The release of “idle resources” across the public sector so that workers may be engaged within the private sector came in as the top recommendation by the Malta Employers Association (MEA), an issue the pressure group has repeatedly identified as a major issue over the past years.

Last Friday, at the SME National Forum 2022 organised by the MEA, the organisation put forward 13 “concrete solutions” to address the current skills shortage affecting Malta’s private industry.

In a recent survey conducted by the MEA, 53 per cent of respondents claimed that the current situation was exerting a significant impact on their business including serious disruption on their operations and stretched out resources. A further 12 per cent responded that the impact on their business was “severe” to the extent that business continuity was severely at risk. Workers’ new priorities in favour of flexible work arrangements, particularly post-pandemic further exacerbate the challenge ahead for employers.

MEA President Joanne Bondin remarked that “we are currently experiencing a lack of human resources across the board. It is a constant challenge for employers to find employees with the right skills and qualifications to the extent that it is raising concerns about business continuity and competitiveness.

“To overcome this serious predicament, we need to focus on becoming more efficient and innovative in our business models and operations whilst addressing the social and economic needs of our country”.

MEA Director-General Joseph Farrugia opened the Forum, arguing that “while lack of skills is a global challenge, there are specific issues for Malta, including a low birth rate and a high percentage of young people opting or willing to leave for good.

“We need to design incentives to retain labour, while at the same time having a clear economic direction for the country. We are here to channel our recommendations towards a sustained growth based on skills, innovation and economic transformation”.

The MEA’s 13 recommendations:

  1. Release of idle resources in the public sector to business
  2. Promote careers not jobs
  3. Connect academia to industry
  4. Invest in training and mentorship
  5. Commit to work-based learning
  6. Capitalise on digital skills
  7. Strengthen regulators’ resources
  8. Encourage work beyond retirement
  9. Enhance career guidance structures
  10. Instil better attitudes and soft skills in our children
  11. Improve Malta’s attractiveness as a place of work
  12. Prioritise risk assessment for future competitiveness
  13. Ensure business stability through good governance

The MEA’s 13 recommendations emerged from extensive research, focus groups and consultation with a wide array of economic stakeholders, including industry leaders, entrepreneurs and officials from government authorities and agencies.

Friday’s SME National Forum 2022 entitled ‘Ensuring the Skills for Future Competitiveness’ served to debate the recommendations with a view to strengthening the MEA’s call for action.

Many stakeholders addressing the forum highlighted the 13 recommendations put forward by the MEA and called on the authorities to implement the recommendations as soon as practically possible to ensure the smooth functioning of the labour market now and in the years to come. In view of this positive feedback, in closing the event, Ms Bondin called on all stakeholders towards a concerted national effort and use the MEA as a facilitator to take forward these recommendations.

The MEA said it will also be producing a report featuring highlights from the forum and the entire consultation process which led to the formulation of the recommendations. It will now place efforts into ensuring that the recommendations are translated into action.

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