Fabian Demicoli

Apprenticeship Schemes – Way forward to bridge education and employment

CEDEFOP (EU agency for Vocational Education and Training – VET) presented initial findings of a study conducted upon the Maltese system for apprenticeships at an MCESD meeting last Monday 2nd March 2015. Education Minister Hon. Evarist Bartolo described the importance of further linking the worlds of education and work together. He highlighted a number of challenges such as the vocational training is still perceived as second-class to academic education in some sectors and that skills gaps are resulting in Maltese workers not having the skills sets to respond to the jobs necessary in our economy. An overhaul of the apprenticeship system was necessary to instil a new sense of quality in the system.

GRTU sees apprenticeships as key to building a stronger labour force equipped with the soft skills necessary for work. This is coupled with practical training and preparing learners with the necessary mind-frame to be more employable and more productive at a faster rate when entering full employment. The study presented by CEDEFOP Director Prof James Calleja and their Research Expert Ramonda David Craescu also showed that the strongest economies in Europe and worldwide, give strong emphasis to VET and apprenticeships. Career guidance, career-management skills, matching and coaching, and other support systems for learners tied with incentives, including financial, to employers, were described as key during CEDEFOP’s presentation.

GRTU commented that the benefits are clear for both education and employment – the student and the entrepreneur, both in macro- and micro- terms. Nevertheless it is clear that this is not being transcended in practice as only small percentages of students are engaged in such work-based learning and only small percentages of businessmen are involved in these opportunities. There is cross-sectoral agreement on the usefulness of apprenticeships but is there cross-sectoral cooperation, the GRTU asked at the meeting.

The benefits have to be communicated and translated in terms which the entrepreneur will see them as beneficial to him. A structured method is necessary but it has to be flexible enough to respond to the needs and realities of small businesses and even moreso, micro-enterprises. In this attempt to renew the quality and trust in the apprenticeship system, GRTU urged that social partners have to be placed as part of the system to gain the necessary trust and quality envisaged.  All learning needs to be given value through a credit system which explains what learning and training goals have been achieved and this needs to be tied to the pending occupational standards being developed. GRTU also commended internships at higher levels in the form of extended apprenticeships at the higher levels of education. GRTU concluded that lecturers, tutors and trainers need to be in touch with the world of work. Systems that link trainers with the labour market have to be put in place in order to ensure that the trainers keep in touch with the ever-evolving methods, technologies and realities at the workplace which will then be transcended onto their trainees.

CEDEFOP concluded the presentation by announcing that a conference on the subject is envisaged to be held in the coming weeks where the full study will be presented. Apprenticeships can give the much-needed value added to our education system. However it must be sustained by a system of trust.

 

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