Vocational education makes finding work easier for adults and brings higher wages
Eestlased Eestis 11 Jan 2016  EWR
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Toomas Mattson | 1/11/2016 | 11:00 AM
TALLINN, 11 January 2016 – The analysis carried out by the National Audit Office indicates that vocational training has an extensive positive impact: adults who graduate from vocational schools achieve better results on the labour market than they did before acquiring vocational education. Vocational education helps increase people’s income, promote their involvement in enterprise and reduce unemployment, incl. among people with higher education.

The need to make people’s knowledge and skills comply better with the expectations of employers has been discussed at the level of the state for about ten years now. Yet the discrepancy between the expectations of employers and the skills and knowledge acquired by people so far persists, and it has even increased over the years. The objective set in the Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 is to reduce the share of people without professional or vocational education in the 25-64 age group to less than 25% by 2020. The share of such people in 2014 was 30.2%. More than 100 million euros is spent on vocational education every year and an estimated one-third of this amount or more than 30 million euros per year is spent on teaching adults.

The National Audit Office studied the progress of adults aged 25 and over who had started acquiring vocational education in the last five years (the 2010/2011 to 2014/2015 academic years) before and during their studies, and in working life after the completion of their studies. The focus was on adults, because the decreasing number of young people means that adults are and will remain an important target group for vocational education. As the state’s goal is to promote the inclusion of adults without professional or vocational qualifications in vocational education, the National Audit Office analysed how well this has been achieved, i.e. whether or not vocational education is an advantage on the labour market and where the benefits of such education can be seen.

The share of people without any professional or vocational qualifications among those who were admitted to vocational educational institutions has decreased since the 2010/2011 academic year, mainly on the account of people with higher education. Many adults with vocational education (36%) or higher education (20%) have started acquiring vocational education alongside adults without professional education (44%). There are more people with previously acquired vocational or higher education among women than men. The larger share of women with higher education is particularly noticeable – 24% of the women who started acquiring vocational education in the reviewed period had higher education, while the share of men with higher education was just 15%. The educational background of adult entrants also differed by age group. The younger the age group, the smaller the share of people without professional or vocational education and the larger the share of people with higher education. 23% of entrants aged 25-34, 20% of entrants aged 35-49 and 17% of entrants aged over 50 had higher education.

The adults who started acquiring vocational education are mainly people who would like to improve their position on the labour market. In 23% of all cases of admission, the adults who started their vocational training had been registered as unemployed for a year before the start of their studies. 76% had earned income from work the year before their admission. The average monthly income of 68% of the people who had earned income from work the year before their admission was below the average gross wages in their county of residence according to the Population Register. People who had worked in the areas of public administration and national defence comprised the biggest share of those who had earned income from work prior to their admission. They were followed by people who had worked in the areas of retail, healthcare, education and wholesale.

All in all, it became evident that the number of people registered as unemployed had increased during the year after their studies, and the number of people earning income from work, earning more than the average wages or engaging in enterprise had increased. The general positive impact of vocational training was evident in the case of people without professional or vocational education as well as people who had already acquired vocational or higher education. Those with higher education were less likely to be unemployed after graduating, while adults with vocational education had better chances of improving their salary positions. In comparison with other groups, graduates with higher education had been considerably more engaged in enterprise before the commencement of their studies, and the number who started engaging in enterprise after graduating was also higher than that of people without prior professional or vocational education.

In light of all this, the National Audit Office is of the opinion that it is very important for the Minister of Education and Research to determine how to get more people without professional or vocational education, people inactive on the labour market and people with an unstable or low income into vocational schools and how to support them so that they acquire vocational education.

The number of vocational students has decreased in recent decades due to the fall in the number of young people. More than 30,000 students were acquiring higher education in the 2000/2001 academic year, but their number had dropped to just over 25,000 by 2014/2015. However, the share of students aged 25 and over has increased, reaching as much as 29% in 2014/2015.

The number of educational institutions that offer vocational education has decreased alongside the decrease in the number of students: in 2010/2011 it was possible to acquire vocational education in 43 vocational educational institutions and 8 institutions of professional higher education, the same figures in 2014/2015 being 38 and 6, respectively. Almost all educational institutions that offer vocational education (except for Tallinn Ballet School) had students aged 25 and older in the 2014/2015 academic year.

18,324 adults had started acquiring vocational education in the period between the 2010/2011 academic year and when the query was made (23 April 2015). 12% of them have commenced studies several times, and the total number of cases of studies being commenced by adults was 20,944. The number of cases where studies were commenced by adults has increased year after year.

In more than two-thirds of all cases, the adult entrants were aged 25-39. As the shares of people without professional or vocational education among the population of Estonia were also bigger in these age groups, then this development is certainly positive. However, there are more women than men among adult entrants, and the lack of professional and vocational education is a bigger problem in the case of men.
30.2% of people aged 25-64 in Estonia had no professional qualifications in 2014.

The share of people without professional qualifications is even greater in most counties; it is only smaller than average in Harju, Hiiu and Ida-Viru counties. The share of people with no professional qualifications is the highest in the 25-29 age group (38% in 2014), and the share of such people is also higher than average among those aged 30-40 and 60-64. The share of people with no professional qualifications is bigger among men than women.

Toomas Mattson
Head of Communication Service, National Audit Office
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