The journey towards a digitally skilled nation for the Society, Education, labour force and ICT specialists

Publication Date: Mar 22, 2022
 
Article by Carm Cachia published on the Malta Chamber Annual Report 2021 - 2022

The journey towards a digitally skilled nation for the Society, Education, labour force and ICT specialists

Indeed, the foundation is not the only organisation involved in the development of digital skills in Malta, but its influence in digital skills policy is a major one. Additionally, the foundation has an important role on the development of professionalism in the JCT sector. The Digital Education and Action Plan 2021-2027 Action Plan sets out two priority areas: fostering the development of a high­performing digital education ecosystem and enhancing digital skills and competences for the digital transformation.

Malta's digital skills landscape 
The European Commission has monitored Member States' progress on digital and published annual Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) reports since 2014. Each year, the reports include country profiles, which help the Member States identify areas for priority action, and thematic chapters providing an EU­ level analysis in the key digital policy areas. 
According to the 2021 DESI, 56% of residents have at least basic digital skills; 71% of the enterprises have at least a basic level of digital intensity; Malta ranks 6th out of 27 EU member states on the DESI21. 

The eSkills Malta Foundation strategy 2019-2021 has come to an end and is currently being reviewed. As part of the strategy review, on behalf of the Foundation, PwC conducted two online surveys were conducted and two virtual workshops were held with education and industry experts. 

This survey was distributed to the public through social media platforms to gather data on the ability to use digital technologies that are widely adopted in today's society; 322 responses were gathered. The other survey was targeted towards businesses; 70 responses were gathered. 

The data gathered from the surveys provides valuable insights and considerations to be adopted within for the next National eSkills Malta Foundation strategy, currently being developed. This upcoming strategy will be influenced by the goals set in the European Commission in the Digital Decade and the Digital Education and Action Plan. 

Some findings from the public survey 
Almost all respondents have access to a laptop and/or smartphone. The tablet is the second most owned device among the respondents, whereas less than half of the respondents have access to a computer.

"Employers find it challenging to recruit workforce skilled in ICT. In fact, 23% stated that their organisation is unable to find skilled ICT expertise in implemented technologies, while 19% claimed that the workforce not adapting to change is an uphill that challenge their organisation faces."

All respondents indicated that they have access to the internet, whether at home (99%) or through WiFi within public spaces (1%). Households that have internet access throughout the European Union was found to be 91 % according to the latest figures of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2021 report. 

In respect of financial digital skills, most respondents indicated that their level of performance in all online tasks to be average, good or excellent. 12% stated that they are not able or not able but willing to learn to purchase goods online. 11% of the respondents are not able or not able but willing to learn to transfer money online, check their bank account online (11%) and/or use contactless payment (15%).

For online communications, 93% consider themselves to be either good or excellent at reading or sending emails, communicating via instant messaging (91 %) and/or calling/video calling (91%). 90% stated that their skill set when viewing or publishing content on social media was average or above. 

The European Commission set the target that by 2030, 80% of EU's citizens should have at least basic digital skills. In 2021, 56% of the Maltese residents EU population had basic digital skills, indicating that there is quite a significant gap to close in Malta, from 56% to reach the 80% goal by 2030. Currently, Malta is in the same level as the EU average. 

In the creation of online content, According to the survey, 36% of the respondents have difficulties and/or are unable to create and share documents using collaborative tools. Although a staggering 71% of the respondents are able to write online content, there is still 9% of the respondents that are unable to write text online content, 23% are unable to create a presentation, 22% are unable to edit a picture and 39% are unable to edit a video. 

Only 11% of the respondents said they are not willing to develop any digital skills in the near future, indicating that the majority of the respondents (89%) are willing to develop some of the listed digital skill(s), which are promising results for Malta's future digital landscape. 

Some findings from the business survey Most respondents (48%) rated their organisation's digital competence as average and 6% rated their organisation's digital competence as somewhat weak. In the digital decade, the European Commission set the target that "90% of SMEs should reach at least a basic level of digital intensity'', meaning that SMEs should adopt at least four out of a list of 12 technologies. In Malta, 71% of the SMEs had at least this basic level of digital intensity in 2020. 

Of those surveyed, 23% believe that their organisation is very far behind the companies they considered to be digital leaders. 48% believe that they are somewhat behind those companies, 26% of the respondents believe that their organisation is about on par and 3% believe that their organisation is at the cutting edge. 

Most business leaders’ respondents stated that their current employees are highly critical (52%) or critically very high (19%) to their digital efforts. Seeking new recruits is The second most critical source of talent is new recruits. 
The journey towards a digitally skilled nation for the Society, Education, labour force and ICT specialists

Regarding the use of digital technologies, 65% stated that their organisation's employee productivity has increased and the time their organisation's employees spent on innovative tasks has increased (55%) by the use of digital technologies, processes and behaviours. 

Employers find it challenging to recruit workforce skilled in ICT. In fact, 23% stated that their organisation is unable to find skilled ICT expertise in implemented technologies, while 19% claimed that the workforce not adapting to change is an uphill that challenges their organisation faces. 
Additionally, 63% believe that their organisation faces a significant skill gap. Only 37% believe that their current employees have the skills needed to meet their current business objectives. 

As for the Only 3% of the respondent's organisations provide ICT training for all members of staff, 30% provide training to all relevant employees and 27% provide training to the employees with the right aptitude. 40% of the respondent's organisations do not provide any ICT training to their workforce. 

Only 13% of the respondents do not find it difficult to find quality candidates for their open!CT positions.key barriers for upskilling the workforce, lack of time and availability tops the list (87%) which is an alarming issue, The others include the lack of strategic focus (32%) and the lack of structure in the delivery of training. 

Currently, 8.4 million ICT specialists are employed in the European Union, which equates to 4.3% of the total current workforce. In Malta, ICT specialists make up 4.4% of the current workforce. The European Commission have targeted that by 2030 the number of employed ICT specialists in the EU should increase to 20 million. 
Work Experience is considered essential in ICT, and 30% of the organisations surveyed find it challenging to find candidates with solid work experience when trying to recruit within ICT.

Importantly, 46% stated that their organisation would not be able to compete with others, should it fail to turn transform into a digital company. In fact, 27% of the respondents state dare of the opinion that their revenue growth and profitability would suffer should they not transform. 8% stated that their organisation would go out of business should they fail to transform into a digital company. 

The results of the survey are very positive, even if there are some sticky issues to solve and some crucial elements still missing if we are to reach higher goals. The National eSkills Strategy 2022-2024 will seek to help in reaching these goals.