Skills’ strategy

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 December, 2023 at 11:21 am by Andre Camilleri

I recall some very good recommendations that were outlined in the National Productivity report for 2022. Among various recommendations there were a number that focused on skills and having some sort of national skills’ strategy. If one were to compress these recommendations these were:

  • Linking the post graduate and postdoctoral financing schemes to link industry with these studies and hence incentivise innovation where it is needed most;
  • Enhance further the collaboration between the academia and industry through the more wider use of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships; and
  • Include Stem (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) thinking within primary and secondary education curriculum to increase the number of Stem graduates.

In essence the outlined points are hampering on two main areas. We not only need to keep pushing to have a more skilled workforce, but we need to ensure that the skills we equip our labour force with are in line with what the industry and the economy needs to be more competitive and increase its value-added output. This means linking our skills strategy with our overall economic strategy.

This leads me to the findings from the Skills Survey on Skills’ mismatch. The results show that we have wide-ranging skills mismatches in our economy. For example, we have just over a third of our workforce (35.1%) that are over-educated for the job they are doing. If we then see the over qualification rate, defined as employed persons who have attained tertiary education and who work in occupations for which this level of education is not required, we see that such over-qualification rate has increased over the years, from 12.4% in 2012 to 20.2% in 2021. It is clear that countries which obtain higher levels of productivity in Europe when compared to Malta, like Luxembourg and Denmark, have a much lower over-qualification rate. This Skills Survey also outlined that we have slightly less than our workforce (47.6%) employed in a different field to what they studied.

All this ties in with the recent Pisa rankings for 2022, that were issued a few days ago. These rankings have shown that since 2012, Pisa results for Malta did neither improve nor deteriorate, in all three subjects of mathematics, reading and science. However, this does not mean that the world stood still. Hence, the end result is that students in Malta scored less than the OECD average in mathematics, reading and science. This means that if we look at Mathematics while 7% of students in Malta were top performers, which is below the OECD average of 9%, we then have six Asian countries that had the largest shares of students who have top performers in mathematics, with Singapore leading the way at a staggering 41%.

When joining all the above dots, it seems clear that while we aspire to achieve a higher level of output and value added, to move towards an economic growth model that does not require unsustainable amounts of input to obtain economic growth, we still have much to do to make this possible. Not only do we need to keep instilling a sense of discipline and healthy curiosity for learning in our society, but we need to link this to those subject areas which we truly need, to make this quantum leap possible. Unfortunately, an economy which is running at full employment, that is supported by subsidies and handouts, does not help to make this quantum leap possible, as there is little incentive to invest in oneself and make the effort to improve one’s skills, if even a mediocre work ethic can gain you a relatively good wage.  

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