3. Raising adults’ and enterprises’ participation in learning in Lithuania

Raising adults’ and enterprises’ participation in learning is increasingly important for Lithuania. The megatrends of automation, demographic change and integration into global value chains are transforming the skills individuals need to effectively participate in work and society. Lithuania has a higher proportion of jobs at risk of automation than most OECD countries and a rapidly ageing population (see Chapter 1). To adapt, people will need to upgrade their skills to perform new tasks in their existing jobs, or acquire new skills for new jobs (OECD, 2019[1]). Upskilling and reskilling can be pursued through formal, non-formal, and informal learning opportunities (Box 3.1).

Participation in adult learning has significant benefits for individuals, employers and society as a whole. For individuals, participation in formal adult education and training can lead to better employment prospects, higher wages and upward social and/or occupational mobility (Midtsundstad, 2019[3]). For enterprises, training leads to higher productivity growth and is often a complement to innovation in the workplace (Acemoglu, 1998[4]; Dearden, Reed and Van Reenen, 2006[5]; Konings and Vanormelingen, 2015[6]). Participation in adult learning can also generate strong social benefits: higher-skilled adults typically report better health, feel more included in political processes and trust others more than low-skilled adults. Adult learning opportunities can help individuals achieve these higher levels of skills (OECD, 2016[7]).

Lithuania has identified adult learning as a priority for the country in several strategies including the Action Plan for the Development of Lifelong Learning 2017-2020, the National Plan for Progress (NPP) 2021-2030, and most recently the Programme of Government from December 2020 (Table 3.1). Combined, these strategies have promoted adult learning as an important part of the national skills landscape.

In Lithuania, the adult learning system can play a crucial role in addressing two cross-cutting challenges. In the short term, it can facilitate recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, which has led to a significant contraction in economic activity and is projected to lead to a sustained increase in unemployment for the foreseeable future (see Chapter 1). Adult learning can help people get back to work by providing upskilling and reskilling opportunities.

In the long term, a stronger adult learning system can help Lithuania strengthen its labour productivity. Raising participation in adult learning will support Lithuania’s move towards high-productivity, high-skilled activities by raising the supply of high-skilled adults, which in turn generates demand for highly skilled jobs and increases productivity. Currently, relatively few adults participate in adult learning to improve their skillset, which contributes to productivity remaining low (Figure 3.1).

Adult learning forms a key part of Lithuanian national strategies, and adult learning is the subject of several dedicated strategies (Table 3.1). The legal basis for Lithuania’s adult learning system is spread across numerous laws and policies, with many notable reforms in recent years. These include: the Law on Non-Formal Adult Education in 2014, the Labour Code in 2016, the Law on Employment in 2016, and the Law on Vocational Education in 2017. Together these laws have expanded the adoption of modularity in vocational education, created the legal conditions for apprenticeships and work-based training, and introduced training leave.

Adult learning is a cross-cutting priority area that requires direction from a range of stakeholders. In Lithuania, ministries with important responsibilities in this area include the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport (SMSM), the Ministry of Social Security and Labour (SADM), and the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation (EIM) (Table 3.2).

In Lithuania, a variety of providers offer formal and non-formal adult learning opportunities. Formal education and training providers include adult general education centres, vocational education and training (VET) schools, and HEIs. According to the Open Information, Counselling and Guidance System (AIKOS), there are 56 adult general education schools, 64 state VET institutions and 5 non-state VET institutions, and 41 HEIs (including universities and colleges) in Lithuania (Ministry of Education Science and Sport, 2020[22]; Eurydice, 2020[23]). Non-formal education and training takes place in HE and vocational institutions and with training providers, as well as in the workplace and through workshops, seminars and conferences. There are no statistics on the overall number of institutions providing non-formal training, however AIKOS indicates that there are 104 non-formal adult education schools (Ministry of Education Science and Sport, 2020[22]; Eurydice, 2020[23]).

In Lithuania, non-formal adult learning opportunities are concentrated within education institutions rather than employers. The highest percentage of non-formal learning takes place in non-formal education and training institutions (24.3%), followed by formal education and training providers (20.1%) and employers’ organisations such as chambers of commerce (15.2%). This differs greatly from most other EU countries, where employers play a far more significant role in the provision of adult training opportunities (Figure 3.2). On average, around 35% of training across the EU takes place with employers compared to around 13% in Lithuania. The proportion of non-formal training provided by employers is lower in Lithuania than in any other EU country.

Relatively few adults and enterprises engage in adult learning in Lithuania. According to data from the Adult Education Survey (AES) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS), adults in Lithuania participate less in formal and non-formal learning opportunities than their counterparts in neighbouring Latvia and Estonia and in EU countries on average. Furthermore, adults under-participate compared to the EU average regardless of employment status, education level or age. Weak motivation is a key reason that participation rates in adult learning remain comparatively low. Similarly, according to data from the Continuing Vocational Training Survey (CVTS), firms in Lithuania provide fewer learning opportunities for their employees than most EU countries.

Relatively few adults in Lithuania participate in formal and/or non-formal education and training. In 2019, only about 7% of adults had participated in adult education and training on average over a four-week period. This was below the rates for Estonia (20.2%), Latvia (7.4%) and EU member states on average (10.8%) (Figure 3.3). It was also significantly below the rates of leading European countries such as Sweden (34.3%) and Switzerland (32.3%). Participation in formal and non-formal adult education over the past 12 months is also low in Lithuania (Figure 3.3). According to the AES, 27.9% of adults engaged in training over the past year compared to an EU average of 44.4%.

In line with other EU countries, older, unemployed and lower-educated adults in Lithuania participate less in adult learning than young, employed and highly educated adults. However, participation is particularly low in Lithuania for adults aged 25-34, unemployed adults and individuals with a tertiary education (Figure 3.4). For example, just 3.5% of unemployed people participated in training over a four-week period in 2019 – one of the lowest rates in the EU.

