In its activity report of 2004, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania indicates that in the short term the priority development areas for education and scientific research continue to be the efforts to increase employment and industrial competitiveness, and enhance the intellectual potential of the country.The state has now developed the system of acquiring a qualification and retraining of unemployed persons, which receives adequate financing according to the limits of national resources; the principal objectives for the future are enhancing the motivation of unskilled workers and employers for continuous learning, and improving necessary legal instruments.
Learning in a flexible way
The latest documents define three forms of learning – formal, non-formal and informal learning; however the Strategic Action Plan for Lifelong Learning highlights only two forms of education: formal and non-formal education. The most recent studies on adult education/informal education have found that the commitment to lifelong learning in people’s minds and especially activities is still underdeveloped. There have been efforts lately to step up this process through a larger state support and the assistance of EU Structural Funds. In 2005, out of LTL 259 million allocated to projects, more than LTL 105 million was spent for the development of lifelong learning. This is a sign that the state and the people perceive the need for continuous learning and a more adequate financing thereof. This is also proved by an increasing attention to target socially disadvantaged groups (disabled, low-income people etc), specifically to boosting their social integration.
Where the upgrading of qualification is concerned, the sums paid by a company are not the income of employees and therefore are not included in the income tax of individuals. It is worth noting that payments of companies for the training, qualification upgrading and retraining of employees at seminars, courses or at educational institutions are social insurance tax-deductible contributions. Lithuania also applies subsidies for vocational training and retraining of employees in the regions with a rate of unemployment above the national average.
The Law on non-formal adult education enables employers to create flexible work conditions. According to article 14, at the request of people, who work under the contract, they can get state or other support for non-formal education and also extra paid holiday. Duration of holiday, conditions of payment and other kinds of support should be provided in the contract.
One of the hurdles for a successful modern lifelong learning system is the closeness of institutions and weak coordination of actions among establishments, providers of institutional services and social partners. In terms of social partnership, Lithuania also lacks a bigger contribution of social partners and non-governmental organisations to the strengthening of continuous learning. In addition to other factors, this results from the generally low involvement of residents in the activities of NGOs. The non-formal education of adults is usually paid by the individuals enrolled in programmes or by interested natural or legal persons.
The competence development of older workers
In 2003, the Lithuanian Labour Exchange started the implementation of 55+ employment support programme for the older unemployed with the aim of increasing their employment and opportunities for remaining on the labour market. Its goal is increasing the employment of jobless people and opportunities to stay longer in the labour market.
For acquiring a new popular qualification, the people of pre-pension age receive support from the Lithuanian Labour Market Training Authority under the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, six regional training and counselling services which are subordinate to it, and fourteen labour market training centres. The programmes of labour market training centres each year enrol about 25,000 individuals; however there is no official statistics on how many of them belong to the pre-pension age group (e.g. above 50 years). Individual studies revealed that the continuous vocational education and training of adults is underdeveloped in the country. In the light of changed production conditions and new technologies, the earlier acquired diplomas of education are not valid; therefore, a new vocation or qualification is needed.
The representation of older people in adult secondary schools and adult training centres is most abundant – these facilities have 3,299 learners. Compared to the academic year of 2001-2002, the number of such persons increased by 1,000, or compared to years 1999-2000, this number surged five times. It may be presumed that more and more older people continue to learn at training institutions for adults. As these institutions are based in the major cities or district centres, their services are less accessible to rural residents. In autumn of 2002, compared to 2000, the number of the students of 40 years and above enrolled in undergraduate studies soared 3.5 times. The same increase was recorded for the number of individuals of the said age group enrolled in master or equivalent studies; there are also more individuals who seek to acquire a second diploma of higher education.
The content of vocational training was renewed on the basis of competencies and objectives. In all curricula of vocational training the entrepreneurship module was introduced. IT and foreign languages were integrated into professional subjects or offered as independent modules. In 2003, a new vocational training standard structure was adopted.
Systematic labour market vocational training is a rather new phenomenon in Lithuania, and the requirements increase with respect to the changes taking place in the structure of society. The process of adult training has its specific demands for instructors and teachers of general subjects, as they are not merely knowledge conveyers, but also representatives of labour world: they represent the world into which trainees will return or enter.
At the end of 2003, nineteen Lithuanian institutions, representing employees, employers and training providers, signed a co-operation agreement. The programme of joint activities comprises initiating and coordinating national and international research, accumulating, systemising, analysing and disseminating related information and other activities ensuring the improvement of vocational education and training and human resources development based on informed decisions and the EU common strategic goals. It is an important step in strengthening the links between the worlds of training and employment.