Case Study: Driving changes for vocational education
Baltic PR Awards 2010
Category: Public Affairs
Driving changes for vocational education
Every year in Latvia around 300 people at the age from 18 to 25 suffer in accidents at work.
State Labor Inspectorate confirms that youth in Latvia lacks skills and training, is unaware of
own rights and responsibilities. Eurostat also proves that 18 to 24-year-olds are 50% more
likely to be hurt at work than older people.
The pupils of vocational schools are a risk group for work safety issues, however, there is no
systematic approach to teaching occupational safety topics. The Ministry of Science and
Education has not come up with a program for vocational schools, meanwhile level of
awareness among pupils depends directly on the individual approach of the teachers.
Indicating the strong need to mainstream occupational safety into the curriculum of vocational
education, Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Latvia (LBAS) involved Consultancy to
develop a special program that would reveal the knowledge gaps of pupils and form a
background for discussions with government officials.
Data on accidents at work and complaints from State Labour Inspectorate were collected and
analyzed together with government officials and social partners. These data formed a
background for public communication and messages, as well as were used as argument,
when convincing teachers to participate.
Several focus group discussions were organized consisting of experts from the Ministry of
Science and Education, teachers from vocational schools and students to discuss the content
of the curriculum of vocational education. This provided essential information on topics which
should be covered in the competition.
Analysis of the similar contest in 2008 was crucial to understand the main knowledge gaps
and to more precisely work out topics for current year.
Since the occupational safety contest was organized for the second time LBAS had an
ambition to expand it in comparison with the previous time, therefore Consultancy had to look
for partnerships – occupational safety authorities, professional associations and private
Primary objective of organizing the contest was to obtain data which later could be used to
demonstrate the issue and to call government officials to an action. Secondary objective was
to promote popularity and reputation of trade unions amongst potential young workers.
Three different stakeholder groups were identified: curriculum set-up authorities, state
financed vocational schools and last year vocational students.
To achieve credibility of results, it was crucial to demonstrate importance of the competition
and seriousness of its methodology, therefore strategy of the contest was characterized by
two main principles: involvement of decision makers and use of all necessary instruments to
gain maximum response from schools. Experts from the Ministry of Science and Education,
Ministry of Welfare and State labor inspectorate were involved a lot in the preparation of
questionnaires and practical exercises and were invited to participate in all events.
To encourage students from vocational schools to be more interested in their labor rights and
occupational safety, Consultancy proposed to organize a contest that would provide learning
by doing opportunity and via competitive atmosphere would motivate teachers to pay special
attention to safety matters.
Competition was organized in three phases – questionnaires, semi-finals and final event. Last
year students from all vocational schools could apply and fill in questionnaires consisting of
more than 40 questions about labor rights, occupational risks and preventive measures, as
well as trade unions and social dialogue. To localize competition and get regional media
coverage five best teams from each region: Riga, Vidzeme, Kurzeme, Latgale and Zemgale
were invited to semi-finals – a real life event with theoretical and practical exercises. One
team from each region was short-listed for the finals and could compete for the valuable
The implementation of project was used as a reason for meetings with authorities. After
results of the contest were available, further meetings with government officials and social
partners were organized to discuss deeper the problem of lack of attention to safety and risk
education. Significant differences among various schools were used as a proof for the need
or more systematic approach to safety and risk education.
To improve communication with vocational schools data base of teachers responsible for
social and safety topics was set up. It was used not only during competition, but also
afterwards to inform about topical issues. During semi-finals and final event LBAS interviewed
teachers to share their views about format and content of the contest.
Extra high involvement of vocational schools was obtained - 85% of all vocational schools in
Latvia participated in the competition and more than 2300 students filled in questionnaires
demonstrating their knowledge and understanding about occupational safety and labor rights.
LBAS got an objective and comparable data which approved serious lack of systematic and
common approach to teaching occupational safety topics in vocational schools. Average
share of right answers varied from 27% to 79%. These findings formed an important platform
for future discussions with the Ministry of Science and Education and provided evidence for
necessary changes in the curriculum.
During competition high interest from regional media was ensured and 89% of publications
were very positive and positive. Despite the fact that vocational education is a quite narrow
topic, media content analysis showed that 293 347 Latvian inhabitants were reached through
media coverage and thus informed about importance of occupational safety.
2334 students participated