The importance of being employable

Meaningful employment can only be obtained by applying the skills relative to the particular job.

We can only achieve these skills through the right education and this is why employment, adopting the necessary skills and learning to use these skills to generate wealth are all different links in the same chain.

Over the years in a growing area of this planet there have been blanket calls for an increase in those furthering their tertiary education. But unfortunately this has not been a guarantee for a flourishing economy as there was a painful gap between the world of education and the world of employment. The number of graduates grew, but so did the number of vacancies and the number of unemployed.

EU states realise that this situation could lead to long term damage to business development. Companies in Europe are finding it hard to employ staff simply because they find it difficult to identify people with the required skills in the current labour market. Apart from the fact that this could encourage companies to seek to do business in areas where labour supply meets their respective demands, it also has a 'chilling' effect on the hiring of young people.

A recent survey across a number of European countries, shows that more than a quarter of employers have left a vacancy open for over a year, simply because they could not find the right people with the right skills for the post. In the UK alone, over 60,000 vacancies in engineering will go unfilled this year. Here in Malta, statistical data for 2011 shows a staggering 10,395 job vacancies that remained unfilled, with around a quarter of these vacancies for occupations in senior posts including Senior Managers, Professionals, Assistant professionals and Technicians. A substantial change in the last years has been international labour mobility. Out of the jobs created, around half of the vacancies have been filled by foreigners, but this is also necessary because it keeps companies in business. However, we must train our youngsters to achieve the necessary skills for these jobs and the government has and will continue to invest heavily in training.

In a recent survey carried out by McKinsey in the EU, most schools and colleges as well as Institutes offering Higher Education believe that students are adequately prepared for work. Nearly seventy five percent (75%) believe that their graduates have the required qualifications for entering the job market but this figure contrasts sharply with the perception of employers, of which only about a third (33%) agree that the students have the necessary skills that their jobs entail. This shows that it is most important that an ongoing and interactive dialogue between employers and education providers is introduced. The best way to achieve this rapport is through the re-introduction of more apprenticeships and traineeships.

Some larger companies can and do invest in training prospective employees. In Malta, apart from size limitations, we also seem to have a reliance on small business for job creation. With smaller companies, training budgets are normally very restricted and in most cases the cost of training prospective employees in the relevant skills cannot be met. The McKinsey report recommends a number of solutions. Sarah Gordon, the F.T.'s European Business editor suggests that  " employers should work more closely with the education providers to design curricula that fit their particular business needs."

Creating jobs, and we have created over 5,300 new jobs in the last ten months, is only half the task in hand. More importantly is filling these vacancies with our youngsters. We have launched a number of initiatives and we will continue to work hard to provide the necessary training and skill building necessary that will enable our youths to have the required qualifications for filling these vacancies. Education is the key and we shall introduce the necessary changes to help prepare our youngsters for the world of tomorrow.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister for Education