour force. Training of the employees was being done only in major and economically stable enterprises. The themes on demand for training were of general character and were meant basically for senior managing staff. When the economic situation stabilised, the employers became more interested in training of their employees. The following factors were enhancing this process:

  • need to produce high quality goods and render quality services under the conditions of increasing competition
  • establishment of joint ventures in Latvia
  • the offices and daughter companies of major overseas firms entering Latvia
  • introduction of quality management system in big enterprises

Today the employers in Riga and in economically developed regions pay more attention to training of the employees than in economically underdeveloped regions where active entrepreneurship is non-existent, for example, the Latgale region.

However, there are certain developments, which aim at improving the employability of the population in Latvia:

The National Programme for small and medium size enterprises development

The National Programme for small and medium size enterprise development was worked out in 1997. This programme foresees integration of entrepreneurship related subjects in general secondary school curricula, in professional education establishment curricula and higher education establishment curricula, in order to encourage student’s initiative and knowledge on enterpreneurship.

National programme of SME foresees training in following directions:

  • enterprise management
  • marketing
  • financing management
  • business planning and developing
  • producing output and quality guarantee

The main target group for such kind of training could be students, the directors of enterprises, beginners in entrepreneurship, middle level managers’ etc.

Latvian Republic Labour Code foresees advantages for employees combining work and studies.

  • 191st paragraph from Labour Code defines that the employers obligation is to create necessary conditions (foreseen in working collective agreement) for combining professional training or studying in education establishments and regular job without interruption of work ,
  • 192nd paragraph from Labour Code defines that theoretical and practical in-company training is organised during working hours or out of working hours in accordance to statutes, working collective agreement or common understanding from both sides.
  • 193rd paragraph from Labour Code defines that employees receive category, working title and job in accordance to awarded speciality and qualification after professional training regarding working collective agreement or common understanding from both sides.
  • 201st paragraph from Labour Code defines advantages for employees successfully studying in all types of education establishments.

Employers can grant study leave with keeping salary or not and other facilitation are in accordance to working collective agreement or common understanding from both sides.

Employer must grant study leave for passing State exams or preparing diploma project no less than 20 calendar days receiving state fixed minimal salary.

State and local municipality establishments, employers and banks can grant credits for study costs to employers who combine work and studies in all types of educational establishments.

In the Republic of Latvia training for crafts constitute a major sector in the field of vocational training. The Chamber of Trade is an important organisation here. The Act on Crafts regulates the principles of training for crafts and Regulations by the Ministry of Education and Science determines the organisation of institutions which are training for crafts.

The Concept of Training for Crafts determines the aims and objectives of craftsmanship closely linking it to employability of people:

1.1. To preserve the heritage of craftsmanship, to promote the development of crafts education in accordance with the needs of national economy

1.2. To train high class specialists in crafts (in theory and practice), so that they can execute individual orders and render services

1.3. To offer the necessary knowledge for establishing and management of crafts enterprises

1.4. To offer training in crafts for the disabled people for the rehabilitation of their physical and mental ability

1.5. To organise re-qualification

1.6. To organise further training in crafts

Problem-oriented description of barriers to enhance CVT

Barriers preventing enhancement of CVT from legislative aspects are:

  • lack of Continuing Vocational Training Concept,
  • lack of Law on CVT,
  • lack of acts regulating the role of state, local governments, employers and employees in the field of CVT.

Fact: In Latvia so far no closer co-operation has been established between the initial vocational education and training and continuing education and training organised by employers or other organisations.

A questionnaire for ministries and major CVT providers

A questionnaire was specially prepared for the current study and spread in most RL Ministries and among major CVT providers from local governments' and non-governmental sector. The answers in many ways represent the present concerns and barriers for enhancing CVT in the country.

The respondents were:

  • The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development
  • The Ministry of Finance
  • The Ministry of Economics
  • The Ministry of Education
  • The Ministry of Culture
  • The Ministry of Agriculture
  • The Ministry of Transport and Communication
  • Latvian Adult Education Association
  • Latvian Knowledge Society
  • Local Governments' Training Centre
  • National Radio and Television
  • Latvian Association for the Economic Education of Adults

Those organisations and institutions that have been dealt with in greater detail in the current report were not included in the questionnaire.

