Apprenticeships as a way of Tackling Skills Gaps: The Reform in Apprenticeship Schemes in Malta

Apprenticeships as a way of Tackling Skills Gaps: The Reform in Apprenticeship Schemes in Malta

Suzanne Gatt (University of Malta, Malta)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4145-5.ch004
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Malta did not suffer the 2009 economic crisis like other EU Member States. Youth unemployment remained low, and the country was among the first registering economic growth. However, Malta still has a very high percentage of early school leavers and is experiencing a significant skills gap in its labour market. In addition, a Cedefop study forecasted job growth mainly at professional and medium-level qualifications. This chapter is a discussion of how Malta is tackling the skills gap challenge by reforming its apprenticeship schemes. As changes were made to the format and governance of apprenticeships, the schemes were extended to more sectors as well as reflected a more modern approach to learning. As the number of apprenticeships continue to grow, Malta hopes to both be able to keep more young people in school through VET as well as provide a better trained skilled workforce to ensure further economic growth. This chapter can serve as an example for other countries and regions intending to reform their apprenticeship schemes.
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Literature Review

Strategic policy in identifying and tackling skills supply to the labour market can have a significant impact on a country’s economic growth. The rapid technological advances and global competition have increased the importance for countries to identify labour market needs and skills matching. Identifying future skill needs is a basic building block to ensure effective skills development systems (International Labour Organisation, 2010).Informed policy responses enhances the quality of skills supplied and improve the business climate. They also enable the educational system to prepare a skilled and flexible workforce. Skills gap analysis is also important at company level where inadequate alignment between the human capital of workers and firm-level requirements can be costly with respect to workers’ earnings, job satisfaction, job turnover, training participation and productivity (Kampelmann & Rycx, 2012, Mavromaras et al, 2013). Efficient skills matching are also considered to help reduce unemployment, particularly among young people, and improve employability, social mobility and inclusion (Mane & Corbella, 2017).

Apprenticeships are a means of addressing skills gaps. Apprenticeships have a long history, and one can identify their existence in the late 1800s in some professions, mainly medicine, music, teaching and science (Premont, 1990). It is recognised that apprenticeships provide a smooth school to work transition (Chan, 2013). Over time, apprenticeships have evolved into more formalized models with official and contractual relationships between the company (known as sponsor), the apprentice, and the training centre or vocational school (OlivieraDoroftei, Da Silva & Araujo, 2018). Apprenticeships have also been extended to different sectors as they are considered an important first step in the occupational career of an adolescent (Moon, 2017).

Key Terms in this Chapter

European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET): ECVET is a technical framework which allows the transfer, recognition and, accumulation of student learning outcomes in achieving a qualification. ECVET works in terms of units of learning outcomes with associated points.

Work-based learning: Acquisition of knowledge and skills through carrying out – and reflecting on – tasks in a vocational context, either at the workplace (such asalternance training) or in a VET institution.

Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST): The umbrella institution responsible for the provision of State vocational education and Training in Malta. It is divided into: a Foundation College which provides courses at levels 1-2 on the MQF; Technical College for courses at levels 3-4; and University College for courses at levels 5-7 on the MQF.

National Skills Council: Has the role of: advising government, developing the national skills strategy, conducting research, benchmarking and reporting performance, establishing policy and procedures, and promoting schemes, programmes and incentives for the advancement of skills in Malta.

National Apprenticeship Scheme: This is the name given to the new reformed apprenticeship programmes that have started being offered since academic year 2014/15. The apprenticeship can be at either level 3 or level 4 on the MQF, and duration ranges from 1 to 3 years, depending on the sector and scheme organisation.

Apprenticeship: An apprenticeship is a person over the age of fifteen years who is has a contract to serve an employer for a determined period as part of a training programme to acquire knowledge, theory and practice. In return, the employer is reciprocally bound to instruct that apprentice during his/her time at work.

Technical Apprentice Scheme (TAS): Involves an apprenticeship at technician level (Level according to the MQF). The TAS led to occupational competence at technician level andthe Journeyman’s Certificate at Technician level was awarded on successful completion of the apprenticeship. This apprenticeship scheme stopped being offered in 2014.

Country Specific Recommendation: The European Commission, following an assessment of national governments’ performance, presents each EU Member State with a set of country-specific recommendations (CSRs). The recommendations focus on what each country is to focus its work on during the following 12-18 months. The Commission’s recommendations are discussed among the governments in the Council, endorsed by EU leaders at a summit in June and formally adopted by the national finance ministers in July.

Extended Skills Training Scheme (ESTS): Offering apprenticeship leading to a trade or skill at craftsman level (Level 3 according to the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF). Apprentices received a Journeyman’s Certificate at Craftsman level on successful completion of the apprenticeship. This scheme ceased to exist in 2014.

National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE): Is that national entity responsible for setting and updating the Malta Qualifications framework, setting standards for the different qualification levels, accrediting courses at different MQF levels, and ensuring that the national quality assurance framework is upheld by all further and higher education providers in Malta.

Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF): A qualifications framework is an instrument for the development and classification of qualifications according to a set of criteria using level descriptors applicable to specific levels of learning outcomes. In Malta, this is known as the Malta Qualifications Framework.

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