3.5 Traineeships and apprenticeships
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Until 2014 both Traineeships and Apprenticeships in Malta fell under the responsibility of the Employment and Training Corporation (now Jobsplus), however since 2014, Traineeships have fallen under the responsibility of Jobsplus, while the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) is responsible for Apprenticeships.
Traineeships are offered in accordance with the Employment and Training Services Act Cap 343. The Act outlines that a participant (trainee) is to attend both off-the-job (formal training provided by Jobsplus or another institution approved by Jobsplus) and on-the-job training (placement with an employer).
When a person is enrolled in the Traineeship Scheme, Jobsplus issues an agreement which is signed by the employer, the trainee and a representative of the Corporation. This agreement outlines the obligations of all parties (including the duration of the traineeship and the facilities and amenities that need to be provided by the employer to safeguard the health and safety of the trainee).
Apprenticeships are managed and coordinated by the Apprenticeships Department at Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST). Up to now, the framework that regulates apprenticeships has been the Employment and Training Services Act Cap 343. However, a new law that will regulate apprenticeships was issued for public consultation and will then be tabled in Parliament to be enacted. When a young person enrols in a course that requires an apprenticeship, the young person signs the Apprenticeship Workplace Regulations Agreement that details the apprentice duties, rights and responsibilities.
Since a trainee taking part in a traineeship is not considered an employee, s/he is not entitled to any social security coverage. Moreover throughout the traineeship, a trainee receives a training allowance, which is based on the National Minimum Wage, paid by Jobsplus. The trainee is paid for each hour attended.
During an apprenticeship offered through MCAST, the apprentice benefits from social security coverage as listed in the Apprenticeship Workplace Regulations Agreement. These include:
- National Insurance (NI) Contributions: Weekly rate of NI contributions payable by the employer and the apprentice: Under 18 years: 10% of weekly wage up to a maximum of €4.38 (Category E) Over 18 years: 10% of weekly wage up to a maximum of €7.94 (Category F)
- Bereavement Leave: two days bereavement leave if the deceased is the wife, husband, mother, father, guardian, son, daughter, sister or brother of apprentice Marriage Leave: three days
- Injury leave: One year full pay
- Vacation Leave: Upon completion of the observation-probationary period apprentices are entitled to two working days’ vacation leave for every 20 days attendance at the place of work.
- Sick Leave: Upon completion of the observation-probationary period apprentices are entitled to 15 days full and 15 days half pay sick leave pro-rata.
- Statutory Bonuses: Apprentices are entitled to half of the statutory bonuses (€67.55 in June and €67.55 in December).
- Overtime: Apprentices are eligible to work overtime provided the necessary consent is provided by MCAST which will ascertain that the extra hours do not influence badly the time the apprentice needs to either rest or study. Overtime rates are those applicable to full-time employees performing the same job. No overtime rate is to be worked out on a wage below the National Statutory minimum wage.
Apprenticeships are a requirement for any course offered at MCAST that has an apprenticeship as part of its syllabus. Such courses amount to approximately 50 per cent of all courses offered at MCAST. On the other hand, within Jobsplus, traineeships form part of the labour market initiatives aimed to assist jobseekers in acquiring formal training as well as hands on training to facilitate their transition from unemployment to employment.
Before launching new traineeships, Jobsplus seeks feedback from different stakeholders to ensure that the traineeships offered meet the demands of the labour market. Feedback is also sought from employers with respect to the knowledge, skills and competences to be incorporated into the formal training provided by Jobsplus.
Persons who are either unemployed or inactive are eligible to join the Traineeship Scheme offered by Jobsplus. Any student that enrols at MCAST and chooses a course that has an apprenticeship is obliged to follow the apprenticeship.
Traineeships are covered by articles 29 to 45 of the Employment and Training Services Act. Traineeships are offered to those young people participating in the Youth Guarantee as well as adults registered with the Public Employment Services. As a result of the Youth Guarantee, investment on work exposure and traineeships has been strengthened as they are considered to be a very effective means for individuals to enter the labour market following a definite period on-the-job and off-the-job training. The traineeship offered as part of the Youth Guarantee implementation is offered as the last phase, following motivational training and a period of work exposure.
MCAST has no programme that is directly linked to the Youth Guarantee.
