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From Soviet state to learning society;FE focus

Nine years after Lithuania's break with the Soviet Union there are still only 92 private companies in the country and 75 per cent of its foreign trade is with Russia.

Now the country's business community is to have a greater say in post-16 education and training. In a scheme similar to the UK's training and enterprise councils, Lithuania's chambers of commerce are to encourage skills development, especially in communication and computers.

Lithuania wants to link up with colleges and training institutions, particularly in the UK, through the European Union's Leonardo project.

Earlier this year the government brought together practitioners from across Europe to explore possible future collaborations on vocational training and business development.

Further and higher education in Lithuania is subject to the same social and economic pressures as the UK and other European countries. These include an awareness of the problems of social exclusion and the need to widen access.

The Lithuanians have, like other Europeans, sought to reduce rote jobs, weaken organisational hierarchies, enhance the skill element of most jobs, and create a "learning society".

Students from the Kaunas College of Technology welcome the opportunity to develop their communication and IT skills to support their other qualifications.

Laura Narusyte, a tourism and hotel management student, said. "My English language and computing studies have greatly enhanced my chances of obtaining a degree and of gaining employment in the industry".

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