The key to a prosperous future

If we enhance an individual’s ability by providing windows of opportunities along the way, we are maximising a person’s potential

Automation has become the darkest word in the vocabulary in the media. The narrative being built is that there will be a future where machines will do all the work and unemployment piles up at the side.

The sense of fear is not because of a reality that is yet to come, but because of the unknown. It is a challenge for modern and less-modern economies and the end result will depend on how we deal with it. With sensible policy-making, this future can be turned into an advantage. Doing nothing and waiting, in dread, for the future will turn this issue into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One of the main challenges to overcome this future is up-skilling. We must work towards helping, and in some cases convincing, people improve their skill-sets. I do not subscribe to the notion that all jobs will perish, but it is certain that a more technical skill-set will be required in the future.

Over the past years we have invested millions of euros in public funds to help people improve their skill-sets through scholarships. We have added levels in the MQF (Malta Qualifications Framework) that can access these scholarships, including at post-doc level. Earlier this month, together with my colleague Parliamentary Secretary Aaron Farrugia, we have launched the fourth call for the Endeavour Scholarship Scheme with 1.5 million euros co-financed by EU funds.

On top of this, this week Minister Edward Scicluna and I have launched tax incentives for those pursuing a Masters or PhD programme (or an equivalent at MQF Level 7 and 8). This was another electoral pledge that we have kept within the first year.

We are working on more programmes that reach a wider spectrum of people, at different levels. It is important that the up-skilling process is not limited to just people getting degrees, but a varied array of educational programmes that are also closely linked with industry.

These kind of policies will help combat the gap of what is missing as more technology wraps our daily lives, and our jobs. The best recipe to overcome these challenges is to become lifelong learners in its true meaning, and constantly develop and refine the value that one can bring into employment.

Nobody knows what lies ahead in our future. Students in primary schools today will be finding work in industries which don’t exist today. Such is the reality of life. We should not allow the fear of the unknown scare us into paralysis but continue working to build policies that can sustain an effort to up-skill people. If we enhance an individual’s ability by providing windows of opportunities along the way, we are maximising a person’s potential.

We will continue to invest in more scholarships and other incentives to promote further learning. An individual’s worth is linked to his value of work. That value is very important and a functioning economy for all must make sure to increase the value of the individual’s work, not decrease it. When that value was decreased in modern democracies, we have seen the societal repercussions of this. That value is what brings prosperity and strengthens the economy through more equity and well-being.