The Education and Training Service Center (ETSC) 

Main aim: To be a leading actor in analyzing, validating and increasing competence in working life. 

Main target group: People on the labour market with little formal education – who have not completed education on EQF level 4.

Our main role is to provide the target group with opportunities to take on training and education to better secure their position on the labour market. That is done through: 

  • Offering sound procedures for analyzing the competence criteria for specific jobs
  • Working on and coordinating a strategic development of a national VPL system (Validation of prior learning)
  • Increasing suitable opportunities for educational pathways and training based on needs
  • Developing and supporting guidance and counselling services

We serve as a coordinating body in cooperation with 14 regional lifelong learning centers who offer direct services to the target group.
Emphasis is set on international cooperation in the field of adult education in order to take part in and build on latest developments. All our work is aimed at the interests of the working life and the target group.

ETSC hosts the Icelandic coordinator in the Nordic Network for Adult Learning, NVL – see:, and the Tourism Skills Centre (financed by the Ministry of Industries and Innovation) – see: hæ


Establishment and ownership of the ETSC

The ETSC is owned by the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ), the Confederation of Icelandic Employers (SA), the Federation of State and Municipal Employees (BSRB), the Ministry of Finance and the Association of Local Authorities in Iceland. In connection with the collective agreement between ASI and SA in 2002, the Icelandic government issued a statement of intent which led to the establishment of FA. Operation began in 2003.

In 2010 the Parliament passed the Adult Education Act.

The aim of the Act is to meet the needs of adults with little formal education and also to meet the needs of the labour market for employees with increased knowledge and skills. On the basis of the Adult Education Act, studies outside upper secondary schools and universities will have increased weight. A service agreement with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, provided state budget funding for the operation of ETSC until 2022. The adult education system was transferred to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour after the elections in 2022 which provides the funding from that point. The service agreement includes administrating the Educational Fund which finances education and training courses, guidance and counselling, and validation provided by accredited educational providers. The board of the Education Fund is responsible for the allocation of funds and for establishing rules and policies for the Fund’s operations that are approved by the Minister.


Main responsibilities 

The Education and Training Service Center (ETSC) operates in accordance with the service contract with The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. It’s main responsibilities include:

  • Writing curricula and program descriptions and collaborating with ETSC’s contracted partners in their development.
  • Ensuring the development and dissemination of methods to validate non-formal and informal learning, as well as monitoring their implementation and providing training and feedback to specialists.
  • Supervising the development of guidance and counselling for ETSC’s target group in cooperation with educational providers and specialists in Iceland and abroad, and sharing this knowledge with professionals in the field.
  • Identifying the educational needs of the target group in cooperation with the employment sector and educational providers in order to develop an inventory of long- and short-term courses to meet those needs.
  • Developing methods in the field of accredited adult education in cooperation with educational providers and communicating both national and international innovations to specialists.
  • Enhancing the quality of educational activities and guidance by accredited educational providers through the development of quality standards in consultation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.
  • Collecting, maintaining and sharing information on the target group and its educational needs.
  • Administering The Education Fund and its finances.
  • Developing and maintaining a student registry in cooperation with educational providers and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, taking into account the validation of informal study and non-formal learning.

The Education and Training Service Center also undertakes various projects in adult education in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, the owners of ETSC and other partners. 

One of the main roles of the Education and Training Service Center is to write curricula and programme descriptions and collaborate with its contracted partners in their development. ETSC programmes are diverse and meet the needs of both the learners and the labour market.

Accredited educational providers are responsible for running the courses in accordance with these curricula, with funding from the Education Fund. The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture has evaluated the curricula for credit at the upper secondary school level.

ETSC programmes are of various types, for example, vocational courses in areas such as the tourism, office, fish processing and trade sectors. Some programmes are tailored for people with dyslexia, based in part on the methodology of Ron Davis.

Other ETSC programmes develop basic skills in subjects such as Icelandic, mathematics, English and ICT. These general curricula are often a starting point for adults with limited schooling who wish to re-enter education.