Low participation in adult learning is driven by low levels of motivation to upskill and reskill throughout the life course. The percentage of adults who did not participate in training and did not want to is one of the highest in the EU (Figure 3.5). Around 67% of adults in Lithuania did not want to participate in training compared to an EU average of 44.3%, and rates of 35.4% in Estonia and 35.1% in Latvia. Overcoming low levels of motivation to engage in adult learning will require a multi-faceted approach that raises awareness about adult learning benefits and opportunities (see Opportunity 1), reduces financial and time-related barriers (see Opportunity 2), and improves the quality of learning opportunities (see Opportunity 3).

Participation in training by enterprises is also low. In Lithuania, 61.6% of enterprises (with 10+ employees) provide their employees with continuing vocational training (CVT) courses or another form of CVT such as guided on-the-job training or training at conferences and workshops (Figure 3.6). This is below the EU average of 70.5% and below the rates for Estonia, (86.1%) and Latvia (99.9%). Low participation in training is most pronounced among small firms (10-49 employees). Small firms in Lithuania are 10.6% less likely to provide training than the EU average, whereas large firms (250+ employees) are actually 1.2% more likely to provide such training (CVTS, 2015[28]). This is problematic, as Lithuanian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a comparatively greater role in the economy than in other EU countries. In 2017, SMEs generated 68.5% of value added and 76.1% of employment, compared to EU averages of 56.8% and 66.4% respectively (European Commission, 2019[29]).

The intensity of training in Lithuania could be improved. Only employees in Greece and Hungary spend less time in CVT than employees in Lithuania (Figure 3.6). For every 1 000 hours spent working, 3.1 are spent in training in Lithuania compared to an EU average of 6.4 hours.

Encouraging greater participation in adult learning among firms, and especially among SMEs, will require various policy initiatives that enable firms to understand their training needs (see Opportunity 1), reduce the cost of training (see Opportunity 2) and encourage the adoption of high-performance work practices (HPWP) by managers (see Chapter 3).

Lithuania’s performance in raising adults’ and enterprises’ participation in learning reflects many factors. These include individual, institutional and system-level factors, as well as broader economic and social conditions in the country. However, three critical opportunities for improvement have been identified based on a review of literature, desktop analysis, and data and input from officials and stakeholders consulted in conduct of this OECD Skills Strategy project.

The OECD considers that Lithuania’s main opportunities for improvement in the area of raising adults’ and enterprises’ participation in learning are:

  1. 1. Raising awareness about adult learning benefits and opportunities.

  2. 2. Removing barriers to participation in adult learning.

  3. 3. Strengthening the recognition and quality of non-formal adult education and training.

Increased participation in adult learning is strongly linked to positive learning dispositions, whereby adults perceive that education brings tangible benefits for themselves, associate the experience of education positively, and believe that they are still young enough to engage in meaningful learning opportunities (Windisch, 2015[32]). When adults are not positively disposed to training opportunities it is very difficult to engage potential learners, even if financial and time-related barriers are minimised (see Opportunity 2) (White, 2012[33]). However, according to a recent lifelong learning survey in Lithuania, only 35% of adults recalled having heard or seen information about the importance of participating in adult learning over the previous three years (STRATA, 2020[34]).

The lack of awareness about the benefits and opportunities of adult learning can lead to low levels of motivation to participate in adult learning, and indicates that Lithuania will need to more actively reach out and promote the benefits of adult learning to individuals, as Lithuania’s government already recognises (Eurydice, 2015[35]; Government of the Republic of Lithuania, 2020[10]). The success of adult learning systems depends on providing individuals with the information to make informed decisions at all stages of the learning journey (OECD, 2019[1]).

An in-depth analysis of adult learning policies by the European Commission (EC) has identified a number of policy levers that can support these efforts, including the dissemination of information through awareness-raising campaigns and online portals (European Commission, 2015[36]). Targeted career guidance is also crucial for raising the awareness of adult learning benefits and opportunities. Especially in the context of increased unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, guidance services will be essential to encourage displaced workers to upskill and reskill where appropriate. Creating a lifelong career guidance system is discussed extensively in Chapter 5 and should form a core component of strategies to raise awareness about adult learning benefits and opportunities among individuals.

Raising awareness about the benefits of adult education and training among enterprises is equally as important. Employers play a major role in facilitating non-formal education and training for employees, in addition to their role in providing informal learning on the job. Helping employers assess their training needs and put in place training plans can lead to increased participation in adult education and training.

Low motivation to participate in training (see section on Lithuania’s performance) suggests that Lithuania will need to raise awareness about adult learning benefits and opportunities among both high and low-skilled adults. Consolidating information online through one-stop shop solutions can help individuals navigate their training options more easily (OECD, 2019[1]). However, to connect with lower-skilled adults a more targeted approach will be required that specifically reaches out to those with low levels of basic skills through a co-ordinated effort involving bodies that have direct contact with the adults concerned, such as employers and social partners (Windisch, 2015[32]).

In Lithuania, the overwhelming majority of adults actively seeking information on adult learning opportunities do so through the Internet: in a recent lifelong learning survey conducted between December 2019 and January 2020, 90% of adults surveyed who were actively seeking information did so online (Figure 3.7). The informational needs of adults searching are diverse. Of those adults who have studied in the last three years, 60% said that they wanted information on where to study, 57% wanted information on training costs, 40% wanted information on the benefits of training, and 38% wanted information on the quality of training (STRATA, 2020[34]). This means that there is a strong need for easily accessible and comprehensive information online for those interested in pursuing adult learning opportunities.

However, this information is not always readily available online. Currently, information relevant to adult learning is spread across numerous online portals (Table 3.3). Whilst it is relatively easy to find information on where to study, information on the costs and financing of learning, the benefits of training and the quality of courses is more difficult to find. The information that does exist online is not located in one place, meaning that adults interested in pursuing adult learning need to consult multiple portals and the websites of individual providers before being able to make an informed decision. Moreover, some information is lacking across all portals. For example, information about labour market trends that enable adults to identify which areas to reskill into, and indicators on the quality of the course (such as the relative earnings ratio and the employment rate of graduates or indicators on satisfaction with teaching) are largely non-existent. The benefits of learning for adults more widely are also not always clearly articulated.