Traineeships have become an increasingly important way for young people to gain work experience and enter the labour market. Through the implementation of MT’s Youth Guarantee, Malta boasts of an effective service which is highly personalised and appropriate to the concerned individual through the extensive and effective profiling which is carried out. One of the schemes under the Youth Guarantee umbrella is the NEETs Activation Scheme II. The NEET Activation Scheme II offers tailor-made interventions to youths facing difficulties affecting their work integration prospects. There are three phases to the scheme. The initial phase is individual profiling of participants. The second phase is a 240 hours work placement either in a simulated or actual work place and the third phase consists of a traineeship whereby participants will be able to put into practice what they have learnt during the previous two phases.
The Traineeship scheme aims at training individuals to find and retain employment by equipping participants with the initial vocational training (i.e. pre-employment training) to help them obtain the knowledge, skills and competences required by employers. Traineeships are based on a combination of on-the-job and off-the-job training; the programmes offered by Jobsplus are labour market driven, whereby the job preferences of the jobseekers are matched with the requests made by employers participating in the scheme. During the scheme, the trainee must attend 300 hours within a maximum period of 12 weeks, consisting of 282 hours as on-the-job training and 18 hours as off-the-job training. It is important to note that on-the-job training takes place at the employer’s premises while off-the-job training is conducted at Jobsplus training complex. Additionally, participants are paid a training allowance, payable by Jobsplus for every hour attended, which is calculated on the national minimum wage. In order to monitor the process and ensure that the training provided matches the needs of the labour market, Jobsplus is committed to ensure that regular contact is made with the various employers participating within the traineeship programme. Furthermore, during the Traineeship Scheme Jobsplus’ representatives carry out monitoring visits. The scope of these monitoring visits is to ensure that both employers and youths get the support needed during the scheme. Information on the traineeship scheme can be obtained from the following link.
The unemployed registrants are the main prospective participants of the Traineeship schemes. In view that Jobsplus possesses data of unemployed registrants, these persons are invited by Jobsplus to meet the schemes administrators on a one-to-one basis. The schemes administrators who meet unemployed registrants on a daily basis explain in detail the benefit of such scheme during these one-to-one meetings and assist in the filling of the application.
Unemployed individuals who are not on Jobsplus unemployment register are also eligible to participate in the scheme; hence on a regular basis Jobsplus opts to market the scheme through social media (mainly facebook). Facebook targets the prospective participants and parents of unemployed and inactive youths who can encourage their children to participate in such initiatives. These facebook adverts can also encourage employers to participate in these schemes by offering a placement opportunity to a trainee with the prospective of job retention after completion of the scheme.
As indicated above, the NEET Activation Scheme II offers a portal for those youths who would like to engage in traineeships by means of collaboration and effective partnerships with employers. Jobsplus liaises with these employers in order to build customer relationships and find placements. What is crucial here is an effective line of communication with employers and also with other stakeholders to guarantee assistance which is personalised to individual needs and well-functioning partnerships. Furthermore, the Employer Relations Unit, within Jobsplus, is set to assist employers in all matters pertaining to the entity and offers one-to-one meetings. During these meetings, employers are informed about all relevant Jobsplus services. The unit assists employers in the filling of vacancies online and applications for Jobsplus scheme including the Traineeship scheme. In Addition Jobsplus also participates in different national fairs to promote its services. Apart from social media marketing, from time to time these initiatives are promoted on newspapers, magazines, through radio and television interviews, automailers and employment and career fairs.
The Youth Guarantee Office also undertakes multiple social media promotion and awareness campaigns in the form of posts and videos. These take place throughout the year on the Youth Guarantee Malta Facebook and Twitter pages. The content shared is clear, concise and visually engaging, in an attempt to communicate a message which resonates and motivates.
Radio, TV and billboard advertising are used to effectively increase reach. Initiative-specific newsletters are sent to a growing database of education institutions and employers, among others. Information letters and application forms are also sent to registered jobseekers. In addition, all relevant information pertaining to the project’s initiatives is accessible on the Youth Guarantee website which also houses applications, reports and other downloadable informative materials.
