Editorial: A plan to upskill

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 November, 2021 at 11:20 am by Andre Camilleri

As digitisation, automation, and artificial intelligence change the face of work, companies across the globe realise the importance of learning new skills for existing employees as their job function evolves. According to a recent McKinsey report “Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation,” over 14% of the global workforce is expected to change their occupational categories in the near future. At the same time, more than half of all “work tasks” will be capable of being carried out by machines by 2025, meaning over 75 million jobs will be displaced.

At the pace of how fast robotics and AI technologies are moving, executives see the urgency in upskilling and reskilling their current employees. However, one could ask if we are seeing this trend locally? We are aware of the shift in industries, and the news of three new projects using blockchain technology this week is undoubtedly welcome. This comes after the government launched its strategy in distributed ledger technology in 2019, and positively this strategy continues to be implemented. This technology consists of a series of protected networks. As a result, the industry and citizens will be enjoying enhanced service quality and security, said Minister for the Economy and Industry Silvio Schembri during a press conference organised by the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA). He mentioned how Malta has also made great strides in the virtual currencies sector as, in a statement issued by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), it announced that, to date, there are already 40 licensed companies or service providers operating in the sector of virtual financial assets. At the same time, 306 other applications are being processed.

Minister Schembri also mentioned how an international private sector fair would be held in our country next week. Around 600 companies will participate, ranging from start-ups, gaming companies, blockchain, artificial intelligence and others. This shows that the private sector is welcoming the government’s policy on these sectors. Strategies are very well, and it’s great we are making waves in this area. However, we need the right employees to continue to drive us forward. University and other educational providers offer plenty of new courses in the Fintech and AI realm, yet the focus also needs to be on upskilling our workforce. With a solid upskilling program in place, many global organisations have experienced immense increased productivity in their workforce, seeing a correlation between employee training and engagement. When employees are confident in their job security and see a clear career progression, their contribution to the workforce dramatically increases. Upskilling existing employees is also incredibly cost-effective compared to hiring an entirely new team and spending time and resources training them from scratch.

To stay ahead of the future digital disruption, Maltese enterprises have to bridge the skills gap and empower staff with the right training and knowledge. New emerging technologies in big data analytics, AI, and machine learning are now advanced enough to perform many roles, and the workforce will need to adapt to new tasks and change how they bring value – the human touch. However, the gap between demand and supply of highly skilled talent is widening fast on the islands, while industry standards continue to evolve for advanced technical skills. So it’s essential to plan ahead with such strategies as Mr Schembri’s, but not forget the humans who made them.

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