Lithuania should consider consolidating adult learning information into an online one-stop shop that enables adults to explore the benefits and opportunities of different training options in one online location. This will be crucial for the successful implementation of other recommendations in this chapter and to create an effective adult learning system.

An online one-stop shop should make clear how much training costs and the funding options available for individuals. In Northern Ireland, the Student Finance NI portal enables users to discover their financing possibilities in just a few clicks (Box 3.2). Such a portal should also enable users to compare not just basic course information (such as duration and entry requirements), but also indicators on the quality of the course, including labour market outcomes that graduates can expect, as is the case with Poland’s graduate tracking system (Ekonomicznych Losów Absolwentów), (Box 3.2). Many of these portals in other countries focus predominantly on HE, but Lithuania should consider such tools for vocational and non-formal education too, where the data exist, and consider introducing new monitoring mechanisms where data are not available (see Opportunity 3). Providing quality labels for top performing training providers (see Opportunity 3) on the site would be another way to direct learners towards higher quality offerings. The success of this one-stop shop will depend on making information on the site user-friendly, clear and interactive, as other countries have done (Box 3.2).

Online one-stop shops are predominantly useful for adults already searching for information. This makes them an effective informational tool for high-skilled adults, but means that their impact is more limited among low-skilled adults: in Lithuania, 18.7% of adults with a tertiary education search for information on adult learning opportunities, compared to just 3.9% of adults with only upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education (Eurostat, 2020[37]). Moreover, the total percentage of adults in Lithuania who seek information on adult education and training is one of the lowest in the EU (Figure 3.8).

The fact that low-skilled adults are less likely to seek out information on adult learning necessitates a targeted engagement approach. Adults with weak basic skills often struggle to recognise their own skill deficiencies and therefore see no need to participate in additional education and training (Bynner and Parsons, 2006[43]). Moreover, low-skilled learners have frequently had a poor experience of school and can therefore find the idea of returning to classroom-based learning daunting, even if they are aware of the need to upskill (Windisch, 2015[32]). Strategies are thus needed to encourage the participation of low-skilled workers, and this should start with effective outreach efforts and awareness-raising initiatives (OECD, 2019[1]).

Awareness-raising initiatives can more efficiently target adults in need when organised at the regional/local level in partnerships with local stakeholders. Without a focus on local skills needs and labour market conditions, public awareness campaigns can be less effective at identifying and reaching low-skilled individuals (OECD, 2019[1]). Developing and implementing local awareness-raising initiatives will therefore require working with bodies and partners that have contact with low-skilled individuals, including employers, trade unions, social partners and charities, and Lithuania’s PES (Windisch, 2015[32]). Co-ordinating local outreach efforts and awareness-raising initiatives could become the responsibility of adult learning co-ordinators, who are currently responsible for managing local initiatives, designing action plans, and allocating budgets for adult learning initiatives and programmes (Government of the Republic of Lithuania, 2016[13]).

Whilst social distancing measures remain in place because of COVID-19, emails, social media, radio and TV can all be effective ways to raise awareness among adults, as Belgium’s PES has done (Box 3.2). When social distancing measures are lifted these methods can be supplemented by events (e.g. open days or drop-in sessions at the employer site supported by management) and testimonials from past learners. Career counselling for low-skilled adults should also form part of these initiatives. Creating a lifelong career guidance system is covered in Chapter 5. The appropriate awareness-raising measures should be based on local skills needs and the regional profile of low-skilled adults.

Low participation in adult education and training by employers (see section on Lithuania’s performance) is partly the result of enterprises in Lithuania not knowing what training their employees need and as a result having no training plan in place. Difficulty assessing training needs is cited by enterprises not providing training as an important reason for the non-provision of adult education and training. Over 40% of all enterprises in Lithuania have challenges identifying their training needs, compared to just 15% of enterprises on average across the EU. This is particularly the case for SMEs in Lithuania (Figure 3.9). As a result, even if financing conditions for firms are improved (See Opportunity 2), enterprises might not increase their provision of training unless they are better able to understand their training needs.

Once an enterprise has assessed its training needs, it then also needs to develop a training plan to enable the necessary training to take place over a suitable timeframe. A firm might hire a specific person (or unit for larger firms) to carry out this process, or devote a proportion of its annual budget to training assessment and planning, possibly bringing in external support. In Lithuania, very few enterprises undertake these types of measures. For all sizes of enterprise, fewer firms have a training plan, budget or team in place than the EU average (Figure 3.9). Nonetheless, the lack of provision is most noticeable among SMEs. Just 13.4% of small enterprises and 38.7% of medium-sized enterprises dedicate resources to planning training, compared to an EU average of 44.6% and 63.6% respectively.

Unlike larger companies, SMEs often cannot afford to dedicate staff to assess training needs and design training plans for their employees, and lack the capacity to provide training directly. International evidence suggests that SMEs generally require tailored support if they are to make progress in assessing their adult learning needs (International Labour Organisation, 2017[49]). For instance, SMEs might benefit from free or subsidised skills and training needs assessments that help them to identify skills gaps in their workforce and develop training plans accordingly (Johanson, 2009[50]; OECD, 2019[51]).

Lithuania does not currently support enterprises to conduct training planning, but should consider doing so. This support could cover both the assessment of training needs and the development of training plans and/or budgets. Tools to help firms calculate the return on investment made by training their staff could also be provided. Whilst all employers in Lithuania could benefit from support with planning, resources would be most efficiently spent helping SMEs assess their needs. The EIM could facilitate the hiring of training specialists who could then be utilised by SMEs to conduct training needs assessments and develop training plans. Lithuania might consider subsidising the cost of these training specialists through the creation of a skills levy (see Opportunity 2), as has been successfully undertaken in Korea (Box 3.3).

