3.6 Integration of young people in the labour market
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Work-based vocational competences are integrated in Malta’s educational and training programmes emphasising quality qualifications whilst: increasing economic competitiveness and ensuring that the skills gap between education and work is addressed, producing a skilled labour force that responds better to the labour market needs.
At compulsory education level:
The Ministry for Education (MFED) launched ‘My Journey: achieving through different paths’, a secondary school reform aiming to tackle early school leaving further and to provide a system for all learners by addressing their different learning aptitudes, intelligence and patterns.
The reform, both comprehensive and inclusive, was introduced in the first year of secondary schooling (year 9, age 13) during school year 2019-20. Hence since September 2019, through the My Journey reform, secondary school students are allowed to choose from academic, vocational and/or applied subjects in addition to the core curriculum. A national careers web portal and events such as I Choose were developed. Students and parents/guardians are guided through the subject choosing process and have access to all information on the different subject options through the 3 routes.
Lower secondary learners have an opportunity to select options/subjects (general/academic, vocational and applied) alongside their compulsory lessons. The following nine vocational subjects and their corresponding applied ones are available:
- agribusiness, engineering technology;
- health and social care;
- information technology;
- media literacy;
- hairdressing and beauty;
- textiles and fashion.
All these subjects lead up to EQF/MQF level 3 qualification, with no dead-ends. The rationale is that vocational education supports the educational engagement of learners who may struggle with the learning pedagogy of mainstream academic subjects. The progress of learners in the vocational subjects is not assessed through formal examinations but through ongoing assessment by the subject teacher, verified internally by a second subject teacher, and evaluated by an external verifier from the national assessment board. School-based information sessions were organised for learners, their parents and teaching staff. Teachers already in service who opted to teach the new vocational and applied subjects attended ongoing professional development sessions in the learning content, vocational pedagogy and assessment procedure. in addition to the investment in human resources, the Ministry and the ESF jointly financed 78 vocational spaces, equipping them with the latest material and teaching resources.
The My Journey reform includes vocational and applied subjects as a measure to reduce early school leaving and, potentially, increase tertiary education attainment. This involves moving from a 'one size fits all' system to a more inclusive and equitable programme. The aim is to respond to different education needs and give parity of esteem to general, vocational and applied subjects. The new system builds on the current one but ambitiously moves forward in democratising academic, vocational and applied learning for all students within a framework of parity of esteem. It retains key competences and sustains traditional academic learning programmes. Complementarily, vocational subjects and applied learning programmes leading up to MQF Level 3, are also made available to all students and are provided within the same school and in all secondary schools. Applied learning is comparable and equivalent to the academic and vocational education and accredited up to MQF Level 3. Following compulsory education, students may opt to continue their studies at the University of Malta (UoM), Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST), Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) or another higher education institution of their choice.
The introduction of equitable learning programmes enables more quality time for in-depth learning whilst increasing learning opportunities, eliminating dead ends and easing labour market entry. My Journey seeks to promote increased links between education and industry. Close cooperation between schools and workplaces assures the currency of subject learning outcomes (SLOs), provides real-life work environments thus warranting the assimilation of the aims of work life, establishes fruitful relationships with companies and facilitates the learning of entrepreneurship competencies. These processes contribute to their development of expertise in the occupation that cannot be simulated in a school-based environment. By offering the possibility to choose vocational and/or applied paths at the age of 12, the reform is implemented in a manner which avoids the possibility of later exclusion. In order to avoid that students may leave compulsory education not being well equipped with those key competences that could allow later re-skilling and up-skilling, the My Journey reform will also include new learning programmes in the core subjects (Mathematics, English, Maltese and Science) targeted at students following applied programmes. In this regard, a new certification is being introduced. The Secondary Education Applied Certificate (SEAC) run by the MATSEC board will certify 9 applied option subjects and 5 core subjects.
At post-secondary education level:
In March 2018, the Work-based Learning and Apprenticeship Act came into force, providing regulations and governance and administration of accredited training programmes for work-placements, apprenticeships and internships for VET purposes.
