In April 2015, the Latvian Parliament (Saeima) adopted amendments to the Vocational Education Law, to increase compliancy of vocational education and training (VET) with labour market needs at sectoral, institutional and programme levels.
The amendments introduce establishment of sectoral expert councils (SEC), to promote employers’ involvement in developing VET at sectoral level. These tripartite councils are composed of State and local government representatives, employers' organisations and trade unions. Twelve SECs were already established in 2011 under the ESF project ‘Development of sectoral qualifications system and increasing VET efficiency and quality (2010-15)’. They have proved successful in practice, but lacked a legal and regulative framework.
Main role of SECs:
- participate in developing sectoral qualification structures;
- propose needed professions and appropriate specialisations in sectors;
- enrolment of students in VET programmes in particular sectors;
- participate in developing content for VET programmes;
- verify skills for which occupational standards must be designed;
- develop professional qualification examinations;
- review occupational standards and professional qualifications’ requirements;
- participate in accreditation of VET institutions and programmes;
- coordinate and promote cooperation between VET institutions and social partners.
Further, amendments to the law introduce establishment of collegial advisory bodies at each VET institution, so-called convents. Convents will promote VET development in line with labour market needs at institutional level. They will be composed of heads of VET institutions, representatives of local government and supervising ministry, and employers. Convents will make proposals regarding development strategy of VET institutions, and cooperate with local enterprises to ensure students’ training placements and work-based learning opportunities.
Amendments to the law also define the term ‘work-based learning’ as one attainment form of VET and therewith link VET closer to the work environment. Students acquire theoretical aspects at VET institutions, but practical aspects necessary for performing professional activities are acquired at enterprises. Work-based learning has been carried out for the past two years in pilot projects and was well received by students and employers.
Amendments to the Vocational Education Law will enter into force in May 2015.