Raising awareness about adult learning benefits and opportunities can only effectively increase participation if other barriers that individuals and employers face are also minimised. For enterprises, barriers to participation in training generally relate to cost, the fear of poaching, lack of time and lack of adequate supply (International Labour Organisation, 2017[49]). For individuals, situational barriers such as financial and time constraints are some of the main reasons that adults do not participate in education and training across OECD countries (Desjardins, 2017[52]; OECD, 2017[53]). Even motivated adults will struggle to participate in adult learning if they cannot afford the training or have no time either because of work, children or other caring responsibilities.

Many enterprises in Lithuania do not perceive the need to engage in adult learning, citing the sufficiency of employees’ skill levels. However, a disproportionate number of enterprises in Lithuania also list the high cost of continuous vocational training (CVT) and the difficulty of assessing training needs as reasons for not providing education and training opportunities for employees (Figure 3.10). Approximately 64% of firms in Lithuania believe that the high cost of courses is preventing them from providing training to their employees, over double the proportion of EU firms, on average, who list similar concerns (29%). The high costs of training are a barrier for firms in Lithuania regardless of size. Among firms who do provide training, over 60% of small (10-49 employees), medium (50-249) and large (250+) enterprises cited high costs as a factor limiting provision (Eurostat, 2020[47]). This indicates a need to improve the availability of financial incentives for enterprises to facilitate training for employees, which should be combined with support for the assessment of training needs (see Opportunity 1).

The high cost of participation in adult education and training is also a barrier for individuals. In Lithuania, 43% of adults who want to but do not participate in training cite cost as a reason for their non-participation, compared to an EU average of 32% (Figure 3.11). Improving financial incentives for individuals will be necessary to reduce the number of adults who want to but cannot afford to participate in training.

However, financial incentives alone are likely to be insufficient to reduce barriers to participation in adult learning. In Lithuania, “schedule” and “family reasons” are the first and third most important reasons given by adults who wish to but do not participate in education and training (Figure 3.11). These terms encapsulate a variety of time-related barriers, such as the inability to fit training around personal and work commitments. As a result, improving the flexibility of adult learning provision is crucial to improving access to adult learning opportunities. This is confirmed by international evidence, which suggests that flexibility in format (e.g. part time, on line) and design (modular, credit-based courses) helps overcome time-related barriers, especially for medium- to high-skilled workers (OECD, 2019[1]).

Evidence suggests that employers in Lithuania face financial barriers to investing in training opportunities, and that current financial incentives are not entirely successful in minimising these barriers.

Employers are key providers of training opportunities, although less so in Lithuania than in other EU countries (see section on overview of current arrangements). Employers benefit from upskilling employees, as education and training can lead to more motivated, adaptable and productive workers. Employers are well placed to connect with and encourage workers to engage in the upskilling process when they have assessed their training needs (see Opportunity 1) and have adequate funding in place. From the government’s perspective, targeting funding at firms is likely to ensure that training is relevant for adults, as employers require upskilling to meet specific labour market needs (OECD, 2019[55]).

In recent years, Lithuania has expanded the number of funding instruments that firms can use to finance training, but the impact of these instruments has remained limited. The majority of these initiatives are funded through EU Structural Funds (Table 3.4). In line with other OECD countries, the majority of current incentives take the form of subsidies for training (OECD, 2017[53]). One of the most significant financial incentives that Lithuanian firms can now access are Competence Vouchers, which use financing from the European Social Fund (ESF) to subsidise training for firms. The measure, overseen by the EIM since March 2017, grants firms up to EUR 4 500 to purchase training services for employees. However, only 803 firms have benefitted from this funding so far, and the take-up of other financial incentives remains similarly limited.

Current research suggests that time-consuming administrative requirements may be one reason for the limited take-up of existing incentives, particularly for Competence Vouchers (Visionary Analytics, 2018[58]). Firms need to provide evidence on the costs of training, fill in the report on who participated, justify the need for training, as well as complete other details. Burdensome administrative requirements mostly affect smaller firms who may lack the resources to devote to completing the application process. Going forwards, Lithuania could consider simplifying the procedures to apply for Competence Vouchers and other financial support mechanisms, as well as providing free support to SMEs to complete the administrative requirements. This support could come from training specialists hired to help SMEs assess their training needs and produce training plans (see Opportunity 1).

In the longer term, Lithuania could consider supplementing current subsidies with additional financial incentives. Across OECD countries, a variety of financial incentives are used to expand the role of employers in funding and delivering skills policies (Table 3.5). In addition to subsidies, tax incentives, training levies, payback clauses and public procurement can also facilitate training among employers. Tax incentives and public procurement are relatively uncommon in OECD countries (OECD, 2017[53]). Payback clauses can be found in most European countries; however, it is not clear to what extent they are being used or enforced (OECD, 2017[53]).

Given Lithuania’s reliance on external funding for financial incentives directed at employers, introducing a training levy could be an effective way of raising additional funds for training by employers. The introduction of a training levy could then finance the creation of regional or sectoral training funds. Training levies are collected from employers as a share of payroll and are then used to fund training for enterprises and possibly general training programmes (OECD, 2020[59]). Countries differ widely regarding the percentage of payroll that employers have to pay. In Italy, firms pay 0.3% of their payroll as a levy, whereas in the Netherlands the amount paid by firms can be as high as 2%. Many countries require different contributions depending on the size of the firm or the sector in which the firms operates (OECD, 2019[1]).

Money raised from a training levy on employers can be pooled to finance training for enterprises through a training fund. These are associations run by social partners that use resources collected through a training levy to finance training for enterprises, and are normally organised on a regional or sectoral basis (OECD, 2019[51]). For example, firms in Italy pay their levy to one of 19 sectoral training funds and can then request funding to pursue training that is in line with the strategic priorities of the fund (Box 3.4).