For every curriculum that ETSC has developed, it has published a promotional brochure with a brief programme description (as an appendix). These brochures are mainly used by the educational providers responsible for teaching the various programmes.

ETSC coordinates a national system for VPL for the target group

Validation of Prior Learning (VPL) is a systematic process whereby all knowledge and competencies an individual has gained through various activities – such as work experience, work-related learning, non-formal and informal learning, formal learning, social activities and family life – are formally documented and validated.

The Education and Training Service Center has developed methods and tools for VPL which are used by regional lifelong learning centres. The role of the ETSC is to ensure quality and guarantee that the approved methodology is implemented in the sectors where the validation is being applied, as well as manage the implementation of the validation process in new sectors. ETSC work on 

On continuing projects, ETSC provides guidance, but when initiating validation in new sectors, it is very actively involved: Representatives from ETSC are members of project steering groups, provide counselling to partners, coordinate training for validation staff and publish guidelines and checklists.

Career guidance is an integral part of the Icelandic VPL model.

Career guidance

The Education and Training Service Center (ETSC) coordinates the development of career guidance for the target group in cooperation with accredited educational providers around the country. Included in this cooperation are regular seminars organized by ETSC.

Initially the focus was on workplace guidance, where the guidance personnel visited companies and presented the value of lifelong learning and the benefits of seeking career guidance. Following the changes on the labour market after the economic crisis in 2008, the guidance personnel are servicing job seekers to a greater extent.

Over the years, the career guidance services have become better known and people are increasingly seeking guidance and counselling on their own initiative. For individuals belonging to the ETSC’s target group, guidance and counselling are free of charge.

The Education and Training Service Center (ETSC) is a centre for educational the development of adult education and follows new developments and trends linked to andragogy to provide support to partners providing services to the target group.  

ETSC has developed in cooperation with the University of Iceland, a self-assessment list for facilitators in adult education for educators in the field to self-assess the knowledge and competences based on identified job criteria. ETSC also has a roadmap for facilitators, project managers and others in the adult education field with links to various resources that can be used to further their knowledge.  

The Education and Training Service Center has a web publication called Gátt where articles aimed at strengthening the discussion on adult education in Iceland, collect and share experiences and promote the current trends in education, theories, data, tools and Web sites.

Included in Gátt are diverse approaches to adult education aimed at a broad group of interested parties: policy makers, leaders, teachers, participants, and others interested in innovations in the field. The publication of Gátt has been published since 2004 first as an annual journal but since 2017 as a web publication.


ETSC has placed great emphasis on quality in learning by developing quality indicators for educational providers and by providing training courses for instructors. The quality indicators that ETSC has developed are based on Nordic and European quality assurance systems. ETSC has also developed a system for accredited learning providers in a European project called European Quality Mark (EQM). Further information can be found at

Other projects

The Education and Training Service Center has in recent years undertaken several projects for its owners, partners, stakeholders and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. In addition, ETSC hosts a large project: the Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL)

The Nordic Network for Adult Learning (NVL) is a project initiated and financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers. ETSC hosts the project on behalf of Iceland. NVL is a forum for Nordic adult learning where the focus is on disseminating experiences and innovations. NVL promotes dialogue between different networks, initiates new networks and creates new co-operation models in order to enhance Nordic cooperation. For further information, visit

The Tourism Skill Center is a project financed by the Ministry of Industries and Innovation since 2017. ETSC hosts the project in cooperation with the Tourism sector and educational providers. The project’s focus is to work on the terms of the tourism sector to increase competences among employees – thereby improving the quality, professionalism, job satisfaction and profitability of the industry. 
For further information, visit hæ 

The website Næ is intended to facilitate access to information about studies and jobs from a neutral source, as well as making counselling in that field accessible online. The development of the website has focused on examples from neighboring countries, where there is generally a comprehensive information system with general study and job descriptions, as well as a variety of tools that can promote thoughtful and informed study and career choices in addition to supporting counselling and educational work in that field.

Information and educational material about studies and jobs in Iceland has long been very scarce. Online material has been sorely lacking and Næ is hopefully only the beginning of more tools and materials that help people to make independent and informed decisions about their own future in studies and work

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