‘It’s time to create a long term plan’ – MEA President

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DAYNA CAMILLERI CLARKE spoke to newly elected Malta’s Employers’ Association president Joanne Bondin – on the lessons learnt during the pandemic, the impact upon employment, how the business community reinvented itself to deal with the pandemic’s repercussions, and what’s needed to drive forward amid all this turbulence.

“It’s time to create the long-term plan here; what are the next steps, and how are we going to live with this virus?” Bondin is clear we need more solutions for the Covid-19 exit strategy, and preparations must already be underway.

When asked whether she feels a wave of unemployment will hit Malta, Bondin was frank with her reply. “Naturally, some sectors were hit harder than others. However, throughout the pandemic, we have seen vacancies emerge and new roles created. The jobs market is ever evolving. We have also observed that many companies have adapted their work organisation to cater for the exigencies of the pandemic in both their interests and those of their employees. This also means that as a country we need to rethink our strategy. The strategy of the past may no longer be relevant post-pandemic.”

 “Right now, we should take a look at our workforce and retraining and upskilling individuals to meet local demand; we also need to be nurturing innovation and entrepreneurial culture. We know many foreigners and talented people have left over the pandemic, so we must work to remain an attractive place to work for all. In addition, we need to cultivate talent- or else; we risk losing the in-house talent we have as we emerge from the pandemic. People will simply leave and find work elsewhere.”

“I think it’s clear the companies that have done well were those that were innovative and able to react to the market the fastest. Whether that was through digitalization or entities deploying an entirely new strategy, we saw companies adapt. Malta has no shortage of innovation. We just need to plan ahead and support businesses with planning ahead. We must support start-ups more than ever before”. On whether she thinks the current easing of measures are sufficient, Bondin stated, “I believe we are proceeding with caution, and listening to the medical experts to strike that balance between health and economy to avert a catastrophe in either area.  Of course, we must remain vigilant, and we cannot take a short term view.”

When questioned about Malta’s reputational damage as a result of recent events or attacks on specific services such as the financial sector, Bondin said, “Of course I cannot sit here and say our reputation hasn’t been impacted. Yes, it has, and now we must deal with it. We have to find ways to mitigate the damage and ways to rebuild stronger. Hand in hand with government and private entities, we have to be practical and regenerate.  FDI is vital; how are we going to attract the right people and businesses back to Malta? This will be a major challenge for social dialogue and the country in general in the coming months and years”

Bondin, with decades of experience behind her as Director of MISCO, explains there’s a great deal of work to be done with bridging the gap in terms of making individuals ready for the world of work. “We need to support people entering the workforce, whether that’s through more placements in training or graduate schemes to help them ascertain the soft skills required to function productively in a new sphere. We see more and more people enter the working world, missing various soft skills, whether that’s email or basic office etiquette. At the end of the day, AI is emerging rapidly, and things are becoming more automated. It’s human and human problem solving that makes us stand out. Employers also need support with training and fostering a holistic approach towards new employees to reduce turnover. I think there’s a realm of work to be done in this area. Interns and new graduates need real-life experiences and opportunities.”

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