Tech it further

Tech it further

Interview with Carm Cachia – Executive Coordinator. Published in the Training and Careers Supplement – Times of Malta 29th March 2017​

1. How critical are ICT skills in today’s world?
Today’s world calls them digital skills , to use the latest term. Rather than being critical to have these skills, it is essential. For example, if you are without a job it increases your opportunity by 500% in finding employment; if you already have a job it increases your chances of promotion by the same percentage; if you want to purchase an item, you can find great products for a great price on the internet, ; if you need an institutional service you can do it from the comfort of your home through an e-government service. Also if you have the latest digital skills you will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your employer by 1000%, and guess what, at a lower cost too, and if you are an IT professional with the latest digital skills that are in demand by the industry, then you will be a shining star! I think the answer is obvious.

2. ICT is constantly changing – are employers investing in continuous learning?
This is an important question because it is very important to industry to have tech savvy employees, whether they are a clerk, a labourer, or a manager. Continuous innovation brings about opportunities for competitiveness and growth, but it also brings about the need for specific skills to grasp these opportunities. In general employers are not investing enough for continuous up-skilling. This is a short-sighted approach because in the end it’s the employer’s loss of opportunity. Continuous Professional Learning (CPD) has picked up over the last 5 years , but not enough. If we want to be competitive then this is essential to have employees with latest knowledge, skills and competences.

3. What more needs to be done at primary, secondary and tertiary school level?
I would go even further; it all starts from home. We need to substantially increase those skills that influence the effect of digital skills at all levels. These include soft skills, team working, multi-tasking and communications. On the digital front, primary and secondary education needs to focus more on computational and innovative thinking, the use of the latest tools and concepts and updating the ICT curriculum regularly. At tertiary level, colleges and Universities need to come closer to the industry needs, encourage the teaching of industry certifications within the curriculum, implement the use of standards like the e-competency framework to help them keep up with industry skills’ needs, implement much more Industry placements and apprenticeships, and introduce e-leadership curricula. We need to provide the adequate ICT infrastructure to schools, modernise and updating teaching contents and pedagogies, and upgrading teachers’ skills of all, in education. We need to be come out of our comfort zone and implement educational changes much more rapidly for Malta to be amongst the leaders.

4. What about people who are already in employment?
It is the onus of both employee and employer to make sure they have the latest digital skills. If the people in employment don’t keep up with digital skills, they will eventually be pushed out of the labour market. Today people have all the opportunities to up-skill for free! The learning opportunities found in e-learning on the internet is so great that these days you can practically find an online lecture for free on any digital term or subject.

5. What is government’s strategy to encourage and improve ICT skills?
The government strategy is very similar to what I have mentioned before, whether officially or not. This runs across all Ministries and government entities, so much so that many initiatives overlap each other. The Maltese government has been issuing digital strategies for quite some time now, the latest being that launched by Digital Malta in 2014. Apart from the digital education, the greatest challenge is going to be that of up-skilling the workforce.

6. What is the role of the eSkills Foundation in delivering this strategy?
Our role is very central to all this. Our foundation was set up by government for this specific purpose. The general aim of the foundation is the expansion and sustainable growth of ICT skills in Malta through the development of a broad set of skills from early on in life, throughout their career and employment, which will ultimately boost employability, competitiveness and growth in the digital economy. We collaborate with our founder members and other local and foreign organisations to achieve this goal more effectively. We are the national contact point for the EU Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition. We engage regularly with the EU and the proper organisations to expand ICT professionalism.

7. What training are you currently offering?
We provide training to Careers’ Advisors coming from government and private schools and recruitment sector. This training is about the careers and roles found in the ICT, as well as the knowledge, skills and competences needed these roles. Any organisation that needs this training, whether a government NGO or private concern, then we provide it. We also promote digital skills courses and training at all levels coming from various training providers, college and university. On our website, we include a very valid list of free e-learning courses, or MOOCs as they are called these days. We also engage with our partners to lead the provision of digital skills training. Lately, through the collaboration with MHRA, we provided an MCA course to the Hotel industry. In the future, this will be expanded to other industry sectors.

8. ICT skills also lead to job creation. How are you supporting the launch of digital start-ups?
We collaborate indirectly with the organisations that are very much involved in this. This includes the MITA Innovation Centre, the Microsoft Innovation Centre, and the TAKEOFF Business Incubator. Digital skills are essential to start-ups and the institutions mentioned are doing very good work in this area. We also collaborate with organisations like Digital Europe to encourage digital transformation within organisations.