Among other minor questions, the 5 main questions were:

  1. Who deals with CVT in the sector?
  2. Who are the teachers and trainers - is there a special teacher training system for CVT?
  3. What obstacles for CVT are being encountered?
  4. What measures ought to be taken to enhance CVT and what subjects and issues are of special importance?
  5. How are the existing CVT courses and programs financed?

The results are summarized in the following table.

Ministries Other organisations
All Ministries have Personnel Departments for training of civil servants. CVT in the sector is carried out by subordinate or collaboration institutions. Organise CVT themselves
Specialists in the field are basically used as teachers in CVT programs. Problem - often they have not undergone courses for adult education methodologies. In the case of Ministry of Education - a University program is promoted on training the adult educators. Trainers with adequate qualifications are used for delivering CVT programs. Local Governments' Training Centre do some training of trainers themselves

Financial problems;

Old-dated teaching methods;

Poorly functioning existing legislation;

No CVT co-ordinating institution in the sector;

Difficulties in forecasting future CVT needs;

No incentives for involvement in CVT as there is no difference in remuneration for work;

No conception or legislation on CVT.

Lack of corresponding legislation;

Inability of participants to pay fees;

Poor teaching materials in Latvian;

Shortage of highly competent trainers in important subjects, such as macroeconomics, public administration, management, project management, development planning, personnel management;

Limited possibilities to win state-financed order for training;

Not sufficiently developed co-operation between local governments and Employment State Department on assessing needs in training the unemployed;

Difficulties in forecasting the CVT needs in connection with National economy development strategy;

No incentives for employers to organise CVT;

Tendency to destroy past experience and former models which used to function well

CVT is needed on broader issues, like organisation of work, skills for co-operation with partners, exchange of experience, project development and management;

Training in languages and PC;

Training of trainers for CVT, with work in international environment in mind;

Centres or units organising CVT in the branch;

Specific CVT legislation;

Pilot projects on CVT developments with support from ETF (possibly a supporting working group in ETF);

Broader economic subjects for all branches;

Training of specialists in teaching methodologies;

Modern CVT units where transfer of best experience is possible;

Modern CVT programs on development planning, planning of budget, accountancy principles, social work;

Programs for the general public for market economy, communication skills, broad legislation issues, democratic attitudes;

Specific programmes on small and medium size enterprises, entrepreneurship, especially in rural regions, accountancy, PC, languages, health and environment

Funding within the planned budget

Participant fees, subsidies, bilateral and multilateral projects, economic activities

Some basic conclusions can be drawn from the questionnaires as to hindering factors for CVT enhancement:

  • Lack of legislation and development concepts regarding CVT
  • Inadequate funding
  • Lack of good-quality CVT training programs in various fields
  • Trainers or specialists fulfilling the role of trainers have not acquired adult education methodologies

Also the role of non-governmental organisations should be enhanced, as it can be well seen in the case of long-standing activities of the Latvian Knowledge Society and Latvian Folk School (LFS), which provides professional development at initial and middle level and has a relatively high percent of employability among their course participants (according to reports from LFS, on some projects the level of employability after CVT courses reaches 60%).

The survey of Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the beginning of 1997 organised a questioning of the employers to find out their opinion on the existing professional schools and the VET system. The investigation was restricted mainly to the field of sewing industry, partly due to the fact discovered by LCCI - sewing enterprises of Latvia can not participate in international contracts because of lack of skilled working force.

The questionnaires were distributed among 92 enterprises (40 of them sewing and textile factories, 13 construction firms and 39 firms of various profiles) and finally 57 answers were gathered. The total number of employees in these 57 enterprises was about 25690.

In the questionnaire a question was included "To what degree does the existing vocational training system comply with the actual needs in the labour market?" The employers’ view was that the new specialists possess good theoretical knowledge, but they lack practical skills. This might be explained by weak links between the enterprises and the schools of vocational training, also the shortage of job placement possibilities for vocational schools' students.

