Carm Cachia

Carm Cachia

Written by Carm Cachia, Executive Coordinator at eSkills Malta Foundation​ for the Times of Malta.​

As a nation we must start to think 10 years ahead and not a few years ahead, in order to stay in the ICT leading pack, Carm Cachia, Executive Coordinator at the eSkills Malta Foundation, says.

When was the eSkills Malta Foundation set up and with what aims?
The eSkills Malta Foundation was launched in February 2014 as an independent government entity and brings together representatives from the Malta Information Technology Agency, the Ministry of Education, the Malta Enterprise, the Malta Gaming Authority, the Malta Communications Authority and the Chamber of Commerce.
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 more effectively.

What services do you offer?
Our specific objectives drive our services. We advise government and stakeholders on eSkills policy through research on the subject matter and EU initiatives. The importance of eSkills is reflected in the EU Digital Agenda. We make part of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, which recognises that people with strong eSkills will play a central role in the European digital economy.
Through various initiatives, the eSkills Malta Foundation contributes to the expansion of ICT education at formative level. Some of these include student school visits to ICT organisations, organising ICT teachers’ visits with the same, ICT career sessions to Careers Advisors, promoting formative subjects like computational and creative thinking and running EU and international initiatives like the Eskills4Jobs campaign, and the EU Code week.
Tertiary education is also very high within our scope and we instigate further reform in the ICT educational offerings so that students that come out of tertiary education are moulded to the industry skills requirement. Capacity building at this level is important and therefore industry best practices should be well known by tertiary level students.
Increasing the quantity of local students taking the ICT profession is well within our radar. The lack of ICT practitioners and professionals is heavily affecting the economy and the industry is currently having to resort to importing resources.
The Foundation also leads the development of the ICT profession. This is one of the hardest parts because we now have to balance corporate economic sustainability with the provision of services that are deemed professional. The ICT profession still needs to mature and we do not as yet have a national ICT body that sets professional standards. Currently the market regulates the profession with the foreign bodies fostering professionalism. In the near future the eSkills Malta Foundation will carry out a survey on the subject with the intention of issuing a green paper for public consultation.
We also champion campaigns that are either topical or EU related. The Foundation is the National Contact Point for the eSkills4Jobs campaign which is a multi-national and multi-stakeholder EU campaign aimed to increase the number of ICT professionals to cater for the ever increasing demand.
Other campaigns include the European competitions. Last year the ICT Students’ Association, ICTSA, a student organisation which represents all students studying an ICT course based at the University of Malta and MCAST, won the Digital Entrepreneurship category. The Foundation also champions the EU Codeweek which is held across Europe and the international ICT Professionals Day. We gladly promote local eSkills through the promotion of student and industry ICT ambassadors.

What do you consider to be essential skills in today’s digital age?
In broad terms these are the skills required for the citizen to use the digital tools for the day-to-day social life, the skills needed for the workers to make use of the current and future technology to carry out their job whether its health, farming or office, and the skills needed by the ICT practitioners in the current and future ICT industry.
The latter makes an essential direct contribution to the digital economy which today is one significant pillars of the GDP.
The Foundation is about to carry out an important study of the eSkills required by the ICT sector. The study will include those companies that develop or implement technology. This includes ICT companies, gaming and betting, government, and other organisations that have ICT sections. This will be mapped against the current educational and training provision so as to propose changes to reduce the eSkills gap to a minimum. Producing students with the required technical skills is as important as the increase in the number.

Which jobs and careers demand the highest level of eSkills?
In broad terms, software developers in web, mobile and gaming, data scientists and data analytics, system architects, social media and social engineering will definitely top the list. Technology drives the required skills and their levels. The EU identified the internet of things, data science and data analytics, cyber security and cloud technology as the sectors that will in great demand in the future.

Given the constant technology advances, how important is continuous learning?
In the technology sector lifelong learning and continuous professional development is essential and crucial. As a nation we must start to think 10 years ahead and not a few years ahead, in order to stay in the leading pack. And this is why we need to engage our students and professionals in a culture of research and self-learning.

You are organising an e-Competency Framework event on July 28. What is the aim of this event?
This is an important half-day public event about European e-Competency Framework which the EU recognises as a core component of their Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs. The e-CF has become a European standard as from April 2016. In brief this framework involves the competences and proficiency level needed in the various roles found in the ICT industry. This is something that both the ICT industry and education should harness and therefore I encourage their participation.