To complement the targeted online approach, the Youth Guarantee Office regularly attends and organises information meetings and conferences, and actively participates in targeted student events and fairs, during which information and custom merchandise are disseminated. As a result, valuable connections have been established with the schools’ psychosocial teams. The Youth Guarantee Committee has also helped forge collaborative relations with educational and employment professionals, business organisations and other related entities, which are now part of the project’s network.
ii. Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) initiatives on Initial VET
In May 2019, MCAST launched the Strategic Plan 2019-2021 as a means of incentivising a more inclusive, equitable and excellence in vocational provision in Malta. The strategy for the College sees vocational education as a driving force behind the quality labor force in Malta by preparing learners to be flexible, specialists in vocational industry areas as required, but also in possession of transversal skills, behavioral skills and appropriate attitudes.
In 2019/20, the Skills Kit Programme was again relaunched at MQF/EQF Level 1 covering various vocational areas as well as personal and employability skills intended for students who prefer to study at their own pace. The Skills Kits are Level 1 short courses which are available to the public with the aim of having the opportunity to enhance own skills and become more employable. The Skills Kits are also designed to offer the opportunity to learners to be exposed to new skills which might interest them and eventually attract them to further education.
Through the ongoing ESF Project : Adding Value: Nurturing Learning Journeys at the MCAST Foundation College - MCAST aims to provide flexible teaching approaches, innovative technologies and mentoring to engage vulnerable students and allow them the chance to learn in an enjoyable manner. The project will identify barriers to training encountered by socially excluded individuals, allowing the creation of long-term structures that can provide immediate support to vulnerable students at the Foundation College. The project will empower the most vulnerable to increase their skills and competences, thereby allowing them to become economically independent. This will be done by providing tailor made education, training & support to vulnerable groups.
MCAST is also working on gamifying parts of the curriculum as well as building elements of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) within particular components of study programmes up to MQF Level 3. The aim is to attract and retain young learners in the Education and Training process, and modernise vocational education even at MQF Levels 1-3, so that learning becomes more engaging. Students will become familiar with the process of learning and working through new technologies, thus starting to build the foundations for future labour market needs.
In order to provide a holistic experience to international VET learners, including migrants, during the last year there were an increase in a number of activities through the MCAST outreach and integration offices. MCAST is also providing lectures in Maltese, English and cultural orientation through the I-Belong Programme. Additionally, on a yearly basis, MCAST organises a Diversity Day with the involvement of international students.
In 2019/20, MCAST also launched its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme. The aim of the programme is to provide MCAST learners with the opportunity to enhance their studies with life-enriching experiences that add value to their holistic knowledge base. The programme will bring MCAST together with non-governmental stakeholders to form key partnerships in an effort to develop and cultivate skills, attitudes and values that enhance society and the environment. Areas of cooperation include entrepreneurship, creative and performing arts, sport, and voluntary work in the cultural sector. MCAST Corporate Social Responsibility will also provide a framework for all college learners to have the knowledge and skills acquired through the programme, recognised and accredited within their formal programme of studies. MCAST is committed to empowering its young and adult learners to become active and employable citizens that contribute to Malta’s dynamic democratic society and economy. From academic year 2020/21, students will be asked to carry out 20 hours of community work with the different NGOs as part of their course. Furthermore, MCAST will be signing a number of protocols with local councils and also with sport federations.
With regard to apprenticeships, students who enrol at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) can choose from courses that offer an apprenticeship according to their preferences and academic achievements and qualifications. Professional guidance is offered to students on an individual level and an annual prospectus with all courses, and their respective entry requirements, syllabi and MQF level is issued.
Apprenticeships providers interested in offering apprenticeship opportunities are dealt with on a one-to-one by the Apprenticeships Department at MCAST.
In 2019, MCAST launched a new suite of MQF Level 6 Degree Apprenticeships in Biomedical Engineering, Construction Engineering, Software Development, Multimedia Software Development, Computer Systems and Networks and Fashion. Students following such degree apprenticeships will be able to achieve a recognized qualification while simultaneously getting paid for gaining valuable work experience.
