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Underdeveloped career guidance system

Effective career information and guidance systems are a key to making lifelong learning a reality for all. They can help to make the best use of human resources in the labour market as well as in education by allowing better matches between people’s skills and interests and available opportunities for work and learning (OECD, 2014b). Access to high-quality, independent careers information, advice and guidance at key points in a school career, as well as later on in life, is therefore central to a successful schooling and lifelong learning.

In Latvia the provision of career guidance services is weak and fragmented. Responsibility for career guidance is shared between the State Employment Agency and the State Education Development Agency. The latter is responsible for providing career guidance in schools, while the State Education Agency provides guidance to registered job seekers. A wider advisory forum, the Cooperation Council for the Career System is also in place and the newly created VECCs are also intended to play a part (OECD, 2015b).

The data show that in 2013 only 36% of the population had received any career guidance while in education, against an EU average of 61°% (European Union, 2014). in Latvia, young people have access to school-based careers information, advice and guidance in Grades 8 and 9 of compulsory education, which schools fund out of their own budgets. it is not known, however, how much schools invest in this. Prior to the economic crisis, extra EU funds had been available for teacher training in guidance, but this was curtailed due to the economic downturn.

in upper secondary education, teachers discuss tertiary education options with students, but it is not clear how much time is spent discussing other options, including employment. There is a risk that other career options, such as vocational education and training, might not be sufficiently explored. The ongoing review of career guidance in the education sector is intended among others to increase school staff capacity for guidance and to broaden the range of guidance activities for students. These measures could help to reduce the potential bias toward keeping students in general education.

Earlier and more intensive career advice and guidance might help to tackle the significant gender segregation in vocational education programmes, but earlier intervention is also needed to enable young people to decide between the general and vocational pathways. Latvia intends to strengthen the career guidance system as part of the larger reform of its vocational education system, but plans are at an early stage (European Commission, 2015). Examples from other oECD countries may help shape its career guidance system.

internationally, developments in digital communication technologies are helping to improve and bring innovation into the career guidance field. Some countries (e.g. Austria and Australia) have national career-focused websites, whilst others have websites dedicated to different aspects of the education system (e.g. Germany and the United Kingdom for apprenticeship). A private initiative in Latvia has also recently resulted in a similar youth career portal, Prakse ( With EU funding Latvia aims to further develop the current national learning information website into a portal that among others will include individual user profiles, as well as career interest, aptitude and value self-assessment functions to help users identify suitable further education and/or occupation opportunities.

in Switzerland career guidance and information sessions are mandatory in secondary education and all teachers receive some training on labour market opportunities. in lower secondary education, students learn in their own schools about different career options and how to use the independent institutions for guidance related to all levels of education and training - the Berufsinformationszentren. These centres work closely with schools, and sometimes provide services at the school rather than their own offices. in other countries, short internships or periods of work experience towards the end of compulsory education or at upper secondary level are used to give young people the chance to sample different types of workplace and occupational fields.

in the United Kingdom, the concept of “ambassadors” is widely used as a way to encourage young people to look beyond their current horizons. A long-standing example is the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network (STEMNET) (Box 4.4), which given the low numbers of young Latvians choosing to study STEM subjects, might offer a useful model.

Box 4.4. STEM Ambassadors

STEMNET (the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network) was established as a charity in 1996, funded by the British government. it works with schools and further education colleges and STEM employers in the United Kingdom to enable young people to meet inspiring role models and participate in STEM activities to bring learning and career opportunities to life. STEMNET uses over 27 000 volunteer STEM Ambassadors, from a wide range of STEM occupations across engineering, digital and life sciences to promote STEM subjects to young learners in a range of practical and engaging ways.

Source: STEMNET (n.d.), “STEM Ambassadors”, STEMNET (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network) website,

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