 

Fig.1 The opinion of employers regarding continuing training

As well functioning continuing education system is crucial as a tool for training of new professions in the labour market and for retraining of the employees working in a restructured enterprise, the survey of LCCI gives important information as to the actual attitude of part of Latvian entrepreneurs to the existing system of the continuing education. The results are depicted in the following diagram:

60% of the questioned employers expressed opinion that the continuing education is not sufficiently developed in Latvia. Even more, 16% of them are sure that such a system does not exist in this country. A lot of entrepreneurs organise training in their enterprises (35%) in the professions that are specific for the enterprise. Other enterprises contract various educators in the labour market. Also different professionals are engaged in the teaching process including the managers of various levels.

The questioned entrepreneurs have mentioned that retraining was needed for accountants, lawyers, staff inspectors, marketing specialists, quality managers, various technical professions.

Inquiring employers about barriers on CT, the answers were as follows:

  • continuing training is poorly organised or non-existing,
  • training of employees - it is not considered to be an investment by employers to train the employees, as also the state does not encourage investment in CVT
  • lack of planning of employers’ training,
  • difficulties to define training needs,
  • difficulties to find necessary training offer,
  • insufficient training offer outside Riga,
  • difficulties to find free time during working day for employee’s training,
  • lack of funding,
  • insufficient placement opportunities for training.

 

Individuals motivation, access to labour market

Lack of motivation among individuals is a frequent phenomenon, especially in rural regions of Latvia – and mainly regarding those who have difficulty in managing change. Psychological factors often play an important role – lack of self assurance, lack of a future vision, lack of initiative, inability to apply the newly acquired knowledge in a systemic way, lack of skills for strategic planning and critical thinking. There is an evidence that those who have undergone the course for the unemployed or some other CVT courses often find themselves unable to find appropriate job or start an enterprise of their own. There is an implication in it that certain amount of knowledge and skills in itself does not promote employability of a person unless the person is developed in a broader context. There is a marked need for a comprehensive program "Managing change" which might be worked out with the support and expertise from European Union countries. Also the role of media is still underestimated, especially the possibilities of TV and video programs on step-by-step "success stories" which would diminish the psychological barriers in managing change.

Certainly, access to CVT is another issue. Especially in rural districts access to CVT is close to zero due to financial aspects and often also due to social apathy.

Challenges in the training of the unemployed

The improvement of retraining of unemployed is hindered by lack of unified professional quality assessment system that is reason for:

    • complicated choice for the best state order executors,
    • lack of unified standard curricula for each speciality for making an estimation on training costs

The educational level among the registered unemployed is becoming lower and the number of permanently unemployed is increasing (38,1% of total number in the end of 1997). In accordance with data on 1st July, 1998, 26% of the registered unemployed have basic or less than basic education and 30% have general secondary education. It means that all of them are without a speciality.

The permanently unemployed need to acquire general education subjects as well, and that influences the duration of courses and increases the training costs. It should be mentioned that only 50% out of those who wish to enter a retraining courses have access to this active measure at present. Also it must be mentioned that increase in financing for retraining of the unemployed is significant (from 2.3 million Lats in 1997 to 3.3 million Lats in 1998). For improved competitiveness in the labour market, broader educational background must be offered. According to the State Employment Service data, only 25.5% of the trained unemployed found a job in 1996, and already 49.5% in 1997 and during first 5 months of 1998 - 70%.

For better competitiveness in labour market of persons, completed professional training is necessary:

    • to supplement theoretical training during courses with cycle of practical training due to acquiring documentary confirmed experience of real practical work;
    • to implement seminar programme on job founding process and on dialogue with employer;
    • to realise different training programmes for people with or without previous knowledge in definite profession, for example, accountancy.
    • to increase funding for training of unemployed;
    • to increase funding for enlargement of counselling work for everybody needed it regarding to "Law on social safety",1995, paragraph 4 about rights on free of charge consultation in the field of education’s and profession’s selection.

 

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