3.3 Skills forecasting
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In 2016, the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE), Jobsplus and Malta Enterprise (ME) launched the Employee Skills Gap Survey. The objective was to gauge the extent of the existing skills gap, to contribute effectively to improvements in the educational system in Malta, to make it more responsive to the needs of the labour market and to provide policymakers with the information necessary to identify potential shortcomings in the Maltese labour market that could be hindering companies from finding employees with adequate skills. The population for this study included all employers in Malta’s Public Employment Services’ database excluding the self-employed (without employees). The sample size was 500 employers sub-divided by NACE classifications and employer size.
The stakeholders involved in this survey grouped together to carry out the study in a complete and comprehensive manner. Jobsplus focused on recruitment difficulties, employability skills and labour market needs fluctuations. The National Commission for Further and Higher Education put more impetus on education and skills gaps whereas Malta Enterprise provided knowledge and experience regarding employers’ skills needs. Following the presentation of findings, representative bodies and industry players were invited to participate in sector-specific focus groups to discuss selected skills-related issues in more detail. A summary of the main results and findings of this research were published in 2017.
The Employee Skills Gap Survey is a research project aimed at identifying shortages in skills, while gaining insight on supply and demand in different sectors of the labour market in Malta. Moreover, apart from gauging the extent of the existing skills gap, the survey also aims to contribute effectively to improvements in the educational system in Malta. The survey will help to make the education system more responsive to the needs of the labour market. It will also provide policymakers with the information necessary to identify potential shortcomings in the Maltese labour market that are hindering companies from finding employees with adequate skills. This exercise is deemed particularly important in light of the relatively strong and sustained growth recorded by the Maltese economy in recent years, which requires an increasingly diversified set of skills to enable companies to meet market demand.
As highlighted in various publications such as CEDEFOP’s Skills Panorama, which serves as a forecasting tool of the skills needed, skills are crucial for the economy to reach new heights. Such insights have shown that although machines are ‘doing jobs’ which used to be conducted by humans, this does not really mean that machines replace the need to have people in employment. This development has undoubtedly replaced how one looks at the work dimension and the skills needed but it has not changed the need for people to perform tasks. Furthermore, the digital revolution in itself was a source of job creation.
This need for skills has also been evident in other studies such as the Employability Index which consisted of a study on the employment of graduates. Although not a forecasting exercise, the Employability Index provided fruitful insight into areas related to tertiary-level education courses where graduates are least likely to be underemployed (both horizontal and vertical underemployment). This in turn indicates the specific skills and areas of specialisation which are in high demand in the Maltese labour market. When taken together, all these tools provide an evidence-base for employment, training and education institutions, especially when designing programmes and measures.