Adult training needs clearer goals

Toomas Mattson | 9/22/2010 | 9:48 AM

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TALLINN, 22 September 2010 - The National Audit Office has found in its latest audit that the organisation of in-service training and re-training of adults is not systematic and does not support employees in gaining or updating their qualifications. Although the state is spending almost two billion kroons on adult training between 2008 and 2013, it has not managed to reach consensus on the kind of qualified workforce that is needed in the changing economic environment. The state also lacks an overview of the training that has taken place, the money that has been spent and the results that have been achieved – all of which are needed for the planning of further training and assessment of results.

The National Audit Office found that the organisation of the in-service training and re-training of adults is highly fragmented – at least 16 different agencies and 25 measures co-funded by the European Union are involved in the financing and organisation of such training. Adult training is coordinated by the Ministry of Education and Research, although in practice the activities of a number of agencies have been sidelined in coordination mechanisms. For example, the ‘Development Plan for Estonian Adult Education 2009-2013’ does not incorporate activities in the areas of government of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of the Environment or the Government Office, even though a total of approximately 800 million kroons in funding is planned to be allocated to them for the organisation of in-service training and re-training for adults (i.e. almost 40% of all funding planned for adult training).

Since adult education involves many parties, the state lacks a comprehensive overview of how much money it has already spent in order to achieve the goals set out in the development plan, how much it is currently spending and how much it should plan to spend in future. “We know that the amount spent on adult training has increased significantly due to European Union support, and the number of people undergoing training has increased likewise, but not even the agencies financing the training always have a proper overview of what’s being taught with the state’s money,” said Tarmo Olgo, Audit Director of the National Audit Office. “And we know even less about the benefit the state or the people doing them are actually gaining from these courses.”

Due to the lack of centralised management, agencies are identifying training needs and planning and assessing training separately, rendering the system inefficient and often leading to overlaps. For example, there are three measures for the training of adult trainers.

It remains difficult to determine training needs and to order training courses on this basis because the medium to long-term labour needs forecast released by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is vague, principally relying on numeric data from previous periods and not taking into account economic sectors potentially subject to priority development or structural changes in the economy. The state has so far also failed to develop a clear method for obtaining the input required from employers to determine training orders. As a result, those providing funding are submitting orders as they see fit, with those providing the training largely deciding on its content.

Looking at the objectives of adult education, here the state’s priority has been to increase the proportion of people involved in lifelong learning to 13.5%. However, this figure does not reflect the actual rise in qualifications of the workforce; it merely shows how many people are taking part in training.

The strategic goals related to the gaining and updating of qualifications have not been achieved through the activities of the ‘Development Plan for Estonian Adult Education 2009-2013’, since their fulfilment primarily depends on the activities of vocational education schools, colleges and universities in offering formal training.

The adult training courses offered by different institutions tend to be short-term in nature. Only a very small proportion of these courses end with the participants taking a professional examination. Very rarely is it assessed whether and how the training contributed to the growth in competitive ability of the workforce or their gaining new skills. Quality evaluation systems remain undeveloped. Therefore it is impossible to say whether and to what extent Estonian workers have gained or updated their qualifications in the course of training. “What we’re seeing in general is every area of government acting independently, and only seeing differences, not points on which they can work together,” Olgo explained. “The state needs to decide whether it makes sense to let everyone develop their own training systems, how much free recreational training should be provided at its expense, and how much it should be contributing to the training of a skilled labour force.”

As a result of its audit, the National Audit Office recommended that coordination in the field be improved. Better coordination and the development of quality control would also help to ensure the more economical and efficient use of funding. Taking into account the national objectives of improved competitive ability and economic growth, more funding needs to be channelled into training which will see participants gain new or update their existing qualifications and into re-training.

Background: One-third of the workforce has a low level of education or lacks professional or vocational skills

Statistics show that there are many people in Estonia who lack education providing them with professional or vocational skills. 11.3% of the population (in the 25–64 age) had only basic education or lower in 2009, while 21.2% had general secondary education. Although the number of tertiary-qualified specialists in the 25–64 age bracket has risen in recent years, the proportion of workers on the labour market with secondary or lower education has not significantly decreased. Just 5% of the population of Estonia between the ages of 15 and 74 have been issued with professional certificates. The vocational examinations most commonly taken are those at the lowest level; likewise, those most seldom taken are those at the highest level. This means that there is also a lack of senior specialists in the country.

Auditor General Mihkel Oviir commenting on the results of the audit:

“A third of the working-age population – which is to say a lot of people – have no professional education, or only general secondary education, meaning most of them lack the specific skills the labour market needs. That’s why business operators have been complaining for as long as they have that the job offers are there, but that the specialists with the skills they need and the certification to prove it aren’t.

“The in-service training and re-training offered to adults has not managed to bring about a change in this situation, and won’t as long as it continues in the same fashion, although money is being channelled into it. We have the figures we need to put together glowing reports by way of consolation, but we need to start looking at whether the training that’s being offered is actually of any benefit. It’s still hard for adults to reach the level of certified professional skills through in-service and re-training, to pick up where they left off in their education in the past or to start from scratch and learn something completely new.

“And in building up this unwieldy system we’ve actually forgotten in a way about the people who need its help. At the moment, information about training options is so scattered that you have to be a specialist just to find what you’re looking for. And even if you do there’s no guarantee it will be of any use to you, since the courses might be full or the information outdated. We might be an e-nation, but we don’t have an e-environment offering comprehensive information about training and allowing people to register for courses online if they want to.”

Toomas Mattson
Head of Communication Service
National Audit Office
Telephone: +372 640 0777
Mobile: +372 51 34 900
[email protected]

  • Posted: 9/22/2010 9:48 AM
  • Last Update: 11/10/2015 6:06 PM
  • Last Review: 11/10/2015 6:06 PM

The vocational examinations most commonly taken are those at the lowest level; likewise, those most seldom taken are those at the highest level.

Corbis/Scanpix Baltics

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