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EU funds earmarked to develop Ida-Viru County lifelong learning curricula

The University of Tartu's Narva College.
The University of Tartu's Narva College. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Educational institutions in Ida-Viru County are set to benefit from new curricula developed with support from the EU's Just Transition Fund.

€25 million from the EU's Just Transition Fund has been earmarked for skills development in Ida-Viru County, along with a further €10 million from the Estonian state.

According to Margus Haidak, head of the Higher and Vocational Education Policy and Lifelong Learning Department at the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, the money will be used to provide further training and retraining for workers, who have been laid off from the oil shale sector. The funds will also be used to update the curricula at colleges and vocational training centers in Ida-Viru County, as well as to create new ones.

The curricula, which are ultimately developed should support the businesses that are set to - emerge as the economy in the region diversifies.

"Preference has been given to higher education curricula in at degree level, which deal with areas such as industrial automation, sustainable or renewable energy and the valorization of various resources, including chemical engineering. Of course, we can't overlook IT, which is one of the main focuses everywhere in Estonia," Haidak explained.

According to Haidak, the University of Tartu has promised to bring its master's program in data science to Ida-Viru County. The course focuses on big data processing and could help meet the needs of larger companies in the area.

"Nowadays we are talking a lot about developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and this is one of the curricula that could contribute to (developing an understanding of) this. And then also strengthening the existing curricula to bring in new lecturers and offer different specializations there."

When it comes to vocational education and training, programs focusing on technical subjects are highest priority, as these are the areas the region currently has fewest graduates in. According to Margus Haidak, the aim of the new curricula is to offer young people from Ida-Viru County the opportunity to study locally as well as to give those from other parts of Estonia a reason to come to Ida-Viru County to study. The potential relocation of academics and researchers to Ida-Viru County is however, another issue.

"The whole issue of housing shortages, the lack of social networks, healthcare, schools- these are all issues that people care about. There are challenges here. We can't just accept a situation where people work in Tartu and Tallinn and then, from time to time, take public transport (to get here)," Haidak said.

According to Margus Haidak, while the educational measures are a step in the right direction, they do not provide solutions to the challenges faced related to housing and living conditions in Ida-Viru County.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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