Demographic challenges and need to respond to changing economic conditions have led to the increased importance of adult education and lifelong learning policies in most of the European countries. In Estonia, work-related training and retraining provided as courses were generally not free for learners until 2007, with the exception of courses provided to unemployed and certain specific groups of employees (e.g. teachers, and officials). Since then, the opportunities to participate in work- related training and retraining have been considerably widened with the help of the European Social Fund (ESF). In 2009-2014, the programme “Work-related training and development of adult education” was implemented. The aim of the programme was to facilitate increased participation in lifelong learning and contribute to the labour market competitiveness of the adult population across all Estonian regions by supporting vocational training programmes in vocational education and professional higher education institutions. During its implementation, altogether 41,000 persons participated in the courses.

Objectives of the project

The general objective of the project was to promote the use of counterfactual impact evaluation (CIE) of ESF interventions in the domains of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research (MoER). The specific objectives of the project were following:

  • to provide evidence on the effects of the ESF programme “Work-related training and development of adult education” implemented by the MoER;
  • to enhance the capacity of the MoER to effectively implement evaluations through the development of the description of the data needs for evaluations and data collection system for future evaluations;
  • to raise awareness on CIE through the general and special training courses.

Results of the project

  1. As a result of the project firstly,  a database on participants of adult vocational education and non-participants from PIAAC data was created. This allowed the partners (Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education and Research) to learn what kind of data is needed for conducting impact evaluations, how it should be collected and handled to ensure the conformity with the EU data protection rules.
  2. In the framework of the project the options for monitoring and evaluation ESF projects for 2014-2020 period were analysed in depth. One of the long lasting effect of the project is that the data on ESF projects is now collected centrally into single database and by the most competent institution in the field (Statistics Estonia).
  3. Introductory and in-depth training courses on impact evaluations were prepared based on the experience of the project. In total 58 civil servants participated in introductory training course on impact evaluations and 20 took part in in-depth training.
  4. Finally, an evaluation report on the impacts of work-related training programmes has been prepared.

The analysis suggests that adult vocational training has a positive modest effect on later labour market outcomes, but the size and statistical significance of the results are sensitive to which comparison group and matching technique to use. The estimated average effect of training on monthly wages is about 30-40 euros per months one or two years after the training, which corresponds to 5-6% increase compared to pre-treatment wages. Analysis using propensity score matching techniques suggests that the effects of training are larger for those who were already employed at the time when applying to the courses. These results are in accordance with earlier feedback surveys of participants that the effect of training is missing for unemployed participants, as the training courses might be too short to be useful for the unemployed. The results also suggest higher effects of training on later employment probability for people with lower education (up to basic education), younger (20–29) and older people (50+). The effect is smaller for people with university education.  No significant difference by main language or by gender could be found.

See also