‘Switching on’ vocational education in our schools

Students, whether assisted or otherwise, have to make a very bold decision when reaching school leaving age, especially those who decide to move from a study environment to a work environment.

To many, this transition is a culture shock and that is why we have initiated the Core Curricular Programme being run by Gozo College in conjunction with MCAST.

This pilot project, being organised jointly by the MCAST Centre in Gozo and the Boys' Secondary School of the Gozo College, will provide vocational training to a number of Form 3 students as part of the Core Curriculum project. Eleven students took part. Through this initiative, announced over the summer months, those Basic skills learners in Form 3 continuing until the end of their secondary cycle will be awarded an MQC Level 1 certificate.

Students participating in this programme will continue following the national curriculum in traditional basic subjects such as English, Italian, Mathematics and Sciences, but they will also be given vocational training at MCAST. Initially these students will be given training in Basic Engineering Skills with a number of modules which include basic carpentry, sheet-metal work and fabrication and bench-fitting, as well as on electrical installations.

During a meeting with the parents of those students participating in this programme, I received very positive feedback. It is good to note that parents have a very positive attitude towards such training programmes. This core curriculum project will also help our youths enjoy their school years and it will encourage students to complete their education. They themselves regard this initiative as an experience that will be very useful in their transition from their schooling to their working life. Furthermore, those students who do not perform well academically will be able to have their school leaving certificate supplemented with a Level 1 certificate in basic engineering, issued by MCAST. This programme will meet the needs of learners according to their stage of development.

Eventually, we will widen the scope of this Core Curriculum project. We will introduce further topics in vocational training such as those geared for future workers in the construction industry; mechanics and automobile engineering; agriculture as well as topics related to the tourism industry.

Gainfully occupied and unemployed

This week the National Statistics Office issued figures which show an increase in full time jobs over the comparative month last year. This does not mean that we have solved our employment problems but there are certain indicators that prove that our plans and policies are on the right track.

A very positive factor is the increase in the number of jobs throughout almost all industries in the private and public sector, especially in Administrative and Support services. There was also a marked increase in the number of registered part-time employees. Statistics show that there is a great need for diversity in the labour market. The drive to increase Vocational Educational Training will address the problems connected to specific sectors.

At the same time, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, published its seasonally adjusted unemployment rate. The percentage range of all EU states varies from 4.8% to 27.3% and Malta has the fourth lowest rate at 6.4%.

Even though our figures are among the best in the EU, they show that we have to make serious efforts to help reduce it further. The programs and initiatives that we have launched will make a difference in the near future, hopefully as early as next year. We are working hard to increase employment by preparing our youth's employability skills and we will continue expanding the initiatives that will attract new businesses that create more jobs.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister for Education