Implementing a training levy to finance training via a fund has several notable advantages for Lithuania. First, a training fund can tailor the level of funding provided to firms based on size. This allows for the redistribution of funding from larger to smaller enterprises, which may face larger financial barriers to training (OECD, 2020[59]). Second, by setting objectives for training in their sector or region, funds can help ensure that firms are able to access the most labour market relevant training for their employees. Third, a common training agenda can help to reduce the fear of poaching when employers train their workforce (OECD, 2017[53]). Finally, training levies raise money specifically for adult learning that is ring-fenced for that purpose and cannot be used by other competing public sector needs. To ensure the successful participation of SMEs in training funds, it is important to include support for the assessment of training needs and the development of training plans (see Opportunity 1).

Implementing the training levy successfully will require employer buy-in for the scheme. A detailed review of training levy schemes by the World Bank has concluded that extensive consultations and consensus with employers is essential before introducing a levy scheme (Johanson, 2009[50]). Countries that allocate a leading role to employers tend to be successful, whereas excessive control by government can have deleterious results (Johanson, 2009[50]). Increasing employer involvement in skills policies is discussed in-depth in Chapter 5. Specifically, a training levy could form part of a tripartite funding agreement between enterprises, government and employee representatives, with the governance of the levy/fund overseen by a Tripartite Council (see Chapter 5 for further details).

Even if financial incentives for employers are improved, adults will still need alternative and independent sources of funding for accessing education and training. Targeting financial incentives solely at employers may not be an effective way to reach disadvantaged workers, such as those who are low skilled, and may disproportionately fund firm-specific skills (OECD, 2019[55]). This is especially true for Lithuania, as only 13% of non-formal adult education and training activities takes place with employers, compared to 34% on average across the EU (see section on overview of the current adult learning system).

The cost of education and training is a larger barrier for adults in Lithuania than in other EU countries (Figure 3.11). Lithuania has recently conducted a survey on lifelong learning and found that 65% of adults aged 15-75 used personal finances to fund their learning opportunity (STRATA, 2020[34]). Whilst the majority of all learners (56%) covered the cost of learning from several sources of funding, some were reliant solely on their personal finances. Low-skilled workers are more likely to finance training only through state funding; however, they are also considerably more likely to have to rely on their personal finances to afford training (Figure 3.12). Low-skilled workers are also less likely than high-skilled workers to be able to combine funding from various sources to undertake training. Expanding state support for low-skilled workers’ training in particular could reduce financial barriers and increase their motivation to participate in training.

Lithuania has relatively few financial incentives for individuals to engage in training; however, these options have expanded in recent years (Table 3.6). The most significant source of funding for learning opportunities is provided to unemployed and employed jobseekers by the Lithuanian PES. After registering a jobseeker, the PES carries out an assessment of the adult’s employability before assigning them into groups of those needing high, medium or limited support. It then offers active labour market policies (ALMPs) accordingly, such as support for learning. Training is organised as either a tripartite agreement (between the PES, an employer and the jobseeker) or a bipartite agreement (between the PES and the jobseeker). The course of training is agreed to by the employer in a tripartite agreement and chosen by the individual (from a list of formal and non-formal vocational programmes in priority sectors) in a bipartite agreement. Unemployed and employed jobseekers receive a subsidy (voucher) that covers the cost of the training, and unemployed jobseekers can also benefit from a training stipend, travel reimbursements and accommodation subsidies (Government of the Republic of Lithuania, 2016[17]). These vouchers have helped overcome financial barriers, particularly for unemployed adults, and improved the match between the supply of vocational courses and demand from jobseekers (OECD, 2018[60]).

Under the Law of Employment, which came into force in 2017, the only employed adults who can benefit from vouchers for vocational training are those planning to leave their current job. The law stipulates that employed individuals must be employed by another employer or take up self-employment within six months of the end of the vocational training to gain financial support (Government of the Republic of Lithuania, 2016[17]). Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the eligibility criteria for these vouchers have been expanded among employed adults. They can now be accessed for those upskilling within the same company if their contractual salary becomes at least 20% higher than their salary before training. Adults warned of dismissal can also now claim support for vocational training.

Other current incentives include tax incentives for initial education and financial support during training leave (Table 3.6). Nonetheless, cost has remained a barrier for individuals, particularly for low-skilled adults in employment (Figure 3.11 and Figure 3.12).

A range of financial incentives are used by other OECD countries to increase participation among individuals (Table 3.7). Training schemes that are attached to individuals (rather than to a specific employer or employment status) and which are accessible at various point along an individual’s working life can broadly be categorised as individual learning schemes (ILS), and include subsidies (such as vouchers) and individual learning accounts (ILAs) (OECD, 2019[63]). The majority of ILS come in the form of subsidies (OECD, 2017[53]). ILAs have remained relatively uncommon, possibly because they can be costly to administer, frequently only provide limited financial support, and are disproportionately used by highly skilled individuals (OECD, 2017[53]). Other types of financial incentives for individuals include loans, tax incentives and training leave measures. Tax incentives and training leave are available in most countries, but their take-up and effectiveness vary substantially.

Lithuania could consider expanding existing financial incentives or introducing new financial incentives for individuals to overcome the cost of training. Expanding tax incentives to include retraining and upskilling opportunities, in addition to only covering initial qualifications (Table 3.6), might be one way to provide adults with additional financial incentives. However, tax incentives can be less effective at facilitating retraining and upskilling for low-skilled workers as it is difficult to steer the direction of training. Tax incentives are also less effective for adults with immediate liquidity restraints or who do not earn enough to pay a significant level of income tax (Table 3.7).

Expanding the existing voucher system, as has started to happen during COVID-19, or introducing new subsidies targeting low-skilled adults in employment might be a more effective way to reduce costs for education and training. Subsidies for individuals can also be a more efficient way to reach vulnerable adults than subsidies directed at employers (OECD, 2017[53]). Therefore, introducing new subsidies for adults would complement the expansion of financial incentives for enterprises (see previous section) and ensure that adults can train through their employer or independently.

