Typically in Estonia, life-long learning is mainly for people who already have higher education. Those with a good basis can easily continue learning. People with basic and secondary education on the other hand have had less opportunities to learn. To improve the situation the Estonian Ministry for Education has decided to offer vocational courses for adults with basic and secondary education. And these courses are free of charge for the learners. From 2007-2011 9 million euros have been assigned for courses in vocational education institutions and 4 million euros in non-formal education centres (ESF + Estonian state budget).
A pilot project with the budget of 1.3 million euros took place from September 2007 until June 2008. Vocational institutions had applied for more support in order to realize a larger project – 5.3 million euros to grant vocational training opportunities for 12 000 adult learners. The fact is that these institutions know that the main reason for people with basic and secondary education not participating in courses is financial.
How did the pilot project go at the Tallinn Construction School? Tõnu Armulik, head of adult education department of Tallinn Construction School, gives answers:
How many people did participate in the courses during the pilot phase?
In our vocational school 320 adults completed the free courses.
Which courses were most popular?
A lot of people attended tiling, plastering, daubing and painting courses. Several also asked for pottery courses but this specialization requires more than 80 hours learning and the pilot phase could not afford free courses in such length.
Who came to learn in the pilot project?
As expected, there were many people already working in construction that wanted to acquire additional skills. And these courses raised their qualification level. There were also owners of small construction companies that wanted to be able to help out with work. But quite surprisingly also several manicurists, cleaners, sewers, bar-attendants, florists, service agents, IT specialists and school teachers participated .
Videos and workshops
What brought the non-professionals to the Construction School?
Most people wanted to renovate their own houses: tiling bathrooms, daubing walls, painting etc. But for example two physics teachers, young ladies, acquired the skills of painting for an extra job and income renovating apartments next to their teaching job. As we know, teachers are not well-paid in Estonia.
After the pilot the ministry of education decided that free courses will in the future only be offered to professional construction workers and not to bar-attendants, manicurists etc. Difficult to say is this was a good decision.
How do you teach adults?
We use the newest integrative teaching methods. Theory is learnt by watching video materials – this way even people who have never worked in construction can follow. Most of the study is done in practice. The Construction School has several large workshops and all phases of work can be completed there with special tools and materials. We have mixtures that do not petrify – thus objects can be easily demolished and rebuilt. The learning groups are small and there is time to instruct each student individually. The courses take place three times a week 5 hours at a time, a month and a half in total.
Did the graduates get a certificate at the end of the course?
Those that wanted a certificate could pass an exam after completing the course. In the exam the students had to answer questions about the specialization they had chosen without the help of study-materials. Construction professionals were highly interested in this certificate. And it is indeed a valuable document authorized by the Ministry of Education!
Construction as a hobby
What is the use of the free courses – for people and for the society?
For example, the already professional painters raised their qualification level and this is very good. People, new to tiling and plastering, now have an additional skill and possible occupation and thus a more secure future. Many people leaned construction simply as a hobby. Like gardening and music, construction too, can be a hobby! I see no harm done here either. Is it not great when people are able to construct something with their own hands? In my point of view there is no difference for the society if people build something for themselves or hire a specialist to do it for them – what is important is that now more people are better at construction work in Estonia.
Do the free courses also serve as a kind of advertising for the Tallinn Construction School?
We are not in need for advertising as most courses already have waiting lists. On the other hand people from various backgrounds came to the free courses and they will naturally tell their acquaintances about the experience and so the information spreads.
How has the current cooling of Estonian economy affected the Construction School?
The situation is actually favourable for our school. Good skills are now in value. Nobody will hire a random worker these days who has education or certificates from our school or elsewhere.