RFF conference

On November 8th, Malta hosted its Annual Conference on the Implementation of the Recovery Plan, to reflect on Malta’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) submitted to the EU Commission in 2021 with a substantial allocation of EUR 336.3 million, encompassing 16 strategic investments and 31 reforms.

The conference compromised three panels one of which featured Junior Achievement Malta’s CEO Matthew Caruana to discuss the green, digital, medical skills and beyond. The panels engaged in candid discussions about the milestones achieved thus far in Malta’s transition, the hurdles faced, and the invaluable lessons learnt for the future.

On Malta’s Educational System and Digital Skills

It is no surprise that the complexity of Malta’s socio-economic landscape came to the forefront of the discussions, where the need for nuanced, more innovative, and future-friendly approaches to education and human resources were highlighted.

The conference shed light on Malta’s statistics with a significant 33.1% of adults aged 15-64 classified as low-skilled in 2022. This issue is further compounded by a decline in graduates engaged in science and technology research since 2010, posing a barrier to innovation. Additionally, according to the ECB survey on access to finance for enterprises, 35% of small and medium-sized enterprises indicated that the lack of skilled staff is one of their most pressing problems in Malta.

On this note, a critical aspect was emphasized by Matthew Caruana during the conference being the need to invest in life education, fostering adaptability and entrepreneurship. This resonates with Malta’s struggle with low-skilled labour, as the prevailing education system often confines students to a narrow focus on exams, neglecting the importance of understanding and applying knowledge beyond the immediate academic context. This paradigm shift towards life education is integral to creating a workforce that can navigate the complexities of an evolving job market.

Further, what is needed to jumpstart this transition in the education system is synergy among stakeholders to direct students and adults towards skills needed in the current and futuristic economy. On this note, Caruana emphasized that education should transcend the mere impartation of knowledge and include exemplifying leadership and foresight in educational models.

Following this discussion, Mata’s digital skills were also brought to the forefront of the panel. While the 2022 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) positions the nation at the 6th spot among 27 EU Member States, a critical analysis reveals the need for sustained action to bridge existing gaps. Even though the percentages of ICT specialists in the workforce (4.9%) and ICT graduates (6.5%) surpass the EU average, there is a notable shortage of professionals equipped to handle advanced technologies like AI, IoT, and blockchain in Malta. This imbalance raises concerns about the alignment between educational output and industry demands, indicating a potential mismatch between the supply of graduates and the specific digital skills required by organizations.

Beyond higher education, only 28% of Maltese enterprises provide ICT training to their employees which highlights another gap in upskilling opportunities. Furthermore, the limited training opportunities for low-skilled workers, hovering at around 4%, reveal a need for more comprehensive strategies to address the digital skills deficit among the broader workforce.

Junior Achievement Malta’s Contribution

Through the various programmes JA delivers to a diverse target audience, the organization aspires to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in the community, or at the very least, create an environment where essential life skills are acquired through hands-on learning experiences.

In an effort to address the gender gap in digital, entrepreneurial, and transversal skills, JA Malta took on the Girls Go Circular project to be implemented locally. The initiative stands committed to empowering schoolgirls and nurturing them to be the leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Central to this mission is the “Circular Learning Space” platform, which grants students access to various engaging learning modules spanning e-waste, climate change, food sustainability, and robotics.

Moreover, through JA’s flagship Company Programme that has already been launched for its 35th edition, student will collaborate in teams, develop innovative products, and compete for the Company of the Year award. JA emphasizes that beyond the competition, the true value lies in the life experiences gained by students, as this programme exposes them to new fields of work, allowing them to understand the dynamics of the workforce and connect with the market.

JA Extends a Warm Hand of Collaboration

As we navigate the complexities of the 21st century, it becomes increasingly evident that our education system must evolve to meet the demands of the ever-changing landscape. To create individuals who are not only equipped for the future workforce but also capable of driving innovation, it is imperative that more funding is directed towards our educational institutions. This financial support should be channelled into initiatives that promote hands-on learning, foster crucial skills such as digital literacy and entrepreneurship, and empower educators to effectively impart these new skills to their students. JA strongly believes in collaborative efforts to instigate positive change in the education system, foreseeing a ripple effect on society as a whole, and acknowledges the crucial role played by teachers and educators in this regard.

In this collective effort, Junior Achievement Malta stands ready to play a pivotal role, with its unwavering commitment to empowering the future generation in work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. The organization extends its hand to stakeholders, including schools, teachers, educators, governmental bodies, and other NGOs, inviting collaboration for the benefit of students and the new generation.