16 - 22 May, 2001

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Strengthening Malta’s workforce
By Joe Zammit Tabona

Federation of Industry President, Joe Zammit Tabona, recently addressed the launch of the Education - Business links initiative, which is aimed at enhancing Malta’s main advantage in operating manufacturing concerns from Malta – the country’s human resources. He explains that a number of foreign investors are often impressed by the positive attitude and trainability of the Maltese workers. However, Mr Zammit Tabona adds that we need to do more to prepare our youths for the challenges ahead, with the education system eliminating illiteracy and giving basic education and learning skills where computer literacy must feature strongly.

I must say that the FOI has for a number of years shown its interest in education and human resources development in general. Over the past twelve years we have given our modest but strong contribution to establish this essential link between industry and the education sector, by our analysis of the requirements of industry which led to a number of position papers outlining our views.
The Federation is also proud of maintaining a steady collaboration with the education authorities in its efforts to develop our education system and we have participated in the debate leading to changes in the national curriculum.
Industry believes that its main advantage in operating from our country lies in the advantage that our small country holds in the sphere of human resources. It is an edge that we have and that we cannot afford to lose.
A number of foreign investors in our industry are often impressed by the positive attitude and trainability of the Maltese workers even those with limited formal educational accomplishments. The flexibility and adaptability which is a part of the Maltese character gives the worker a ‘can do’ and ‘will do’ approach to the problems encountered in everyday work situations. However, we need to do more to prepare our youths for the stiffer challenges of the coming years when the education system must not only eliminate illiteracy but give the present generation the basic education and learning skills where computer literacy must feature strongly.
The Education - Business links initiative is but one of several links in the chain that is being strengthened by the latest development in our education set-up. The implementation of a new minimum curriculum at Primary and Secondary level is not only acknowledging the need for change in the country’s approach to education.
It also shows the conviction of the government that in a dynamic world, our young people have to become aware early in life of the responsibilities they need to shoulder, of a strong work ethic, of the need for developing a broad range of skills and of ensuring that they develop a solid basis that will enable them to carry on with further education and training throughout their working life.
Education - Business links is intended to raise the level of awareness among students of technology. It is also meant to attract students towards applied technological principles and attitudes. Gradually, this should help students to be better prepared for future training and to be more versatile during their working life.
At this stage our Federation would like to start this initiative as a pilot project. I am sure you will agree Minister Galea, ladies and gentlemen that every party to this scheme will be learning from our experiment, which I am sure everyone wishes to be a success.
Eventually, we might effect some changes in the scheme in the light of our experience and establish it on a more permanent basis. For the moment we have six firms and one public corporation that will be participating, but I am sure that as time goes on we shall have more firms joining in.
We have thought of allowing participants in this scheme maximum flexibility. The school will be expecting help that the business partner will be providing in a variety of ways, suitable for the school and possible for the business partner. Through the collaboration of the Ministry for Education we have identified schools that are situated in the same area where the enterprise operates.
There is an agreement signed between the school and the business partner that is meant to show the commitment of both sides to the scheme. On his part the business partner may give an input in the operational and managerial aspects and hopefully will also be able to provide specialists who could lecture in courses for school teachers organised by the Education Division.
There will be class or group orientation visits to the enterprise, and also day-long familiarisation visits for a manageable groups of students to help them get an idea of what a day in that enterprise means. On their part the Education Division will offer training in teaching Techniques to personnel from the enterprise engaged in staff development. School staff will also have the facility to orientate themselves in those areas where they need to enhance their expertise, and to attend in-house staff development programmes conducted primarily for the business partners’ own employees.
The schools can also be given the option of acquiring equipment that is surplus to the requirements of the business partner. The agreement provides for sponsoring of school initiatives/workshops, facilities/resource-packs, provision of samples of materials/components and fittings to be used for demonstration purposes and practice in Technology Education.
The working of the agreements under the scheme - so far seven in number - will be supervised by the Education-Business Links Committee that will be composed of officials from the Ministry, FHRD and the Malta Federation of Industry.
It is an exciting time for industry and the Education Ministry to be engaged in this exercise. I am certain that at the end it will help both sides to understand each other more at the administrative and managerial levels.
It will help to foster more understanding amongst school children at secondary level about what the world of work can offer, about the opportunities and the challenges of a career in manufacturing or in a service industry.
With your permission, may I say Minister Galea, that we appreciate your personal enthusiasm and great involvement in this new scheme and we thank you for your efforts. May I also thank the Ministry officials who co-ordinated the work; and of course the Heads of the seven secondary schools participating in this project who are present here.
I also congratulate the seven firms for taking this opportunity. They are: Attard Bros, Golden Harvest Manufacturing Co., Gasan Enterprises Ltd, Multigas Ltd, Toyota Motors Ltd, Vodafone, and Water Services Corporation.
It shows very clearly that business in Malta is highly conscious of its social responsibilities and is ready to be innovative in its approach. I wish each school and the respective firms a successful venture.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt