€12 million 'access to employment' scheme launched

Youth guarantee programme tweaked to include measures targeting social and psychological needs of youths: ‘There is a lot of healing to be done’

A €12 million EU-funded scheme was launched by Employment Minister Evarist Bartolo and parliamentary secretary for EU funds Ian Borg, targeting people who have been registering for work for six months and more.

The ‘access to employment’ scheme is forecasted to help 1,700 people over five years.

“Employers will benefit from different measures and grants according to the people employed. The target groups are disadvantaged persons, severely disadvantaged person and persons with disability aged over 24. In total we have eight different groups, one of which to help individuals aged 50+,” Borg said.

ETC chairman Clyde Caruana explained that the government will be susbidising the employees’ salaries. Kicking off in November, the ETC will pay €85 of the worker’s weekly salary with payments to be made within weeks of the engagement.

Other schemes include Investing in Skills, Training Pays and the Youth Guarantee Programme.  The ETC will continue offering work exposure and traineeships and keep going with work programme for the long-term unemployed. A programme similar to the Youth Guarantee, the European Union is currently discussing measures to help older people find job. Malta is working with the private sector in skills-match exercises.

“We today have the third lowest unemployment rate in the EU,” Bartolo said, noting how the number of registered unemployed has gone down to 4,900.

Those aged below 24 seeking work has gone down to 580.

He spoke of the different educational programmes targeting training and helping students become skilled workers.

One of the measures undertaken by the Education Department was the opening of the Guze Ellur Mercer school for 16-year-olds (GEM 16+). Receiving a stipend, the students study English, Mathematics and a science subject along with PSD and sports for a year in order to sit for O-level exams.

“The initial feedback is promising and we have now 80 students attending the school. The ratio of teachers to students means that the latter are receiving more individual attention,” he said. Having initially criticized it, the MUT has now understood the operations of the school, Bartolo added.

Bartolo and Caruana also explained how the Youth Guarantee Programme has been tweaked to address the social and psychological needs of youths.

“We took off thinking that this programme would be about students who failed the education system because they didn’t have that extra push. We were however wrong because we found big social and psychological problems,” Caruana said.

He recounted how they had parents pleading them to force their children to get off the sofa, explain to them that one had to shower before going to work or that one couldn’t simply quit – or hit them – when reprimanded by the employer.

“We now understand the challenges better and we have provided the means and the professionals to address these problems.”

“There is a lot of healing to be done,” Bartolo added. “These are youths with low self-esteem, who gave up on themselves and think that they’re good for nothing.”