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Insufficient alignment with labour market demands

Medium and long-term labour market forecasts for Latvia have stressed the need for more graduates of professional tertiary programmes and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and the health professions. Recent trends show a gradual realignment in this direction but Latvia still faces a major challenge in adjusting capacity to meet future needs.

In 2013/14, tertiary education institutions and colleges in Latvia offered 901 study programmes in 29 accredited study directions within 8 thematic fields. The largest share of study programmes was in the field of social sciences, business and law. The shares of graduates in each study area reflect the number of study programmes in each field.

Figure 5.9 shows the changes that have occurred in the percentages of graduates in each thematic field in recent years. The most pronounced change is in the declining share of graduates in social sciences, business and law. This is partially the result of fewer free study places being offered in these subjects in recent years.

in line with government priorities, Latvia has seen small increases in the percentages of graduates in STEM-related fields during the last decade. The increased number of free study places in these fields has played its part in this development. The Latvian government however recognises further efforts are needed if Latvia is to achieve its target of 25% in 2017 and 27% by 2020, and ensure the supply of graduates is better aligned with the demands of the labour market. it is making a concerted effort to concentrate free study places in priority areas for Latvia’s economy, especially in STEM fields (MoES, 20l4a, 2015b). The government aims to increase the proportion of state-funded study positions in STEM fields from 44% in the base year of 2013 to 50% in 20l7 and 55% in 2020 (MoES, 2014a) which we agree is an important policy to further match the supply of graduates with labour market needs.

Figure 5.9. Percentage of graduates, by field of study (2004, 2009 and 2014)

Source: Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (2015e), “IZG29. Graduates with degree or qualification in higher education institutions and colleges by education thematic groups”, Statistics Database, Central

Statistical Bureau of Latvia, http://data.csb.gov.lv/pxweb/en/Sociala/Sociala__ikgad__izgl/IZ0290.

px/?rxid=a79839fe-11ba-4ecd-8cc3-4035692c5fc8 (accessed 16 June 2015).

In support of these goals, Latvia could consider increasing its efforts to encourage more women to choose STEM fields of study. As in many oECD countries, very few women choose to study STEM subjects in Latvia. Box 5.1 outlines just two examples of the many initiatives taken across oECD countries to tackle this that Latvia could look to for guidance.

As noted earlier, Latvia has a diverse tertiary education sector with a considerable number of private institutions and colleges supplementing the country’s public tertiary education infrastructure. nevertheless, one concern is the high concentration of private-sector capacity in study fields that are not considered national priorities. Enrolments in private institutions are concentrated in the fields of social sciences, business and law. In 2013 private tertiary education institutions and colleges offered 124 of the total 310 study programmes in social sciences, business and law in Latvia, enrolling 47% of the students in this field. They offer few programmes in engineering and manufacturing.

This suggests that state financing and regulatory policies could offer more incentives to the private sector to respond to national priorities. It also raises questions about the sustainability and capacity of small private institutions that depend largely on revenue from tuition fees.

Box 5.1. Promoting females in STEM-related fields of study, examples from Finland and Australia

Finland - A group of women and the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries launched an initiative for a technology forum to get more women into the field. The Women In Tech 2013 forum was organised for the first time on 15 October 2013 to bring together men and women with a keen interest in the future of technology and in encouraging and supporting young women to begin and develop their careers in the technology sector. Over 500 university students, university teachers, researchers and company members gathered to the forum to discuss how women could have a larger role in creating success stories in business and technology. Top speakers - women and men working in the corporate world and universities - shared their experiences as leading, visionary experts in the industry.

The Women in Tech 2013 forum was organised by the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries together with significant technology industry companies (Ensto Oy, KONE Oyj, NOKIA Oyj, Microsoft Oy, Wartsila Oyj, Outotec Oyj, Tieto Oyj), universities, female student unions and other stakeholders. The next forum will be in 2015. Meanwhile, other Women in Tech activities are ongoing, for example upper secondary school visits by female students and young professionals. More information at the Women in Tech website: www.mytech.fi/women-in-tech.

Box 5.1. Promoting females in STEM-related fields of study, examples from Finland and Australia (continued)

Australia, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) - Over the last two years there have been two initiatives to promote enrolments of girls in STEM programmes, supported by the RMIT’s College of Science, Engineering and Health (SEH). The college supported a research project titled Gender-Based Discipline Choices in Science and Engineering in conjunction with the Engineering Information Foundation, NY, USA during 2012-13. The project investigated what influences male and female undergraduates in their choice of engineering or science. It explored the idea that STEM programme marketing might be more effective if it equally addressed the different interests of boys and girls. The influence of family and media varied significantly with gender. In particular, girls were more strongly influenced by their family, boys were more influenced by engineering in the media. The project developed hands-on marketing activities with broad appeal to engage boys (smash and crash, science in the media, mastery appeal) and girls (group work, discussion on how STEM helps society, applications related to the human body).

SEH formed a Women in STEM Programmes Working Group that reported to the Academic Development Committee, chaired by Associate Professor Margaret Jollands. Each STEM school nominated a member to the group. A girls-only Power of Engineering programme was run for Year 10 students, and a Girls in Engineering session was run at an RMIT open day. The group assessed STEM marketing initiatives worldwide. The most successful Women in Engineering programmes are characterised by “adapting” - systemic transformation of the institution - and the least successful characterised by “adopting” - focusing on helping female students to cope e.g. study support, peer mentoring, common rooms. The group now advocates a more inclusive approach, with a focus on inclusive teaching in STEM programmes. It has requested a more inclusive name.

Source: OECD (2014b), Fostering Equity in Higher Education Compendium of Practical Case Studies - Promoting Female Participation in STEM, OECD Higher Education Programme, OECD Publishing, Paris, www.oecd.org/edu/imhe/Promoting-female-participation-in-STEM.pdf.

 
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