The European Structural Fund (ESF) project ‘Achieving Vocational Excellence through enhanced Work Based Learning’ with Project reference No: ESF 3.081 aims to consolidate MCAST’s Work Based Learning with the aim of making VET more attractive to students, whilst providing a more competent workforce that can cater for current and future industrial requirements. This project will include a number of partners which include the Chamber of Commerce, the National Skills Council and the Ministry of Education and Employment. The project will involve the development and delivery of a mentoring training programme to MCAST lecturers and staff. Furthermore, training and information sessions will also be organised for industry sponsors. MCAST will map out the number of apprenticeship per area and the learning outcomes which can be offered by each participant employer. This monitoring will be achieved through the development of a comprehensive competency framework and use of an analysis tool. In addition, six centres will be set up with the main aim to tackle labour market mismatches and provide students with innovative work-based competences by simulating real working environments. It is estimated that around 600 MCAST students who follow an apprenticeship programme will benefit from the project during its whole Implementation period. The Project implementation phase has started in 2019 and it is expected to be completed by 2022.
iv. Partnerships between education providers and employers
MCAST has remained actively involved to increase the number of industry partners to enable work-based learning in the form of apprenticeship, intership and work placements. To date, around 1300 employers are registered with MCAST as industry partners in a wide variety of economic sectors including engineering, transport, applied sciences, creative arts, community services, business and commerce, agribusiness, and information technology. Over the last year, 300 new employers have been registered with MCAST as industry partners.
Additionally, there is a drive is to involve industry directly in education by employing the students and then offer them the possibility to study while they are in employment. Given the high employment rate this could be more enticing for youths and non to continue education. With this in mind, MCAST has just launched the following initiatives with HVAC and aviation employers.
The Maintenance and Repair Organisations (MROs) every year are invited to interview new students who enrol for aviation maintenance courses. This is done on the request of the MROs themselves so that they recruit the new students and give them a full pay as full-time employees. The students follow the two-year full-time course at MCAST that also includes apprenticeship at the MRO. This system provides the students motivation to do well in their studies knowing that they have job security at the end of their studies. It also shows commitment from the part of MROs who commit themselves to sponsor the students’ training in order to secure a stream of new recruits into their expanding business. Students will do their apprenticeship at their sponsor’s place of work. This academic year 2019-2020 about a hundred students will get into the scheme.
Recently, the importers of air conditioners have set up an association. They have contacted MCAST to see how we can cooperate in order to attract more students to the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) courses. MCAST proposed to the association to set up a scheme similar to aviation. They agreed and as from this year they are offering a number of sponsorships to students who take up HVAC courses. Students in this scheme will get a salary from their sponsor and have also security of employment at the end of the course. Students will do their apprenticeship at their sponsor’s place of work. The association offered to offer 25 sponsorships for students taking MQF level 3 and level 4 courses in HVAC.
The Curriculum and Student Affairs Department within MCAST is currently supporting GOV entities in projects that target the upskilling of individuals within industry and/or the community. Working with the Human Rights and Integration Directorate on an AMIF project Sustaining Management of Migration Flows. Training is offered in Maltese, English and Cultural integration. Collaboration with Ministry for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity – L3 and L4 Awards were designed in Financial Literacy and Benefits Management respectively to upskill employees in Social Services Centres to equip them with the necessary knowledge, skills and competences to be able to give better provision to the clients in the community. Collaboration with industry in the security printing business (following national strategic investments) to provide trained and employees and upskill employees already within the sector. The latter training was developed with industry and is being offered directly in industry.
v. Other important MCAST initiatives in VET:
During February 2019, MCAST launched the Masters in Vocational Education Applied Research 4.0 which provides its own lecturers with a pedagogical training qualification in VET at Masters level. The Masters is a three-year qualification of 120 ECTS with three exit points, either after one year with a Post-Graduate Certificate or after the second year with a Post-Graduate Diploma or after the third year, which is the dissertation year, with a Masters.
MCAST also organised during 2019 various continuous professional development (CPD) sessions for its staff members, both for lecturers and administrative staff. Participation in CPD workshops exceeded 300 registrations.
MCAST established an Applied Research Unit which works specifically on vocational and applied research that is carried out either by researchers and professionals or collaborative partners, towards creating innovative knowledge and exploring the feasibility of new or improved technology, products, processes, services or solutions. Research within professional higher education at MCAST will serve to provide new knowledge and addressing real-life problems, a process of learning and translating into new teaching, and a cycle of collaborating and disseminating findings, solutions and new knowledge, skills and competences.
