Launch of ESF funded project – ‘Achieving Vocational Excellence Through Enhanced Work-Based Learning’
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Launch of ESF funded project – ‘Achieving Vocational Excellence Through Enhanced Work-Based Learning’

Reference Number: PR192432, Press Release Issue Date: Nov 12, 2019


Minister for Education and Employment Evarist Bartolo and Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds and Social Dialogue Aaron Farrugia launched a new ESF funded project, ‘Achieving Vocational Excellence Through Enhanced Work-Based Learning’ which aims at consolidating MCAST structures in the context of apprenticeship and work-based learning, at the Chamber of Commerce in Valletta.

The creation of robust education structures within this context is geared towards increasing academic attainment and employability possibilities of a cohort of students already engaged in the labour market as apprentices. Qualitative apprenticeship training will provide in youths with the competences and experience necessary for a smooth transition in the labour market; it will address both the current demand as well as the provision of competences for emerging profiles. Making VET more attractive for students while providing a more competent workforce caters for current and future industrial requirements. As a result of this project, it will be possible to provide a higher-level qualitative VET experience which will have a direct positive effect on the calibre and the number of skills that students will acquire.

The project foresees a number of actions including the creation of a Competency Framework and the setting up of the Emulative Centres will also address the provision of competences which are not readily available in the industry due to their more innovative nature, but which are required for future economic growth. This project also includes initiatives aimed at upskilling mentors at the place of work

Minister for Education and Employment Evarist Bartolo stated that the world of education and the world of employment are two important elements that one cannot live without the other. Minister Bartolo emphasized that “we must really jog ourselves out of our way of stereotype way of thinking and even through this ESF project we can look to start accrediting the work experience of students as part of their learning outcomes they go through their lives that might not necessarily be part of their formal programmes. More than that we should do all we can get the world of education and the world of employment to work together through the formal education experience of our students, from the secondary level of our educational system onwards.”

In relation to this, Minister Bartolo referred to ‘My Journey: Achieving through Different Paths’ project that has been introduced at the start of this scholastic year, where it gives equal value to academic, vocational and applied for learning programmes. Proudly he stressed that this has been embraced by around 60% of the students. This is one example where hands-on experience at an educational level is the way forward, where the structures between MCAST and the industry must reflect the real world.

Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds and Social Dialogue Aaron Farrugia held that sustaining, consolidating, and expanding direct foreign investment requires twofold action. “We must first strengthen synergies between educational institutions and the business community. By means of EU funded projects, MCAST is heading in the right direction in this regard. Secondly, we must prepare the Maltese workforce by investing in our workers’ skills. This can be done by reskilling and upskilling the knowledge held by those who are already in the workforce,” he said, adding that the topmost priority in the upcoming European Fund Programme (2021-2027) is investing in our workforce in order to help it meet the needs of today’s industries and those of the future

MCAST President of the Board of Governors Frederick Schembri reflected on the alarming rates of students’ drop-out is partly attributed to the fact that they are unable to see any connection between what they are learning and what they may one day be doing professionally. “We need to act differently in the traditional manner in which education and training have been thought. The heterogeneous and fragmented system of job-training is proving to be counter-productive. The challenge remains on engaging students while at the College mainly by ensuring that skills development is in line with industry requirements and the students’ career pathways.” He suggested the setting up of an ‘Education Joint Advisory Board’ at a strategic level. He concluded by maintaining that a more flexible, responsive education and training system is good for learners, good for employers, good for the economy and good for the community it serves. It will help balance the labour market and ensure that individuals and employers acquire the skills they need.

President of the Chamber of Commerce Perit David Xuereb asserted that the Chamber is a firm believer in job exposure at various stages of the educational system. The Chamber supports workbased learning activities such as internships, apprenticeships and work placements. Official figures show that the number of young people currently not in employment, education or training in (NEETs) is on the increase. This is coupled with a high rate of early school leavers which is leaving the country with an unskilled or low skilled workforce. It is, therefore, a priority that youth first and foremost should keep studying, and if they decide to take the vocational pathway, rather than an academic one, they are given the opportunity to learn on the job and have a practical learning experience through placements. The Chamber also confirms that apprenticeship programmes are an effective tool to improve the skill set of young people.

A discussion amongst stakeholders, chaired by the MCAST Principal Prof James Calleja, looked at the projected initiatives and challenges to be addressed by the project. The stakeholders agreed that the rapid change of industry has shocked the education system with the level of uncertainty that it creates. The skills shortage is acknowledged however education is also preparing students for life and not only for employment. Ms Marisa Xuereb, Deputy President Chamber of Commerce, emphasised the need for student and employers get together as early as possible during the study programme.

On this project, MCAST is partnering with the Ministry for Education and Employment, the Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry as well as the National Skills Council. This project will be 80% funded through the European Social Fund.