‘Work is not just a four letter word’

This past year we have given special attention to fifth form students who had quit traditional schooling.

Hilary Clinton once said that "We have a lot of kids who don't know what work means. They think work is a four-letter word."  It is important for kids to learn the value of work and to understand that the rewards of hard work are not easy to come by.

During a recent visit to the Microsoft Innovation Centre at Skyparks, I was proud to see a number of youngsters working hard at robotics and other technological projects. These were youngsters who could easily have been left by the wayside, were it not for the Alternative Learning programmes that we have introduced. We cannot stop there. We need to improve these programmes, diversify and enrol the help of the many stakeholders that would eventually reap the benefits of introducing our youngsters to vocational training.

We have often said that there are far too many students giving up on education, primarily because they were not being taught what they were skilled at, because we did not take into consideration their special skills and because they felt left out. This past year, we have given special attention to fifth form students who had quit traditional schooling, students who would not be sitting for any SEC exam at the end of this scholastic year. In a serious attempt to tackle this problem, we have generated an interest in their particular skills and we have managed to bring these students back to education.

There are many areas in which we can provide alternative education. With MCAST, a number of students were hosted at the Institute of Building and Construction, Naxxar, where they would do a level 1 course based on building trades and literacy & numeracy.  Another group would attend the Institute of Mechanical Engineering in Kordin to do a welding and bench fitting course, and yet another group would be hosted by the Institute of Community Services to follow a hairdressing course. The level 1 programme would enable students to pass on to a level 2 course at MCAST in the following academic year.

We have encouraged participation in the Youth.inc programme, run by the Foundtion for Educational Services, which consists of literacy, numeracy and IT skills, personal and social skills, and VET and job exposure. The ETC has offered a number of VET courses in various trades and the AFM offered a weeklong boot camp to three groups of 25 students each.

Agenzija Zaghazagh youth workers, along with the cooperation of Youth workers from the Department for Student Services, led personal and social development sessions at Villa Psaigon that address students' needs.

In Gozo, a programme was drafted by the Victoria Boys Secondary School with the help of MCAST (Xewkija Centre) and the Ghajnsielem School of Art to provide basic literacy, numeracy and IT.

We have also had the help of Microsoft at their Innovation Centre at Skyparks. The staff at this private enterprise has been most helpful in running an eight-session course in computing and social media.

Last month, around 200 students were actively participating in these programmes at the different venues. This month the supplementary activities kicked off and the success and enthusiasm were there for all to see. Students are taking this new experience seriously and this will help up continue with these programmes and introduce more traineeships and apprenticeships in the field of high-end manufacturing, engineering and in the digital sector to give our youths the right opportunities to further their education, to receive the required training for their specialised skills or to give them the opportunity of meaningful employment.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister for Education

Varist, the man from the past leading the troops to a better future, especially in Education and training.