Skills gaps

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 June, 2023 at 8:57 am by Andre Camilleri

Silvan Mifsud is director of Advisory at EMCS Tax & Advisory. Mr Mifsud is also a council member of The Malta Chamber

In a recent report issued by the World Economic Forum, about the future of jobs, it was made abundantly clear that it is analytical and creative thinking which will likely be the most important skills for workers going forward. Beyond these two skills other important capabilities that present and future jobs will require are resilience, flexibility and agility; motivation and self-awareness; curiosity and lifelong learning; dependability and attention to detail; technological literacy; empathy and active listening and leadership and social influence. All these will enable businesses leaders and their teams to change and adapt their mindset. In return they will be able to handle better change and uncertainty.

Linking the above-mentioned World Economic Forum report, to the recently published NSO Malta Skills Gaps 2022 Preliminary Report, this preliminary report outlined the percentage of the population that has the following skills:

  • Envisioning and developing strategies, plans and programmes – 22% of the population and 13.9% of age group 15-24 years;
  • Problem-solving skills – 39% of the population and 37% of age group 15-24 years;
  • Coordinating activities with others – 32% of the population and 30% of age group 15-24 years;
  • Leading and motivating – 36% of the population and 27% of age group 15-24 years; and
  • Supervising a team or group – 42% of the population and 29% of age group 15-24 years.

The above figures clearly indicate a suspicion I always had  – the so-called “soft skills” which are real core work skills and which are lacking in our workforce. It seems that our education system is not managing to truly teach these skills. Moreover, the figures indicate smaller percentages of younger people having these skills than the whole population, which could indicate that younger generations are not developing these skills, even more. This would be in line with the constant feedback I hear from employers, that employees find it hard to work together. They lack basic leadership skills and are not motivated to perform. In turn this shows the importance for employers not to expect that these skills are to be found in employees but that the company would need to take training seriously and train their staff on such skills. As a result they will build a work culture that re-enforces the proper use of soft skills. It is useless for employers to grumble on their staff and then think about training as something that might happen in the future, rather than a core element of how to enable staff members to perform better, especially when one considers all the funding opportunities for such training.

I was also not surprised about the low percentage of Malta’s population that indicated having planning and strategy formulation skills. I meet many micromanagers, both as business ownership level and top management, with little or no time ever dedicated to strategic planning. Many times, business owners and managers prefer to remain in their “comfort zone” of dealing with problems when they develop into a full-blown crisis, rather than when it is visible on the horizon. It is likely that they would be dealing with some other full-blown crisis when another problem is on the horizon, thus not even realising about it, until it enters their crisis zone – hence why many businesses in Malta are a classic example of management by crisis, many times surviving in a perpetual reactionary way.

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