Lithuania will need to carefully consider the trade-off between simplicity and greater targeting when designing subsidies for individuals. Subsidies that offer adults a voucher of the same amount benefit from being easy to apply for with reduced administration costs, but they risk increasing deadweight loss with more high-skilled than low-skilled adults applying. Subsidies targeted at specific groups (such as those who are low skilled) would reduce this deadweight loss; however, they would increase administration costs and make vouchers more difficult to apply for, potentially putting off some of the target group (OECD, 2017[53]).

Lithuania could take inspiration from how other countries have managed to design subsidies that incorporate targeting at specific groups. In Singapore, eligibility for training vouchers extends to all Singaporeans aged 25 and above, but the government also provides top-ups for specific target groups (Box 3.5). In Flanders, training vouchers, Opleidingscheques, have stricter eligibility requirements: low- and medium-skilled employees are able to access vouchers for the full range of pre-approved training programmes, whereas high-skilled adults can only access them if the training is deemed necessary as part of a personal development plan drawn up during career counselling (Box 3.5).

Expanded financial incentives for individuals will need to be accompanied by a comprehensive information system. Information regarding financial incentives and the application process should be brought together under an online one-stop shop (see Opportunity 1). Financial incentives for low-skilled adults will also need to be supplemented by awareness-raising initiatives to ensure that individuals are aware of the new funding options available (see Opportunity 1).

Time-related barriers are another significant obstacle to adult learning for individuals (Figure 3.11). These can be overcome in various ways. First, processes to recognise and validate non-formal and informal learning can help to limit the time and costs needed to complete a formal credential (OECD, 2019[1]). Improving these processes for Lithuania is discussed in Opportunity 3. Second, statutory training leave can ensure that adults have time for learning around work commitments. Lithuania has already introduced a training leave policy with wage compensation (Table 3.4). Third, increasing the flexible delivery of education and training through providing modular courses, part-time options and online and distance learning opportunities can be crucial to minimising time-related constraints (OECD, 2019[1]).

Increasing the flexible delivery of education and training has been a priority for the Lithuanian government in recent years. These efforts have so far focused predominantly on expanding modular education. The Action Plan for the Development of Lifelong Learning 2017-2020 made the development and implementation of vocational standards and modular vocational training programmes a key area to improve (Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, 2017[12]). The Qualifications and Vocational Education and Training Development Centre (KPMPC) is responsible for designing and updating national modular VET programmes, and in the last few years the design and uptake of modular education in VET has expanded rapidly (Cedefop, 2019[65]).

In the current climate, with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing and social distancing measures in force for at least the near future, progress in modularity will need to be supplemented with an increased supply of online and distance courses. Online learning can be an effective way to open up vocational and HE to more students and to a broader range of socio-economic groups (OECD, 2019[66]). Distance learning is popular in Lithuania, and there have been extensive investments in distance learning infrastructure in recent years. A number of digital initiatives have also responded effectively to the COVID-19 crisis. The project Prisijungusi Lietuva (Connect Lithuania) has been providing digital skills courses in libraries across the country since 2018. Throughout COVID-19 it has compiled independent digital skills resources online for adults to access (Prisijungusi Lietuva, 2021[67]). Lithuania’s PES also partnered with the massive open online course (MOOC) provider, Coursera, to provide free courses for unemployed adults during the summer and autumn of 2020. By 23 September 2020, Lithuania’s PES had sent invitations to 35 041 unemployed adults to participate in free courses, with 15 619 people taking up the offer (Employment Service, 2020[68]).

Nonetheless, there is still an insufficient supply of online courses from vocational and HEIs delivered in the Lithuanian language. Reliance on off-the-shelf education platforms to provide training can exclude those without excellent secondary language skills. On Coursera, most training courses are in English, and there is a wide selection of Russian courses, but courses in Lithuanian are more limited (Employment Service, 2020[68]). The officials and stakeholders consulted during this OECD Skills Strategy project also indicated that Lithuanian vocational and HEIs do not currently provide extensive online offerings in either formal or non-formal courses.

Lithuania’s SMSM should consider doing more to encourage institutions to develop their online and distance offerings. In particular, it could provide technical support to enable vocational and HEIs to deliver courses online cheaply and efficiently. The creation of an online learning platform that brings together courses from Lithuanian education institutions would be one way to enable the SMSM to help institutions build digital training materials, deliver programmes online and gather student feedback. For example, in Australia, TAFE Digital acts as a consolidated online learning platform that hosts courses from various vocational training institutes. The platform provides substantial methodological support to help institutions develop digital training materials that are consistent between providers (Box 3.5). An online learning platform could be hosted either independently or as part of an online one-stop shop that brings together online education and training with information on financing, the quality of courses and the benefits of learning (see Opportunity 1).

In Lithuania, as in other OECD countries, the majority of structured adult learning takes place within non-formal education and training. Roughly 28% of adults in Lithuania participated in non-formal learning over the past 12 months, compared to just 3% who participated in formal learning and another 3% who participated in both non-formal and formal learning (OECD, 2019[72]). Non-formal learning forms a core part of the adult learning system because it is more flexible in duration and delivery than most formal learning. Non-formal courses are typically shorter than formal courses, enabling adults to take individual modules rather than full courses. These courses can take place via on-the-job training, open and distance education, courses and private lessons, seminars and workshops, as well as in vocational and HEIs (OECD, 2019[1]). The government has made strengthening the non-formal learning system a key objective over the next few years (Government of the Republic of Lithuania, 2020[10]).

