TALLINN – The European Commission has come up with a proposal to set up a personal learning account for each working-age adult in all member states in order to help people cover the cost of training, counseling or skills assessment relevant to the labor market.
The Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry considers it essential that the system created is not bureaucratic, does not create unequal competition in the market for training services and is intended only for work-related training.
The learning account would be essentially money allocated to a person, which the person can use to cover training costs that are relevant to the labor market. The Commission recommends that member states should ensure that sufficient funds are transferred to people's learning accounts each year. A person has the right to decide when and for what trainings he or she will use the account.
For example, the account holder would be entitled to accumulate funds for several years and use the entitlements on the learning account for some training of greater depth. According to the Commission's recommendation, a person can also tap into the learning account when, for example, moving from one job to another, from employment to study, from employment to unemployment, or from active life to inactivity.
The Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has submitted seven observations on the Commission's recommendation on learning accounts to the Ministry of Education and Research. The chamber hopes that the ministry will take these into account when formulating Estonia's position.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports the approach of the Commission that the proposal is a recommendation, not a draft legislation. The chamber considers that each member state must retain the right to decide whether and under what conditions to introduce the learning account arrangement.
In order to increase people's participation in lifelong learning, the chamber believes that, in addition to financial support, there is a need for communication to raise awareness of the learning accounts and the benefits they bring, and thus motivate more people to participate in training.
The chamber considers the Commission's recommendation that a reference framework, such as career guidance, should be set up alongside the creation of the learning accounts to be reasonable. According to the chamber, further efforts are needed to guide at least certain target groups in making more informed and forward-looking choices regarding training.
The chamber agrees with the Commission's suggestion that more resources should be allocated to the learning accounts of those people who are most in need of refresher training and retraining.
If a system of learning accounts is created, the chamber believes that a payout from the account should be subject to a certain deductible, or the account holder should have an opportunity to contribute to the account.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports the principle contained in the recommendation that the learning account can only be used for trainings relevant to the labor market. In the opinion of the chamber, non-work-related training should not be financed through learning accounts.
The chamber emphasized in this context that the learning account system must not be complicated or bureaucratic, otherwise people will not use it, and it may not ensure access to sufficient training for the labor market. Likewise, the applicable requirements must not artificially restrict the training market or create unequal competition in the training market.