Chamber makes bid for greater role for employers in shaping education policy

‘Educators must provide students with skills required in the immediate, and ability to learn what may be required in future’

Chamber of Commerce president Marisa Xuereb
Chamber of Commerce president Marisa Xuereb

Educators and employers heard the Chamber of Commerce call for more coordinated action and partnerships on training and education, in a demand for long-term planning on learning and development.

Speaking during the Chamber’s ‘Jumpstart Learning’ education conference, president Marisa Xuereb emphasised the need for businesses to remain competitive with upskilling and reskilling of their workforce. “Employers need to be actively engaged in shaping the vision for education, not just as the future employers of today’s students. They must also act as life-long education providers of today’s workers and future workers who are still in formal schooling.”

Xuereb told her audience that even without a crystal ball, employers were in a better place than educators to anticipate the future needs of their industry.

“It is important for educators to acknowledge that what is required from their end is to provide students with the skills that are required in the immediate, plus the ability to learn over time what may be required in future,” she said.

The Chamber has embarked on collaborations with both MCAST and the University of Malta, trying to bridge different ambitions and expectations between academic institutions, who excel in providing qualifications, and employers who desperately seek to develop competences.

“What students really need is the ability to read, or hear and understand the knowledge they can access, the crucial ability to reason what makes sense and what is to be ignored, and the ability to synthesise that knowledge in a way that they can retain it, apply it and transfer it to others. Educators need to acknowledge that learning must be predominantly skills-based rather than knowledge-based, because it’s no longer about being able to memorise a lot of information.”

The conference highlighted the importance of soft skills as well as the acknowledgement of neurodiversity, and the need of different learning channels that ensure learning is accessible to all.

Professor Colin Calleja, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Malta, echoed this position, saying the educational system needs to have a better understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. “Although the country invests a lot in education, our students still score low when they are compared to their European counterparts... we can’t keep wasting time because each minister wants to leave their personal mark,” Prof. Calleja said.

Keynote speaker Märt Aro, co-founder of DreamApply and the Nordic EdTech Forum – N8, stressed that all European countries need to prepare for automation and Web 3.0. “Both interphases are being ignored by schools and instead the focus is on teaching things that are quickly becoming irrelevant.”

Aro said children are not being taught to question what they are learning, but then they are expected to reach the workplace with cognitive skills and decision-making power. He encouraged educators to adopt adaptive digital learning environments and to overcome the barriers the existing education system has built over time.

Fabienne Ruggier, chairperson of the Chamber’s HR and Talent Committee, touched upon the problem of restricted data in education, presenting a pilot experiment on labour market intelligence carried over three months: the study showed that 80% of advertised skills were technical, followed by marketing and compliance, with soft skills being still underrepresented or very vaguely presented.

Other speakers included education consultant Dr Erika Galea on the potential of educational neuroscience, and Emile Vassallo, director-general of the Department for Educational Services, as well as Chamber director-general Marthese Portelli.