On 8 May, the Latvian government approved the proposal of the Ministry of Education and Science to invest an additional EUR 88.2 million from EU funds in vocational education and science. This has been the most significant contribution to the development of Latvian vocational education so far.

An analysis of the sector justified additional financing for measures to combat youth unemployment, complete optimisation and modernisation of the vocational school network, and foster cooperation between scientific institutions and business to promote the development of an economy based on knowledge and innovation.

The approved funding will be distributed between several measures. First, EUR 44.1 million will be earmarked for implementation of the ERDF action programme ‘Infrastructure and Services’, sub-activity ‘Modernisation of education facilities and improvement of infrastructure for implementing vocational education programmes’. This activity is aimed at improving the quality of vocational education and ensuring a better match with labour market needs. The funding will support the modernisation and development of up to 10 vocational education competence centres that will provide advanced training that meets labour market needs. This funding will be in addition to existing funding, making a total of EUR 142.3 million of EU funds invested in the modernisation of vocational education.

Secondly, an additional EUR 6.1 million will be earmarked for the ESF activity ‘Support to the quality improvement and implementation of IVET programmes’. The aim of this activity is to improve the quality of VET provision, promote participation in vocational education at the secondary education stage, and ensure students acquire the balance of knowledge, skills and competences they need for work and further studies. Starting from autumn 2012, it will be possible to admit more students to vocational education programmes lasting 12-18 months, including the low-skilled unemployed. Thus, support will be provided for an additional 2000 young people who do not have the professional qualifications they need to be able to compete in the labour market.

Thirdly, EUR 2.8 million will be invested in the ESF sub-activity ‘Development of professional orientation and career education in education system’, whose implementation was postponed in 2009 and funding distributed to other measures. The funding was allocated to this activity under the action plan for combating youth unemployment. The project is expected to be approved in 2012 in order to allow implementation of career education measures to be resumed throughout Latvia. The activity is aimed at developing the system of professional orientation and career education, its support institutions within the education system and improving the quality of professional orientation, career education and informal learning for young people.

The remainder of the funding will be allocated to the ERDF activities ‘Support to science and research’, ‘Development of science infrastructure’ and the ESF activity ‘Attraction of human resources to science’.