In 2019, MCAST also launched the research framework which is built on three main important pillars:
⦁ A focus on key, select research thrusts leading to smart specializations. ⦁ Creating and working within one or more Knowledge Centre / R&I Ecosystem, Centres for Smart Specialization, and peer learning through international networks such as ASEF, Eurashe and UAS4Europe. ⦁ Developing and propagating new research, innovation and pedagogical and andragogic methodologies and technologies
During 2019, MCAST also launched a new series of Masters programmes as part of an ESF project – MCAST is offering eight additional Masters Programmes in the following topics: Environmental Engineering, Exercise and Sports Science, Water Resources Management, High-Performance Buildings, Mechatronics, Lean Enterprise, Information Technology and Systems, and Product Design. One of the most important objectives of these programmes is to build a high level of expertise among VET students in vital areas such as water, energy, infrastructures, health innovative design solutions and many more. This will be accompanied through industry-driven impact research.
Trainees participating in traineeships are awarded two certificates: a certificate to cover the theoretical component delivered during the off-the-job training (in this case, if the courses offered are accredited trainees are awarded a certificate pegged between EQF/MQF level 1 to 4 depending on the traineeship) and another certificate to recognize their participation in the on-the-job training (Apprenticeship review Malta).
MCAST offers two year apprenticeship programmes at EQF/MQF Levels 3 and 4, depending on the particular courses (Apprenticeship review Malta).
Trainees participating in a traineeship are requested to fill in a handbook, whereby they need to include all the competences acquired throughout their on-the-job training.
Students following an apprenticeship at MCAST are requested to fill in a vocational competence logbook that needs to be verified by the employer.
The formal qualification provided by Jobsplus is accredited and based on the ECVET system. On the certificates issued to those who successfully complete the formal training, one can find the EQF/MQF level of the course as well the number of ECVET points.
All apprenticeships offered by MCAST are formally accredited and students obtain ECTS and ECVET credits.
During past years, the funding of traineeships was organized through the European Social Fund. Jobsplus has applied for ESF funding for the programming period 2014-2020. During this period (2014-2020) the percentage of co-financing will be 80% through ESF and 20% through Malta National Funds. Funding will be used to cover the training allowance payable to trainees. Trainees receive a training allowance, which is based on the National Minimum Wage. The maximum amount that a trainee can earn ranges from €2,352 to €2,688 depending on the duration of the traineeship (currently between 14 to 16 weeks).
Employers are entitled for a tax rebate whenever they offer a placement to a trainee for a period of six months as per Legal Notice 179 of 2014. By means of such an initiative, a tax deduction equivalent to €600 for each work placement shall be allowed provided that such placements are of at least six months in duration.
Apprenticeship providers pay the apprentices’ wages and part of the apprentices’ National Insurance. They are also entitled for a tax rebate whenever they offer a placement to a trainee for a period of six months as per Legal Notice 179 of 2014. By means of such an initiative, a tax deduction equivalent to €600 for each work placement shall be allowed provided that such placements are of at least six months duration.
Trainees enrolled on traineeship are monitored by Jobsplus. During the monitoring visits that take place to evaluate the on-the-job training, Jobsplus staff seek feedback from both trainee and employer to gather additional information on their experience throughout the Scheme.
During the off-the-job training, quality visits are performed by the Quality Assurance Unit, whereby the role of the latter is to ensure that the delivery of the off-the-job training is in accordance with the accredited course; the trainer uses different delivery methodologies to meet the needs of all trainees and the tools and facilities used by trainers to deliver the course are in line with standards established by the Corporation.
When it comes to the funding of the training allowance, trainees are requested to fill in attendance sheets that must be endorsed by the employer. These attendance sheets are vetted by Jobsplus officials. Trainees are only paid for attended hours, meaning deductions are automatically made before payment is issued.
The Apprenticeship Department at MCAST have developed a Monitoring System where lecturers who are VET experts are monitoring in the industry. This ensures that the people who are actually monitoring the students know both the industry and the competences that the students should be gaining. Once a student is placed in an internship, they are assigned to a lecturer, and an online report is completed by the lecturer. The report can be flagged by both the employer and also by the student. At the end of each month, a report on the particular placement is compiled. The monitoring lecturers also provide feedback to the apprenticeship provider.