Work-based learning is at the heart of vocational and professional education and training. Indeed, the mission statement of the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (Mcast) places a specific emphasis on the need to provide universally accessible education and training that is responsive to the needs of the individual and of the economy.

Over the past three years significant milestones in the reform have been achieved of apprenticeship and work-based learning in Malta. Following an extensive analysis carried out by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) in 2014, Mcast has effectively steered an important reform that has resulted into a significant increase of apprenticeships in Malta.

In particular, Mcast’s Work-Based Learning (WBL) Department has been restructured in order to effectively engage with local industry and simultaneously provide the necessary support to learners to carry out WBL while they are developing their competences throughout the learning process.

The facilitation between the world of education and the world of employment requires effective and efficient structures to be in place. Based on the principles of lean management, Mcast has managed to engaged 1,500 industry partners across all fields of economic activity in Malta. The formulation of these partnerships with industry have provided the opportunity for 3,400 students at Mcast to work and learn in 2018 alone.

The main aim of the ESF project is to take WBL to the next level through a series of strategic action measures

Indeed, learning by doing is the main philosophical praxis of professional and vocation education. This is, in fact, the main distinctive characteristic of vocational education and training (VET) institutions. At the same time, the importance of a properly regulating framework for work-based learning is essential. Through the recently enacted Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning Act, VET providers are required to develop further their internal capacity to ensure quality learning at the workplace.

Mcast has, in fact, recently launched an innovative project entitled ‘Achieving Vocational Excellence through Enhanced Work-Based Learning’ by securing €7 million from the European Social Fund. The main aim of this ESF project is to take WBL to the next level through a series of strategic action measures. For instance, as one of the project deliverables, 400 trainers will be trained to facilitate the learning process at the place of work. This will be conducted by primarily building up the human capital of key experts, who in return will develop and implement a ‘train the trainer’ accredited programme.

Additionally, through a strategic partnership with the National Skills Council, industry stakeholders will also be equipped with the necessary knowledge and information. This action will be conducted through the organisation of 15 thematic workshops that cover economic fields in Malta and Gozo.

In order to ensure that quality learning takes place, a competency framework that covers over 250 occupations in Malta will be developed. At the same time, an analysis tool will be developed in order to also forecast skill needs that the Maltese labour market requires through statistical techniques and equation modelling.

Finally, Mcast will also develop emulative centres that will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and equipment. This will not only enable Mcast students to be better equipped with the necessary and essential competencies, but will also greatly improve the time to effectiveness required for the world of work.

Martin Borg is director for Work-Based Learning at Mcast and director of the project ‘Achieving Vocational Excellence through Enhanced Work-Based Learning’.

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