Adult education is mostly for well-educated people; functions of the institutions in charge of training overlap


Currently, adult education in Latvia is not organized in such a way that the funds for the projects implemented by the State Employment Agency (SEA) and the State Education Development Agency (SEDA) (the main instrument by which the state provides the opportunity for adults to learn the skills needed for the labour market and reduce the risk of unemployment) are used as efficiently as possible and both each participant of training individually and the country would benefit as a whole as the result, according to the audit conclusions of the State Audit Office of Latvia. Taking into account that similar activities are planned for the next programming period of EU funds, Ms Maija Āboliņa, Council Member of the State Audit Office of Latvia, emphasizes, “Since the financial possibilities of the government to support adult education are limited, it is especially important to use every euro with the maximum return and to involve in learning those who need it the most.”


  • In the SEA and SEDA projects, only 28% of the participants of training had a low level of education, although this is the priority group that needs training.
  • 44% of the participants studied educational programs that have no impact on their employment, for which 12.7 million euros were spent over three years.
  • Currently, training is planned considering the needs of the labour market, however, they are not determined uniformly, but separately in each institution, without sufficient discussions with industry experts and without taking into account the regional perspective.
  • The functions of SEA and SEDA in the planning and organization of education overlap, and there are no impartial obstacles to the performance of these functions by one institution. It would save at least 3.6 million euros.

The involvement of adults with a low level of education in training should be increased significantly. For a long time, there are many people in Latvia whose obtained education is not sufficient that constituted more than 294,000 people aged between 25 and 64 had an insufficient level of education for the requirements of the labour market in 2022. However, from almost 100,000 people who participated in the training of SEA and SEDA projects between 2019 and 2022, only 28% of them had low level of education. Moreover, only approximately 192,000 people could be trained for the available funding of 164.3 million euros by the end of this year, which is much less than the real need, and the funding should be used primarily for the most critical target groups (who lack the knowledge/skills required by the labour market or whose knowledge/skills will be insufficient in the future) accordingly. Although there is a large number of people at risk of unemployment, the goal of adult education is set very generally at the national level, that is, a number of people who participated in training in a certain period, while no special participation indicators have been set for critical target groups. In general, the SEA and the SEDA projects define target groups to be included in training as a priority (part of people with low level of education, employed people with disabilities or employed persons aged 50 and over, and employed people of social risk groups), however, the wording is declarative: if an indicator is also determined for any target group, it is too low compared to the total project audience and the number of people corresponding to the target group. For instance, one planned to involve only less than 20,000 employed persons with low level of education in the SEDA project, which is a quarter of all participants of this project, although there were more than 201,000 employed people like that in the country in 2022.

Research shows that individual address and approach are essential for the involvement of the population with a low level of education in adult education, which is also confirmed by the results of the involvement of priority target groups in the SEA and the SEDA projects. There are higher levels of involvement in the SEA project primarily because the activity of the SEA as a whole is aimed at returning the unemployed to the labour market, and the individual work of the SEA with customers is also significant. In its turn, training is available to any employed adult in the SEDA project and the SEDA does not perform any targeted activities exactly for the involvement of priority target groups.

Unfortunately, reliance on the role of local and regional governments in motivating priority target groups to participate in the training of SEA and SEDA projects has not been justified. For example, in the SEDA project, the financing of around 0.7 million euros was planned for local and regional governments for the involvement of target groups, however, only less than 2% have been absorbed. In its turn, in Estonia, where the involvement of people with a low level of education in training is higher, individual addressing and involvement has been transferred to the non-governmental sector, rather than local and regional governments, which is more effective. “The responsible institutions of Latvia should also review the mechanism for educating the public, especially the population with a low level of education, about the need to acquire and improve the education and skills necessary for the labour market and about the opportunity to engage in adult education,” emphasizes M. Āboliņa.

One must achieve that training is aimed at solving the needs of the labour market. In the SEA and the SEDA projects, there was no impact detected for at least 44% of the people who completed their straining between 2019 and mid-2022 on their employment, and according to the auditors’ estimates, 12.7 million euros were spent on these trainings in three years. euro. For a person to work in a profession, a professional qualification is required, which can be obtained in adult education projects by completing a continuous vocational education program, but it was not the most requested course in any project whereas only 12% or every eighth participant obtained that, although it has the most direct impact on employment of an individual (especially with a low level of education). “In Latvia, the proportion of adults with professional qualifications was 70.6% in 2022. For comparison, the proportion of such adults was 74.8% in 2022 in Estonia, and they plan to reach 80% by 2035. Although the difference is only 4.2 percentage points in 2022, the number of people with professional qualifications in Latvia would increase by approximately 42,000 people by reaching the indicator of Estonia, which is a lot,” indicated M. Āboliņa.

