It's late autumn afternoon and twilight is gradually filling the room. Soon enough, the only light in the room will shine from the computer, where square after square gradually lights up in an open window of Zoom, people who have joined the remote lecture “The Basics of Digital Marketing” with me.
A lecturer is also on the screen soon, and for the next two hours, we will, like two other nights of the working week, learn new knowledge in the sector.
Several tens of thousands of people spent their evenings in a similar way, participating in the education project implemented by the State Agency for the Development of Education (VIAA), unfolding over six years.
Latvian residents employed within the framework of this project were able to acquire a training course, a separate module, or even a set of modules, thereby developing their knowledge. In addition, 90% of the prices of these lessons were covered by funding from the European Union.
People's interest was high and some applied multiple times, said Elīna Purmale-Baumane, director of the Department of Adult Education at the National Education Development Agency: “While people can learn twice in total as part of the program, many have also wanted to do so for the third time.”
Women were the most active in all nine rounds of the project – 66% of the total number of students; the majority of participants were aged 25-44. Over a six-year period, more than 60 educational institutions offered educational programs of varying qualifications, duration, and complexity.
In general, low-education workers began their studies less frequently (around 13 thousand in total) than those who had already received secondary or higher education (48 thousand), and they also completed their studies less frequently (79%) than those with knowledge and qualifications (84%).
“People with pre-graduate or higher education know better what they want and need than those with lower levels of education, who sometimes also tend to overestimate their abilities, despite checking these people's level of knowledge at the education establishment to divide into their respective groups,” explained Purmale-Baumane.
The most popular training throughout the project was in the electronics, information, and communication technologies sector – more than 40,600 people participated.
Education was also demanded in the sectors of business, finance and accounting (14,240 people), construction (6,617), as well as transport and logistics (5,206).
But there have also been sectors in the nine learning rounds of the project that have also failed to gain popularity: “Such untapped opportunities during this project have been construction, metalworking, mechanical engineering, and timber industry. There is a very high demand for labor in these sectors, so these skills were an opportunity to learn in almost all rounds, but there is a relatively small number of participants in relation to the number of education programs available,” said Zanda Rutkovska, head of Lifelong learning data analytics division at the VIAA's Department of Adult Education.
The reasons are different. First, they are traditionally regarded as suitable professions for men, and it is this demographic group that has used the program less often.
“There is also a regional aspect – these are programs that cannot be learned remotely,” Rutkovska explained, adding: “If digital skills programs tend to take place remotely and a person, no matter where they live or work, can learn on the internet in the evenings, then those skills - metalworking or wood industry - need to be learned in person.”
Over the years, relatively fewer people acquired new knowledge in the chemical industry (251), as well as in health and social care (499).
As the biggest motivation to participate, 42% of the learners said they wanted to do their job better, 35% were motivated to step up the career ladder and get higher pay, while 40% wanted to change their profession or workplace.
Although the project has now reached the finish line, the VIAA, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Economics, and the State Employment Agency, is already working on the next projects, which are likely to be very similar: “The age of the target group may change – younger participants may also be able to participate. the 25-year limit is also currently being revised in the European Union because younger people are also entering the labor market,” said the director of the VIAA's Adult Education Department.