Upskilling in the new norm

Upskilling in the new norm

Article by Carm Cachia published on the Malta Business Observer on 24.09.2020

Since its launch in 2014, the eSkills Malta Foundation has understood its important, challenging role. The skilling, upskilling and reskilling of various factions in the digital economy has been a major challenge. During these years, the information technology scenario has changed. Although we have known technology to change its pace over the years, these last six years, the things to come has become clearer, and the technological disruption to the society, commerce, and education are very evident. The advancement of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Distributed Ledger Technologies, Internet of Things, Data management and its visualisation, Quantum computing, high-performance computing, to mention just a few, has given us the understanding that many opportunities and benefits can become a reality, and very soon. Technology advancement has created a ripple effect on all sectors, including commerce, health, government, manufacturing, finance, marketing, banking, energy, agriculture, entertainment, and the rest. There is hardly a sector that technology will not disrupt.

This wave has been long coming, and the European Commission has urged its member countries, that should they want to remain competitive in the global markets, then they must prepare for this digital disruption. Countries need to prepare society of the implications and to encourage a digital transformation in their businesses and government.

The other continents have been doing the same. Although these compete with each other, in effect all continents realised that there is one world and cooperation between continents is key for the success and failure of this technology. But industrial competition will always be there, and the European Commission successfully implemented the single market economy, treating the EU as one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services. The digital single market, a part of this strategy, aims to open up digital opportunities for people and business and therefore improves Europe’s position as a world leader in the digital sector.

With the digital single market, problems in one country are likely to be seen as problems in the other member states. Then through the European Commission, member states collectively seek common solutions. The technological disruption has augmented the issues in the digital skills gap in society, SMEs and the digital sector. The collective efforts between member stated are the best approach to tackle this. This disruption also has a profound effect on the skills and competences required by all the stakeholders and actors. Organisations like the eSkills Malta Foundation has been in the thick of things to reduce the sudden impact of the digital skills gap.

However, COVID-19 has somewhat complicated the implementation of solutions to tackle these persisting issues. Many organisations have had to adapt to this situation, and the Foundation has turned this to its advantage by focusing further in skilling, upskilling and reskilling using the online virtual environment. Career Guidance training has already started to be catered for in this way, as has the Summer Bootcamps and events.

Additional to the various online courses already promoted in the Foundation’s website, the eSkills Malta Foundation is currently working with technology and education partners to help in achieving its aims. These leaders in the field have realised the profound effect the Foundation has and can have in the skilling and upskilling. In this article, we have chosen to mention two such initiatives that we will be introducing in the last quarter of 2020.

Elements of AI
Elements of AI - The AI Challenge

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is like electricity. It will affect our lives in many ways; we are just now imagining. It should not be left in the hands of a few elite coders. In spring 2018, technology company Reaktor and the University of Helsinki came together to democratise artificial intelligence. This is an example of best-practice where industry and education collaborate for the benefit of society. Together, these two organisations built a free online course available to anyone anywhere at any time to teach the basics of AI to people from a wide range of backgrounds. The course is dubbed Elements of AI.

As a gift marking the end of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Finland will extend free access to the Elements of AI course in all EU languages during 2020/2021. Their ambitious goal is to educate 1 % of European citizens by 2021. The Directorate-General has provided the technical language translation for Translation of the European Commission.

The course explains the implications of AI in everyday situations with interactive exercises so that the students can make informed decisions as workers, voters, media and product consumers.
The Elements of AI course has been prominently featured in over 500 global media outlets, won multiple international awards, and global acclaim. Now with over 400,000 students and best user
ratings around the world, Elements is a benchmark for making complex issues easily understandable and fun to learn. This course is an introduction to AI with no complicated math or programming required. Age, profession or country make no difference in this course. The six chapters of the course are estimated to take 25 hours for those interested. After taking the course, individuals can understand some of the major implications of AI, think critically about AI news and claims, define and discuss what AI is, and explain the methods that make AI possible.

Reaktor and Helsinki University have realised the importance in eSkills Malta Foundation and the University of Malta and has come into an agreement to actively introducing this in Malta. The University of Malta will manage the implementation of this course in the academic community of all disciplines. Non-AI literate academics coming from whatever field has now the opportunity to know more about Artificial Intelligence. eSkills Malta Foundation, having the government and private sector connections, and marketing know-how will handle the rest. In other words, we plan to have a wide outreach in society, education, and SMEs.

In collaboration with the Ministry for Financial Services and Digital Economy, this important course will be launched officially by the Parliamentary Secretary Hon. Clayton Bartolo, through a short online event on the 8th of October. We hope to attract individuals coming from all walks of life.

AMAZON Web Services (AWS)
Amazon Web Services

We cannot say that Cloud Computing is something new. However, its presence has been the mainstream for many organisations who put their trust in leading cloud services providers to manage their data and information on the cloud. AWS is the leader in the world on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and is one of the most comprehensive cloud platforms.

Since its inception, eSkills Malta Foundation has been at the core in the contribution towards the increase of digital skills and the development of the ICT profession in Malta. Individuals looking for job opportunities, in particular school leavers, must have the relevant in-demand industry skills to compete in the marketplace. Following consultation between AWS and eSkills Malta Foundation, several study programmes were selected to be provided in Malta using ICE Malta as their preferred training provider. These include AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials, Architecting on AWS and AWS Business Essentials. The first two courses are thought for youth, whether prospective students, employees or unemployed. Both of these courses come with the opportunity to sit an official exam to get a wide industry recognised certification at the end of the classes.

The first course, AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials, represents the starting level to become cloud professionals. The idea is to recruit, train and certify 50 people, to raise their employability level and digital skills, and also to start creating a critical mass of cloud professionals.

The second course, Architecting on AWS, represents an associate level, where participants can get highly sought-after skills and competencies about cloud technology. The idea here is (a) either to funnel and allow only the 15 best participants to the first level to continue to this advanced level or (b) engaging young IT professionals to acquire this certification, allowing them to look for quality jobs after obtaining the certification, or to certify participants with previous experience on the subject.

The third course, AWS Business Essentials, is designed to help business leaders, executives, and non-technical staff, understand the advantages of cloud computing and build a cloud strategy to meet business goals. The course will review the business and financial benefits of cloud computing and the fundamentals of AWS. In this course, participants will also learn about the cloud adoption framework to help design a strategy to deploy a cloud platform within their business successfully.

All these courses have been made possible through funding by the Melita Foundation. The Melita Foundation was launched as a charitable foundation with initial funding of €500,000, to be used to fund a range of projects focused primarily on the development of digital skills and creativity among young people in Malta, and the conservation of Malta’s heritage and environment. Melita Foundation recognised the important role that the eSkills Malta Foundation plays in Malta, and both foundations are working together.

These are just a few of the initiatives that eSkills Malta Foundation have been working on. The Foundation believes that industry certifications are a mark of quality and are of specific importance to the industry sector. Other agreements with technology leaders are expected in the near future. This will provide further development in the already existing ICT professionals, and the possible introduction of new practitioners.