Fostering eSkills for growth
In today’s world, the importance of ICT skills extends beyond the ICT sector to all aspects of the economy. The Malta Business Bureau is actively involved in fostering eSkills to stimulate growth.
In recent years, the MBB has been at the forefront in addressing issues of national importance that affect different sectors of our economy. Following its work on various aspects of ICT, the MBB organised a business seminar together with the ICT business section of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry and eSkills Alliance Malta themed: Fostering eSkills For Growth.
This debate comes at an opportune time both from a local as well as a European perspective as several new initiatives are being undertaken.
Fast developments have been taking place at an EU level in this field in recent years. The establishment of the European eSkills Forum in 2003 targeting innovative actions and models for higher eSkills in areas like education and training as well as industrial and labour policies; the ICT Task Force’s purpose to identify how ICT can help mobilise member states’ industrial competitiveness; and the Thessaloniki Declaration’s concrete proposals for a long-term eSkills agenda in 2006, to mention a few initiatives, show the European Commission’s efforts and commitment towards this cause.
The European Union’s work in this area sheds considerable light on the scale of the challenges ahead. It is imperative for Malta to be proactive and remain at the forefront of advances in this field by implementing initiatives that will ultimately benefit our industries and economy. I am reassured that this shall certainly be the case by the setting up of the e-Skills Alliance Malta, which, in my view, has all the necessary will and ambition to succeed.
Beyond the policy aspect, the eSkills debate is also useful from a business perspective. The development of eSkills curricula is of strategic importance to the country’s future economic development. It is a well-known fact that innovation and ICT are two fundamental building blocks for growth and jobs.
In today’s world, eSkills are needed by all and sundry. They are not just required for the ICT industry but indeed in all our economic sectors. Developing and retaining the right skills is a key success factor for business, even more so in today’s ever changing world.
Moreover, the skill-set that is required today might not be the one that will be in demand in a few years’ time hence, we should continuously work to equip ourselves better to face these challenges.
Over the ages and against all odds, we Maltese have, through sheer hard work and perseverance, managed to succeed in a number of business areas. I am sure that in this area too we will be at the forefront of advances.
To this end, the MBB wishes to see a strengthened cooperation between public authorities and the private sector through various measures that could include matters such as:
An effective conclusion to the educational curriculum review, which is currently underway, to incorporate digital learning and literacy in our educational system as quickly as possible.
An increased effort in the provision of lifelong ICT education targeting specific sections of the labour market to continuously align employee skills to business requirements.
We have to try to anticipate change in a fast-moving digital economy. A study commissioned by the Malta Information Technology Agency (Mita), monitoring the demand and supply of eSkills, will help forecast the eSkills requirements of Maltese industry. The results of this study will help decision makers identify the support tools that will be required by our businesses and will also serve to guide our employees when planning their professional development.
On an EU level, appropriate financial support together with the mutual recognition of qualifications in order to facilitate mobility and transparency are key priority areas. Digital literacy goes in hand with this policy framework whereby the training of the workforce is tailored to the requirements of SMEs.
An important tool that could be used in this respect is the European Social Fund. This should be mobilised through information campaigns and educational programmes aiming to enhance eSkills teaching within the ambit of lifelong learning. Such initiatives could help groups such as the unemployed, elderly people and people with insufficient literacy skills or those who encounter difficulties due to their disabilities to participate in today’s digital economy.
I would like to acknowledge the commendable work undertaken by the eSkills Alliance Malta to implement the e-Competence Framework.
The MBB strongly believes in this cause and is willing to lend its support in spreading the message to address the challenges that lie ahead of us. We will keep following policy developments in this area at an EU level and look forward to collaborate closely with eSkills Alliance Malta to ensure that the ambitious targets of a digitally literate population are met, also for the benefit of Maltese business.
The author is president of the Malta Business Bureau and heads the advisory services at Grant Thornton.