Options for Recognising ICT Professionals in Malta

The recent study commissioned by the eSkills Malta Foundation: Attaining more formal recognition of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Professionals in Malta explores different options for formal recognition of ICT professionals in Malta. The four main options discussed are: staying as they are, providing voluntary state-endorsed certification, creating a mandatory licensing regime for all ICT activities, or creating a mandatory licensing regime for certain reserved ICT activities.

The “Stay as we are” option suggests maintaining the current situation without formal certification or licensing for ICT professionals. While it is true that no European country requires a license for all ICT activities, many have professional associations that elevate the status of the ICT profession. Malta lacks such an association, which impairs the challenges faced by ICT professionals. Establishing an association representing ICT professionals in Malta is seen as a minimum requirement if formal recognition is not pursued.
Voluntary state-endorsed certification: Under this option, individuals meeting specific criteria would receive voluntary state-endorsed certification, attesting to their professional competence. However, stakeholders in Malta expressed limited support for this approach, as they believed it would add little value to existing academic and vendor-specific certifications. Moreover, since certification would be voluntary, its demand might be limited.
There are two approaches to consider if a license to practice is deemed necessary.

State license to practice – all activities:
The first option is to use the existing Inginiera Act, which considers certain ICT practices as a form of engineering discipline. However, this approach poses challenges, such as limitations on eligible fields and the recognition of ICT qualifications as engineering degrees. The second option involves enacting specific legislation solely for granting state recognition to ICT professionals. This approach is favoured by stakeholders, as it allows for a more tailored and comprehensive regulation of the ICT profession.

State recognition to practice – reserved activities only:
For the second approach, the proposed legislation should include various aspects, such as defining the ICT profession, specifying covered services, determining the qualifications and experience required for licensure, identifying different fields of ICT practice, outlining the licensing process, establishing responsibilities of licensed practitioners, setting renewal requirements, and granting temporary licenses.

Common to both approaches would include continuous professional development, addressing legal persons within the profession, and defining the composition and responsibilities of the overseeing board. It should also consider disciplinary processes, appeal procedures, recognition of representative bodies, reporting requirements, and issues related to mutual recognition of qualifications within the European Union.

Determining which ICT services should be covered by the legislation is a complex task. Stakeholders expressed different opinions, with some suggesting licensing for all ICT activities and others proposing a reserved activities approach. The latter approach involves explicitly identifying activities that require a license, potentially through sector-specific legislation or regulations.

Regarding qualifications and experience, the legislation should outline the requirements for individuals seeking a license. Multiple pathways to obtaining a license are recommended, considering both academic qualifications and practical experience. Transitional periods may be necessary to accommodate individuals who do not meet the requirements immediately.

In conclusion, the options presented are of maintaining the current situation, implementing voluntary certification, or establishing mandatory licensing regimes for all or reserved ICT activities. The preferred approach, as supported by stakeholders, is to enact specific legislation for licensing ICT professionals, providing comprehensive regulation and recognition tailored to the needs of the ICT sector in Malta.