It is crucial that educational programs that meet the needs of the labour market do not remain only “on paper” but are actually implemented (previously, a large part of them were not actually implemented). Although the demand for employed people in respective sectors was predicted, no educational institution applied to provide them or there was not enough response to learn them. “So that approved educational programs are really implemented, one institution should select educational institutions and training participants. It would prevent the duplication of functions and allow more flexible assembly of training groups, especially in such educational programs that are not highly demanded,” explained M. Āboliņa.

Career development programs were relatively much more in demand, but the people who already had an education that met the requirements of the labour market mastered those programs whereas only around 14% of the people with a low level of education did the same.

Also, the practice of highly educated and well-paid professionals acquiring skills unrelated to their professional activities that have no impact on their employment at the expense of the state, should be prevented. Taking into account the limited funding, one should assess whether and what type of career development for employees of this level should be provided at the expense of the state since state support should be used for the training of target groups primarily who do not fit in or are at risk of dropping out" of the labour market.

Planning of adult education should be improved. Sectors, in which there is a lack of knowledgeable and qualified employees and where they will be needed in the future, allow to determine the labour market forecasts basically, for the elaboration of which the Ministry of Economics and the SEA subordinate to the Ministry of Welfare are responsible. Currently, long-term and medium-term labour market forecasts developed by the Ministry of Economics are not sufficiently detailed, and there are not enough discussions with industry experts after the forecasts are elaborated. As a result, both the SEA and the SEDA invest significant resources to identify specific professions that require training. In addition, neither long-term nor medium-term labour market forecasts, nor the lists of educational programs developed by the SEA and the SEDA do not include the regional perspective, for instance, whether and what are the labour market trends and training needs in such economically different regions as Riga, Greater Riga, and Latgale accordingly.

In comparison, there are better results in adult education in Estonia, where this process is uniform, as a system has been created for determining educational programs (OSKA), which identifies the labour force and its skills needed for the national economy for the next 10 years. “During the audit, this system was also praised by the Employers’ Confederation of Latvia, which coordinates the work of 11 sectoral expert councils, whose purpose is to facilitate the compliance of education with sectoral needs. The process for determining training needs can be improved in Latvia as well if it were consolidated and integrated into the labour market forecasting system, similar to Estonia, then it would be a unified and analytically based process,” stated M. Āboliņa.

The overlapping functions of the SEA and the SEDA should be prevented. Currently, both the Ministry of Welfare and the Ministry of Education and Science are responsible for the organization of education, and the education is organized by the SEA and the SEDA, whose functions in adult education are not separated clearly and reasonably and overlap. Moreover, the mandate of the SEA and the SEDA in organizing education is also not clear to other parties involved in adult education (educational institutions, local and regional governments, and non-governmental organizations). The target groups trained in both institutions are mainly distinguished only by the fact of employment because the SEA provides training for the unemployed and jobseekers, while the SEDA provide straining for employed adults, i.e., persons at risk of unemployment (the SEA also provides training for this target group from 2022). Also, the actual implementation of the two projects does not differ significantly, as each institution determines the training necessary for adults, which are approved by commissions with a similar composition; training is provided by educational institutions that are recruited in a similar way; and 44 educational institutions offered training in both projects; each institution maintains its own information system for the registration of training participants, etc. If only one institution provided training, for instance, the SEA that the legislator has already delegated to work with adults in reducing unemployment, according to the auditors’ estimates, the administration costs of both projects would be 3.6 million euros less.

State Audit Office recommendations #PēcRevīzijas

The State Audit Office of Latvia has made nine recommendations to the Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Education and Science, and the Ministry of Economics and expects that, as a result of their implementation, the involvement of people with a low level of education will increase gradually in adult education until 2027, and the functions of institutions involved in adult education will be reviewed and consolidated by reducing administrative burden and ensuring more efficient use of public resources. For example, according to the auditors’ estimates, for 16.3 million euros (spent funding for training that had no impact and project administration savings estimated in the audit if the projects were provided by one institution), at least 13 thousand people with a low level of education could get a professional qualification, therefore the income of one person could increase by 52% on average while the total income of these people could increase by at least 57.7 million euros per year and even by 1.3 billion euros before they reach retirement age. Considering the inter-institutional nature of these issues, the State Audit Office of Latvia has invited the Cabinet of Ministers and the Human Capital Development Council established in 2023 to get involved in solving the problems identified during the audit.

About the audit

In the audit, the projects under the responsibility of the Ministry of Welfare and the Ministry of Education and Science were assessed in depth: (1) project “Support for the education of the unemployed” implemented within the framework of SEA specific support objective “Increase the qualifications and skills of the unemployed in accordance with the labour market demand” and (2) project “Improving the professional competencies of employed persons” implemented within the framework of the SEDA specific support objective “Improve the professional competencies of employed persons”.


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