The diversity of non-formal offerings can present a challenge to ensure that learning outcomes are recognised and that training is of high quality. Learning is most rewarding for individuals when their achievements are visible and understood by employers. This matters for skills acquired in both non-formal and informal learning environments. Recognising learning outcomes can be encouraged by certifying non-formal education and training and recognising non-formal and informal learning in national qualification frameworks (OECD, 2019[55]). This recognition of prior learning (RPL) can also mean adults are able to re-engage with formal learning by limiting the amount of time required to complete a qualification, which helps to overcome time-related barriers to participation in training for individuals (see Opportunity 2) (OECD, 2019[55]). For employers, having a better understanding of the skills of their employees can help to avoid skills mismatches and lead to higher productivity and reduced staff turnover (OECD, 2019[55]). Lithuania has taken important steps towards creating a national system of RPL over the past few years; however, the quality of processes to recognise and validate non-formal and informal learning is still unequal between providers.

Ensuring the high quality of non-formal adult education courses can also be challenging (OECD, 2021[73]). Whilst Lithuania has robust quality assurance mechanisms for formal learning in both higher and vocational education, these are lacking in publicly funded non-formal adult education. Lithuania should consider strengthening ex ante and ex post quality assurance mechanisms to improve the quality of publicly funded non-formal education. Higher quality learning opportunities can lead to strengthened learning outcomes and increased motivation to participate in education, which is low in Lithuania (see Opportunity 1).

Whilst Lithuania has taken significant steps in recent years to develop the legal framework for an RPL system, the quality of skills validation could still be improved by providing education institutions with clearer guidelines and standards for RPL processes.

Since 2016, the processes to recognise and validate non-formal and informal learning for vocational and HEIs have been developed through two orders from the SMSM. The Law on Employment has also made the recognition of competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning one of the learning support measures that the Lithuanian PES can provide to jobseekers (Employment Service, 2020[74]).

Currently the process to recognise and validate non-formal education for the purposes of acquiring a HE degree is outlined in the SMSM order: General Principles for the Assessment and Recognition of Non-formal and Informally Acquired Competences in Higher Education Institutions. This order sets out the four stages that individuals need to go through to have their competences recognised in line with European guidelines: 1) informing the individual about the process; 2) consulting with the individual to prepare the necessary evidence; 3) evaluating the portfolio; and 4) deciding which modules from the study programme can be credited in advance (Cedefop, 2015[75]; Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, 2017[76]).

The procedure to conduct RPL in vocational institutions is stipulated in the second SMSM order: Description of the Procedure for Crediting Prior Learning Achievements. This order details the types of documents considered as evidence by vocational institutions to recognise non-formal or informal learning (Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, 2018[77]). Vocational training diplomas, certificates and learning achievements from non-formal education can be used, as can recommendations from employers testifying to the development and use of skills in the workplace. An individual can have their learning recognised in preparation for undertaking a formal vocational programme or to simply have their existing non-formal training validated. Lithuania’s PES provides a subsidy to unemployed adults wishing to engage in this process (Employment Service, 2020[74]).

Nonetheless, the EC has found that there is insufficient validation reference material, methodologies and tools to help guide education institutions in the processes required to recognise and validate non-formal and informal learning, which is leading to differing validation quality between providers (Beleckiene, 2019[78]). This conclusion is supported by a recent survey led by KPMPC, which found unequal professional requirements, unequal processes and duration requirements, and other inconsistences in the validation process between providers (Kalvaitis, 2020[79]). For example, different vocational institutions require different levels of work experience as part of the skills certification process. The majority of institutions prefer one year of experience for a competency to be recognised, but some require more than two years and others have no minimum requirements (Kalvaitis, 2020[79]).

This creates two policy problems for Lithuania. First, it can make co-operation between stakeholders involved in the RPL system more difficult. Currently, local PES can refer jobseekers to education institutions to have their skills validated. The majority of these interactions proceed smoothly, but where problems occur these are related to co-ordination issues which stem, in part, from unclear RPL standards (Figure 3.13). In a recent survey of 66 local PES (out of 70 across Lithuania), 16 cited co-operation with the VET provider as problematic, 11 reported that it is unclear which individuals are in need of RPL services, and a further 9 cited unclear school requirements. Second, it can mean that the quality of RPL provision differs depending on the provider and its use of validation methodologies and tools.

KPMPC is currently leading an EU funded project to improve the processes of recognising and validating non-formal and informal learning: Improvement of the System for Assessment and Recognition of Competences and Qualifications Acquired in Different Pathways (SKVC, 2020[80]). This project aims to improve the capacity of institutions to assess competences and qualifications acquired. The SMSM should build on the work of this project to develop a clear set of guidelines in conjunction with KPMPC, the Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education (SKVC) and education institutions that outline how to effectively recognise prior learning in Lithuanian education institutions. Lithuania could look at how other OECD countries, such as Norway, have developed guidelines that incorporate best practices, tools and methodologies to support the high-quality validation of skills across all providers (Box 3.6).

The success of this RPL system to recognise and validate non-formal and informal learning will also depend on raising awareness of skills validation as an option among adults. At the moment, publicly available information on validation options for adults, particularly in vocational institutions, is lacking (Beleckiene, 2019[78]). Improving the guidelines available to institutions should enable providers to more clearly state to adults the processes involved in having their skillset certified. Information about the RPL system could be included in an online one-stop shop and feature in awareness-raising initiatives (see Opportunity 1). Career guidance counsellors should be made aware of validation processes to effectively advise adults on whether and how to have their skills certified (see Chapter 5 for discussion on creating a lifelong career guidance system).

Lithuania could also consider developing digital tools for the recognition and validation of prior learning. Digital/open badges are a relatively new and promising way to harness technology to record and validate people’s skills (OECD, 2019[55]). They can enable individuals to present their skills in a more flexible way than full qualifications, or to signal specific interests or knowledge (OECD, 2019[66]). First developed in 2011 by Mozilla and the MacArthur Foundation, open badges consist of a series of metadata such as the recipient of the badge, the issuer of the badge and the criteria for earning the badge; this information together forms a verifiable claim (Ravet, 2017[81]). These badges can be stored online in digital “backpacks” and shared on social media platforms, incorporated into CVs or used to create and visualise meaningful learning pathways. The EC offers support for the creation of open badges through the use of the multilingual classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (Luomi-Messerer, 2019[82]).

