The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

2021 – A challenging year for eSkills Malta Foundation

Tuesday, 18 January 2022, 09:41 Last update: about 5 months ago

Bernadette Zerafa

The Year 2021 was still somewhat overshadowed by Covid-19 and it was also the year where priorities changed for everyone, for our partners, stakeholders, organisations and their respective owners and employees. Notwithstanding all of this, the Foundation proceeded diligently considering the situation.  

Suddenly everybody realised that digitalisation is a crucial element to the industry and its workforce, education of any level and any person in society. The business model needed considerable adjustment to cope, bringing about a drastic change in the industry requirements, even to the digital sector. With this in mind, the Foundation continued to carry out its mandates.

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One of its major milestones in 2021 was the launch of the ICT Skills Demand and Supply Monitor. The Demand and Supply Monitor provides an accurate snapshot of the current state of affairs about the current talent pool in the ICT sector. This project analysed the skills and competencies required by the ICT Industry (including ICT departments or units of the sectorial industry and the CIO offices within the public sector) and the supply of education and training.

Another initiative, in line with the digital skills skilling, upskilling and reskilling, was the implementation of the annual Digital Skills Bootcamp for different target groups through official engagements with training and education providers. The purpose of these Bootcamp sessions is to give the opportunity of various targets groups to increase their basic or advanced digital skills. Many sessions were held online, which proved very successful and very well attended.

One of the main national concerns regarding digital skills is the participation of girls and women in having access to equal opportunities to take advantage of digital opportunities. Female participation in the digital world is very low. eSkills Malta Foundation has been addressing this matter for some years now. Consequently, in 2021 the Foundation organised several Women in Digital courses, training and events aimed specifically at females. Like the Digital skills Bootcamps, all sessions were held online and free of charge.

eSkills Malta Foundation constantly strives to increase its viability and visibility through an intensive awareness campaign carried out all year long. This is done through the regular participation of the Foundation within the local media in programmes. Some of these include Gadgets and Poplin on local TV. The Foundation constantly creates awareness about the importance of digital skills and digitalisation in every aspect of life. The awareness campaign is also carried out through the publication of articles and educational adverts on various printed media and also several awareness campaigns on the Foundation's social media channels.

The Year 2021 was also an outstanding year for the Foundation's participation in the EU CodeWeek, with over 500 coding events held. Like previous years schools from both government and Church proved to be instrumental for this success together with MCAST, Private Training Providers, IT companies and local councils. This year there was also an increase in Coding tutors whose coding sessions proved to be truly successful.

The eSkills Malta Foundation, in collaboration and partnership with the National School Support Services within the Ministry for Education (MFED), the University of Malta, MCAST and Shireburn Software, held an online webinar about Careers in ICT for Guidance Teachers on 19 April 2021. The Foundation firmly believes that Career Guidance teachers are pivotal for the development of children and that such teachers need to be up to date with the latest digital career trends to guide and steer children's talents and aspirations. Consequently, the webinar included several leading speakers where they explained the various educational paths available here in Malta for today's students. Career guidance teachers well attended the webinar.

In April 2021, in collaboration and partnership with BluSpecs and the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Secretariat, the Foundation organised a webinar about the Digital skills for a conscious and active use of digital technologies. This event focused on understanding the effects and value of digitalisation and digital platforms on society. The webinar held an insightful panel discussion including Dr Alex Agius Saliba, member of the European Parliament, Dr Alex Grech, executive director at the 3CL Foundation, Grazio Grixti, director on Digital Literacy at the Ministry for Education and Dana Farrugia, CEO of TechMT. Dr Martin Debattista, researcher on Digital Media and Education, moderated the panel. This included the teaching and including digital skills in national curricula at an early age, as well as societal digital skills needed to use the digital platforms responsibly.

The advent of digitalisation has created a crucial need for society, industry and the ICT sector. Consequently, the EU has proposed a path for the next Digital Decade, with targets to be reached by 2030. One of the EU targets is to have 20 million IT professionals working by 2030, which revitalises the current initiatives for professionalising the European IT workforce and calls on all stakeholders to increase their efforts and cooperation. To address current and new challenges, IT Professionalism Europe, eSkills Malta Foundation and the Irish Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition held the IT Professionalism Conference 2021, which took place over three half-day online sessions in April 2021.

Another initiative where the Foundation is involved includes Code.sprint. This is a national coding competition organised by the Ministry for Education. The event is a highly sought-after competition where coding students enthusiasts from secondary, post-secondary and tertiary education put their skills to the test by working their way through a series of tasks to earn a spot at the finals. The Foundation was one of the main sponsors of this competition. The initiative aligns with its mandate to fully support students pursuing Computing and IT at secondary, post-secondary and tertiary undergraduate levels.

Similarly to previous years, eSkills Malta Foundation supported and sponsored many courses throughout the year.  These included Elements of AI course, Amazon Web Services courses and Free Linkedin Microsoft Courses. Furthermore, in July 2021, the Foundation and the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) organised the eBiznify Lite Launch and Graduation ceremony. The minister for Economy and Industry, Silvio Schembri, launched the event. All these courses aid the attainment of a good education system and first-class training that will develop some well-drilled and talented resources on the island.

Similarly to previous years, the eSkills Malta Foundation implemented and supported various sustainable initiatives throughout the year. These included the Toastmasters sessions, participation in MCAST Fresher's Days, meeting with local councils and various webinars, among other events.

The Foundation's efforts during 2021 truly paid off. We still managed to turn 2021 into a successful year. The future bodes well for the eSkills Malta Foundation and Malta in general. This year the Foundation will be embarking on an important project to develop the Digital Skills and Jobs Platform. This is a very important milestone for the Foundation.

The Foundation is positive that its efforts will continue to bear more fruit. 2021 has indeed been a good year!

 

Bernadette Zerafa is a manager at eSkills Malta Foundation

 


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