Investment in the upskilling and reskilling of the labour force crucial for a stronger economy

"Minister Owen Bonnici joins a video conference of Ministers of Employment and Social Policy 09/06/2020

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Upskilling and reskilling of the labour force are crucial for a more competitive and resilient economy.  The Skills Development Scheme, which will see an investment of €5m for in-house training of employees and the €5,000 grant for companies to re-engineer their business models are initiatives which will instil the necessary skills in our workforce to further boost economic growth.

Speaking during a virtual Informal Ministerial Meeting of Employment and Social Policy Ministers, Minister for Education and Employment Owen Bonnici said that the synchronisation between national employment and social policies requires a holistic approach, with the ultimate aim being to learn from the opportunities which have surfaced and see how these can be adapted.

He stressed that we need to take stock of the investments achieved so far in our digital and green transitions in the world of work and inject the necessary skills in our workforce to further boost sustainable innovation in these sectors.  In this context, the EU must remain sensitive to the individual needs of labour markets across the respective member states, in the context of the medium and long-term challenges we are faced with.

“Surely this pandemic has demonstrated how ICT technologies can continue to revolutionise the world of work as we know it. ICT technologies have made it possible to introduce flexible working arrangements which will both be economically and socially beneficial in the long run”, explained Minister Bonnici.

“Moving forward and taking into consideration the positive impact of remote working, Malta deems that such work-life balance measures should be strengthened and sustained in the new world of world of work we are living in”, continued the minister.

“Special focus is needed to intensify efforts for the acquisition of transversal and 21st century skills in order to enhance the flexibility and adaptability of our labour force while carefully assessing the needs of those sectors which have shown weaknesses in digital preparedness”, Minister Bonnici stated, while stressing that the creation of personalised and supportive lifelong learning systems and the enhancement of the role of Vocational Education and Training remain an essential prerequisite to cater for the current and upcoming shifts in the world of work, including by further investments to support flexible, accessible and relevant learning.

He also mentioned that addressing early school leaving remains a top priority for a more skilled workforce in Malta that is able to adapt to the ongoing transitions. “Thus, upskilling and reskilling strategies are also being supported by long-term approaches towards open-ended education pathways within compulsory education to prepare individuals from a young age with the necessary transversal skills needed to thrive in today’s changing labour market circumstances”, stated Minister Bonnici.

He also noted that further focus is needed on enhancing support measures for labour market adaptations to technological changes and incorporated new forms of work.

As for the social aspect, Minister Bonnici said that the COVID-19 pandemic posed new challenges in the field of equality.  For instance, victims of domestic violence were more exposed to possible instances of violence and had less opportunities than usual to seek and access proper assistance and support.  Moreover, due to the financial insecurities brought about by the pandemic, victims who were not financially independent faced additional burdens.

“In view of this, various awareness campaigns were carried out to encourage people to seek help and report domestic violence. Malta also introduced a form of silent reporting through the 112 app. Additionally, we also made sure that victim support services and access to domestic violence shelters remained open and accessible throughout this period”, he explained.

He also mentioned that the Private Rent Housing Benefit Scheme was also extended to victims of domestic violence.  “Moreover, although the Gender Wellbeing Clinic has suspended some of its clinical services, it has continued to receive referrals and provide psychosocial support to trans persons and their families”, said Minister Bonnici.

He also mentioned how the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality also continued working on various initiatives and offered its services to the general public and other stakeholders, including awareness raising, lodging of complaints of alleged discrimination, seeking information or assistance on matters related to equality and equality mainstreaming.

Minister Bonnici also saluted Superintendent of Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci who provided the nation with composure and reassurance throughout the pandemic. “She gained the respect of the whole country and is a role model for young women and girls”, he stated.

“We  believe that a holistic approach to strengthen our human capital should not only seek to enhance our capacity for the ongoing transitions in the world of work but which also strengthen gender equality and work-life balance in order to ensure that no talent is left behind and maximise our future potential for growth”, concluded the minister.