Lithuania already has experience developing open badges. The Lithuanian Association of Non-Formal Education, in co-operation with the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists and international partners, developed open badges for young adults volunteering with the Youth Voluntary Service (Box 3.6). Lithuania could leverage on this experience to develop open badges more widely across non-formal courses and informal learning experiences. As a starting point, expanding the supply of online learning opportunities from Lithuanian education institutions (see Opportunity 2) presents an opportunity to introduce open badges for online non-formal courses.

In order to attract more adults and employers to engage in non-formal education and training, Lithuania will also need to ensure the high quality of publicly funded non-formal adult education. Good training quality is fundamental to guarantee that adult learning opportunities lead to the development of labour market relevant skills and the increased employability of participants (OECD, 2020[59]). An effective quality assurance regime can be broken down into three components: 1) ex ante recognition and certification of adult learning providers; 2) ex ante monitoring of adult learning providers; and 3) ex post monitoring of learning outcomes (Box 3.7). These work in tandem to guarantee that providers and courses are providing quality training opportunities and that adults are able to choose the education that most responds to their needs.

Quality assurance mechanisms are well-established in formal education. In HE, SKVC oversees external quality assurance policy. It provides ex ante recognition and certification of both providers and study programmes, and according to the Law on Higher Education and Research, only accredited courses can be taught (Government of the Republic of Lithuania, 2015[86]). HEIs are required to complete self-evaluation reports, and SKVC provides guidance to institutions on what these should include (SKVC, 2020[87]). Once a report has been submitted, SKVC forms an expert team to analyse the report, visit the institution and outline any follow-up activities that need to be undertaken to meet quality criteria. Accreditation of institutions factors in the effectiveness of internal quality assurance mechanisms, the management of the institute, and the impact of the institute on regional and national development (Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, 2019[88]).

In formal vocational education, KPMPC is responsible for external quality assurance (KPMPC, 2020[19]). KPMPC establishes the procedure for the development, modification, evaluation and validation of formal vocational training programmes for initial and continuing vocational training. The procedure for this approval process is detailed in the Description of the Procedure for the Development and Validation of Formal Vocational Training Programmes. As with HE, vocational institutes are required to develop their own internal quality assurance mechanisms and self-evaluate. KPMPC provides methodological support in this regard (KPMPC, 2020[90]). KPMPC has also developed mechanisms to support the ex post monitoring of learning outcomes of formal vocational education through a set of questionnaires designed to measure the satisfaction of students, teachers, graduates and employers (KPMPC, 2020[90]).

Regarding non-formal education, however, activities are not subject to comprehensive external regulation, with responsibility for quality largely down to the provider (Eurydice, 2018[91]). The main ex ante recognition and certification of providers is overseen by KPMPC which, as of 2019, registers non-formal vocational training programmes alongside formal programmes in its online database. Nonetheless, getting placed on this register of programmes is relatively easy, with few objective criteria required (Visionary Analytics, 2019[92]). Lithuania’s PES also provides some ex ante recognition and certification by only financing jobseekers who wish to participate in non-formal adult education that corresponds to labour market needs (Employment Service, 2021[39]).

The ex post monitoring of both adult learning providers and learning outcomes in non-formal education is largely inexistent, as a recent evaluation of non-formal adult learning opportunities funded by the ESF found (Visionary Analytics, 2019[92]). ESF financing is used to fund training aimed at jobseekers, as well as the majority of training for firms (see Opportunity 2). The ex post monitoring of learning outcomes for ESF-funded non-formal learning is not systematically undertaken. There are no surveys or other forms of feedback collected from participants immediately upon finishing training, and as a result there is no system in place to allow the comparison of training quality between different providers. The training indicators that do exist fail to measure the impact of learning opportunities effectively, partly because they lack specificity and as a result are hard to measure (Visionary Analytics, 2019[92]).

Insufficient ex ante and ex post quality assurance mechanisms in non-formal education can lead to education that is not always relevant. In Lithuania, only 41% of adults found their training to be “very useful” (Figure 3.14). This is lower than the average across OECD countries (51%), and significantly below the top performers of Denmark (83%), New Zealand (63%) and Northern Ireland (62%).

The EIM and the SMSM should consider strengthening the ex ante recognition and certification of non-formal adult education providers. To guarantee that training providers and programmes comply with minimum quality requirements, many countries have put in place certification mechanisms or quality labels. Quality labels can be a useful, often voluntary, way to signal the top-performing training providers according to the necessary certification and accreditation criteria defined by the state (OECD, 2021[73]). For example, in Switzerland the EduQua quality label is used to inform adults of training providers that provide quality learning experiences (Box 3.8). KPMPC could apply a quality label to non-formal courses on its register that meet a more stringent set of quality criteria, thus signalling to adults the top-performing training providers. Non-formal training providers could be required to meet this criteria in order to benefit from public funding.

Lithuania should also consider developing a more comprehensive ex post monitoring of learning outcomes for publicly funded non-formal adult education. This could be achieved through standardised and systematic post-participation surveys of participants that consist of a common set of indicators measuring labour market outcomes and satisfaction with the course. It could also be organised through the collection of administrative data about labour market outcomes from individuals in further education and work-based learning, as England does through Individualised Learner Records (ILR) (Box 3.8). Communicating outcome indicators to adults in an accessible way, for example through a systematic rating system, can then improve the quality of education by empowering individuals to judge courses according to outcomes that matter to them (OECD, 2018[60]). This could be undertaken via an online portal (see Opportunity 1) or by career guidance counsellors (see Chapter 5).

The process of developing more comprehensive ex ante and ex post monitoring of non-formal education should be a cross-ministry effort that actively seeks input from a range of stakeholders such as education institutions and employers. Facilitating ministerial co-operation and stakeholder engagement is discussed extensively in Chapter 5. Consensus should be sought on criteria for quality labels and the indicators to be included in a monitoring framework to ensure the success of these new quality assurance mechanisms across non-formal education in different sectors.

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