SME National Forum to discuss the need of ensuring the skills for Malta’s competitiveness

Last Updated on Monday, 14 November, 2022 at 1:11 pm by Andre Camilleri

These are challenging times for the Maltese economy as businesses seek to adapt themselves through the twin transitions of a new green and digital reality while the continent grapples with the impact of war, higher interest rates and spiralling inflation. With such a turbulent background, enhancing our competitiveness has never been so vital in our nation’s future development.

In this context, it is very concerning for the Malta Employers Association to note that according to a recent survey, two-thirds of Maltese enterprises are not in a position to find the required specialised skills. This is even more relevant in consideration that studies show that the majority of businesses would prioritise the availability of skilled resources as as a key factor influencing future investment decisions.

Contrary to the widespread belief that companies hire foreigners to cut on expenses, focus groups carried out by the MEA this summer revealed that the majority would choose local employees if the suitable people were available. This is especially true for jobs in customer-facing industries like travel, hospitality, and retail, where the customer experience is crucial.

Extensive feedback by the MEA’s member organisation has shown that scarcity of staff is causing companies to refuse business, while also creating wage inflation, impacting competitiveness further at a time of record cost-of-living increases.  Companies are applying lower filtering processes at recruitment stage, leading to a drop in standards.  In such a scenario, employers might be liable to turn a blind eye to below-standard performances or attitudes.

MEA Director General Joseph Farrugia said: “The country must therefore plan adequately ahead to ensure the required quantity and quality of skills to drive the transformation forward.  The digitalisation challenge, with dramatic changes brought about by concepts such as artificial intelligence, automation and augmented reality, will accentuate the dimension of skills gap which the country must find itself adequately prepared to face”.

MEA President Joanne Bondin added: “In seeking to identify the root causes to the lack of skill availability and come up with solutions, the Malta Employers’ Association has engaged the business community and an extensive group of stakeholders, including authorities and regulators, which in one way or another impact industry and enterprise. This exercise has already delineated a significant set of short-term measures and longer-term recommendations which will be addressed and debated in with industry, political and socio-economic leaders in SMEs National Forum 2022.”

As part of the European SME Week Programme of Events, The SMEs National Forum 2022, hosted by the MEA will focus on “Ensuring the Skills for Future Competitiveness”. It will be held on Thursday 17th November 2022. Further details and registration, which is free of charge, are available through this link.

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