The Work-based Learning and Apprenticeship Act aims at strengthening work-based learning by:
• setting definitions and operational parameters for work placements, apprenticeships and internships;
• outlining responsibilities and governance structures;
• defining rights and obligations for VET providers, employers and learners;
• highlighting the role of employers as responsible learning partners;
• setting a compulsory minimum number of hours for all forms of work-based learning and linking remuneration to the minimum wage;
• using ECVET/ECTS in all forms of work-based learning;
• introducing a single EQF-based apprenticeship qualification replacing the dual certification currently in place;
• launching a training agreements register to support data collection and policy-relevant analysis by the national skills council
As Malta’s leading vocational college, the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) is the VET institution responsible for governing and managing the Apprenticeship system at national level in Malta, and has been working to raise the quality of apprenticeships so as to strike a balance between theoretical and on-the-job training and hence enable the apprentice to obtain long-term employability. The Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship Act provides regulations and governance and administration of accredited training programmes for work-placements, apprenticeships and internships for VET purposes.
Through this Act, Malta has now introduced a system where apprentices get first-hand knowledge of how the industry works, and are able to see clearly, what they would like to pursue as a career. All apprentices now have the opportunity to obtain the qualifications they need in the specific field chosen, while being able to put the skills they learn into practice at the same time, with the assistance of experts who are always be on-hand to show them how things are done.
Furthermore, work-based learning is an essential part of curricula at the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS). The ITS internship department is responsible for assisting students in finding work within the tourism and hospitality sector thus helping to integrate students into the labour market.
From a public employment service perspective:
Through the Youth Guarantee, young people who are within the NEET category can benefit from initiatives that are specifically targeted at youth. Both registered jobseekers and inactive youth can benefit from the Youth Guarantee measures, administered by the Maltese Public Employment Service. These include the NEET Activation Scheme, ICT courses, and the SEC revision classes.
Through the different phases of the NEET Activation Scheme II, young people receive personalised attention. The phases include:
- Profiling, Behavioural and Employability Courses;
- Continued Education or Work Exposure;
- Traineeship (following work exposure).
The NEET Activation Scheme II which succeeded the NEET Activation Scheme focuses more on the psychosocial services offered to young people. Furthermore, as a result of the findings of the NEETs Census, NEETs participating in the new scheme were classified into three categories (Transition NEETs, Floating NEETs CORE NEETs), with the aim of ensuring that the intervention provided is targeted to their needs. To this effect, the services are provided according to three methods of intervention:
- Normative method (addressing the category of youths who generally cope well with stressful situations): youths will undergo training focusing on Budgeting Skills and Advanced communication skills;
- Internalising method (addressing the category of youths who tend to be emotionally unstable): youths will undergo training focusing on Social Anxiety Management and personal care and hygiene;
- Externalising method (addressing the category of youths with impulse control difficulties): youths will undergo training focusing on Anger Management and Improving Attention.
IT Courses are offered throughout the year and aim to help young people who are inactive or students who in their last year of compulsory schooling had indicated that they will not further their education, to improve their digital skills. The option for the participants to undergo either the Practical ICT course or the ECDL at MQF Level 3, allows the project to reach a broader spectrum of students having diverse abilities, attitudes, behavioural issues and objectives. As a result, the eligibility criteria were widened to also include youths referred by the school guidance teams, and inactive youths aged between 16-25 who are not in education, employment, or training. Participants are obliged to attend a minimum of 80% of the course and upon successful completion, they gain a qualification and receive an allowance equivalent to the minimum wage. To address deficiencies in social skills, non-obligatory psychological services are also provided. Following completion of the ICT Course, young people are encouraged to either enrol in an educational institution or participate in the NEET Activation Scheme II.
The SEC Revision Classes are aimed at young people who do not attain a passing grade 1 to 5 (1 being the highest) in the SEC mandatory subjects. Revision classes are provided in core subjects such as Maltese, English, Mathematics, Physics and Biology and students can apply for up to three subjects. These classes are provided free of charge during the summer period and last for five weeks. At the end of the classes, participants sit for an exam and are encouraged to enrol in a post-secondary educational institution.
The Work Exposure Scheme is intended to facilitate transition into employment by providing jobseekers with initial hands on training that will help individuals obtain the knowledge, skills and competences required to find and retain employment. This scheme is designed to meet contemporary labour market demand, whereby the job preferences of the jobseekers are matched with employers’ requests. The Work Exposure Scheme consists of 240 hours of placement and trainees have a maximum period of 12 weeks to complete these hours. The on-the-job training takes place at the employer’s premises. Throughout the scheme, trainees receive a training allowance for every hour attended. The training allowance, which is paid by Jobsplus through an ESF funded project, is calculated on the National Minimum Wage.
The Traineeship Scheme is intended to provide jobseekers with initial vocational training (pre-employment training) that will help them attain the knowledge, skills and competences required to find and retain employment. Traineeships are based on combination of on-the-job and off-the-job training. The programmes offered are labour market driven, whereby the job preferences of the jobseekers are matched with the requests made by employers participating in the scheme. A Traineeship is of 300-hour duration over a maximum period of 12 weeks, consisting of 282 hours as on-the-job training and 18 hours as off-the-job training. The maximum number of placement hours in any given week is 40 hours. Throughout the scheme trainees receive a training allowance for every hour attended. The training allowance, which is paid by Jobsplus through an ESF funded project, is calculated on the National Minimum Wage.
In 2019, a total of 1,134 youths (15-24 year old) entered into one of the Youth Guarantee schemes, of which, 745 participated in the SEC Revision Classes and 389 participated in the NEET Activation Scheme. During the same year,1075 exited from the Youth Guarantee with 66% exiting into a positive destination. From those who exited into a positive destination (707), 83.5% exited to education, 10.6% exited to employment, 5.2% into Traineeship and the rest (0.7%) to Apprenticeships.
Additionally, the Access to Employment (A2E) scheme seeks to provide employment aid to enterprises in Malta and Gozo to promote the recruitment of the more challenged amongst jobseekers, unemployed and inactive persons. From 1 October 2020 the A2E Scheme included also those unemployed persons of age between 15 and 24 who previously participated and completed either the Youth Guarantee or Work Exposure Scheme or the Traineeship Scheme and is recruited for the first-time following completion of such initiatives. The scheme is demand driven and grants are awarded on a first-come first-served basis, subject to the annual ceilings and total budget which is of EUR 12 million. Employers applying for the A2E Scheme from 1 October 2020 onwards will be eligible to receive a subsidy of EUR 104 per week per new recruit engaged for 40 hours, for a period of either 52 weeks or 104 weeks depending on the target group. In the case of registered disabled persons, a subsidy of EUR 155 per week for 40 hours for a maximum of 156 weeks is provided.
in addition to the above-mentioned schemes, job coaches within Jobsplus offer important services at different phases of the job search, transfer to schemes or employment. Most cases followed by a job coach are triggered by the Employment Advisor who asks specifically for the assistance of the job coach once potential issues are identified either during the initial profiling of the client or subsequent reviews.
There are other cases whereby the client would be following a scheme and either the trainer, or the course co-ordinator, client himself, or any other professional such as a Youth/ Social worker identify the need of a job coach and thus the job coach will conduct the Readiness Assessment. This is one of the tools that the job coach uses to be able to build a relationship and establish a way forward how to help the client to overcome the obstacles hindering from employment. Eventually, the client can also point out what kind of job s/he are looking for and this is put to test through any of the schemes mentioned above.
The job coaches can intervene at different stages of the case, depending on when the need for the job coach is identified. Eventually, the client is on a placement and the job coach follows throughout. There are instances when the need of a job coach is identified by a monitoring officer and thus the process of job coaching starts at that point.
The job coaches liaise with the employer throughout the placement and if need be even once the client is employed in order to focus also on the retention of employment. Thus, the job coach continues to monitor the individual so if a problem arises, such job coach will intervene and implement job crafting. The aim remains the employability of the client and the retention in the open labour market.
The job coach can eventually refer to other professionals as well, such as social workers, psychologists or psychiatrists when deemed necessary. Surely, this will not create any dependency of the client on the job coaches but will help the client to become as independent as possible, by building self-confidence and becoming a problem solver in his/her own capacity.
Malta places a lot of effort into encouraging individuals to register and apply for the initiatives that target their needs. The NEET Census, which was an outreach project aimed at ensuring that all future initiatives concerning youths reflect their needs. The NEET Census targeted the identification of youths who are neither in employment, education or training and to analyse through one-to-one interviews their needs, aspirations and the challenges they faced. The questionnaire covered several topics including personal information and social demographics, education and training, work experience and interests, feedback on their choice to dismiss the Youth Guarantee and suggestions on how youths who are detached from the labour market and from the education spectrum can be motivated to participate in the scheme. Such a close intervention provides insight on the young persons’ perception of Government intervention and the awareness of Government programmes.
Moreover, unemployed registered youths with Jobsplus who are assigned an employment advisor are referred to the Youth Guarantee initiative which corresponds to their needs. The Youth Guarantee administrators have enhanced their outreach mechanisms to minimise the numbers of youths neither in education nor in employment. As such, the Youth Guarantee Office has substantially increased in outreach activities, ranging from informative sessions with educators and psychosocial teams to full-blown national events such as the ‘I Choose’ fair which sees the participation of Malta and Gozo’s entire school-leaving cohort. At every school-based or nation-wide educational event attended, participants are not only provided with comprehensive materials and custom Youth Guarantee merchandise, but are also given the opportunity to engage in focus-group style motivational sessions with the team.
An employers’ FAQ booklet which was designed and made available to interested employers in both printed and digital versions, and an online version of the employers’ application form which has been created through servizz.gov and is available in both Maltese and English. Furthermore, a team was set up to brief the employer and participant at the initial phase of the work exposure. This briefing is done at the place of work and includes an overview of how to fill in documents, including attendance sheet etc. Such measures have contributed to the smooth running of the Work Exposure scheme facilitating the transition from inactivity to work placements for both employers and trainees. As the process has been simplified it has in conjunction become more attractive to the target population and the employers.
Targeted initiative specific newsletters are sent out to a database including educators, school psychosocial teams and senior management schools’ staff. These newsletters are in turn uploaded to the schools’ internal platform and disseminated to parents and students alike. NEETs are also sent a personal invitation which encourages them to engage in the Youth Guarantee Programme. These letters are sent out every year between Q1 and Q2 to all inactive youths depending on the availability of the lists. Each invitation is sent together with an application form. To increase the engagement rate for NEETs, social media campaigns across the Youth Guarantee Facebook and Twitter pages, newspaper and YouTube channels and radio advertisements are used in conjunction with the invitation to increase visibility and participation. As a result of a warmly received and successful presence, a solid network of educators and event organisers was established, promising further activities throughout the scholastic year.
Currently, there are no flexicurity measures focusing on young people.
Currently, there are no specific measures that address the reconciliation of private and working life for young people. Still, reconciliation measures that are applicable to adults are also applicable to young people.
Moreover, the training allowance payable to youth participating under the Work Exposure Scheme and the Traineeship Scheme is part-financed by the European Social Fund. The co-financing rate is set at 80% through EU and 20% through the National Funds. For these two schemes, which form part of ESF.01.001 – Training for Employment Project, there is a budget allocation of €2,439,254 and €4,883,424 respectively. This budget covers the period 2016 till 2023.
- Information on participants;
- Duration of intervention;
To supplement this data, a number of evaluation exercises are carried out. These include exit questionnaires as well as feedback from professionals intervening with youth and employers involved in the work exposure and/or traineeship phase. Programmes are assessed by the Maltese Public Employment Service. During the work exposure and traineeship monitoring visits feedback from the trainee and employer is sought to gather additional information on their experience throughout the scheme. During the off-the-job training, quality visits are performed to ensure that the delivery of the off-the-job training is in accordance with the course; the trainer is using 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 the standards established by the Maltese PES.
To ensure the effectiveness of the training being given to trainees by employers, each trainee is visited at least three times for the Work Exposure Scheme and two times for the Youth Guarantee Scheme by the Maltese Public Employment Service, Jobsplus, Monitoring Officers. Due to the current situation, imposed by the global pandemic, some visits are being held online. During the on-the-spot check, Monitoring Officers are assisted through a checklist to ensure the publicity material is adequately displayed in a prominent place, that the employer has retained copies of documentation, documentation is complete, and that the current attendances are being recorded on a daily basis. Monitoring Officers attach photographic evidence of the publicity material as displayed, as well as photographic evidence of the participant’s presence to the first checklist, whilst in subsequent visits, attach only the participant’s photo on the day, whilst ensuring that the publicity material is still present, recording the same on the checklist. Both the employer and participant are questioned about the progress up to that point. Answers are recorded on the checklist, and feedback to project implementation staff at the Maltese Public Employment Service, Jobsplus, is provided as and where necessary. During the visits, Monitoring Officers also ask questions related to the placement to ensure that the exposure offered is in line with what was originally promised by the employer through its application. In those instances, where it is deemed that the quality of exposure provided is not up to the required standard, Jobsplus reserves the right to terminate the placement and to find an alternative placement for the trainee.
The impact of the scheme is measured by assessing the employment status of the trainee within six months following end date of scheme.
Following the experience gained in implementing these schemes and the feedback received from the Monitoring Officers, the Maltese Public Employment Service, Jobsplus, implements changes to the scheme. Moreover, the Maltese Public Employment Service, Jobsplus, monitors closely the uptake of the schemes and the employment prospects offered by employers. To this end, the Maltese Public Employment Service, Jobsplus, incorporated further checks to limit the potential abuse by employers (for example: number of trainees enrolled with an employer depends on the number of employees). In addition, for every placement, the Maltese Public Employment Service, Jobsplus, enters into an agreement with the employer and the trainee to enlist the roles and responsibilities of each party.