Last year the eSkills Malta Foundation held a range of activities and embarked on various new initiatives to promote the digital skills needed to meet the constant competitive challenges faced by the various sectors of Malta’s economy.

One such initiative was the launch of the Digital Opportunity Traineeships. This is an EU-funded training initiative that seeks to help companies fill vacancies for personnel requiring digital skills with prospective competent candidates, while at the same time enabling students to gain practical experience in the workplace.

The scheme was launched by the foundation on April 17, in association with European Union Programmes Agency (EUPA) and hosted by All Digital. The scheme uses the Erasmus framework to achieve its aims.

One of the foundation’s major initiatives in 2018 was the launch of the ‘Guidelines to Increase and Retain Women in ICT’. The guidelines seek to help in address the issue of the low percentage of women in the ICT sector.

The guidelines were launch­ed on April 11 at the MITA Data Centre in the presence of Equality Minister Helena Dalli and Silvio Schembri, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation.

Last year the Foundation continued working on raising awareness and knowledge on ICT careers among career guidance and counselling teachers. In recognition of the importance of reaching out to career guidance and counselling teachers, who are key influencers in students’ study choices and career aspirations, the Foundation has pledged to train 60 such teachers every year.

In order to do so the Foundation works closely with the National School Support Services at the Education Ministry’s Department for Educational Services.

One of the foundation’s aims is that of developing the IT profession. This objective includes promoting the eCompetence Framework to serve as a common language on the skills and competences required by the industry for the most common roles. Through this framework, practitioners and organisations can assess whether they have the competences required in their ICT positions.

The European eCompetence Framework is important for the the development of the local ICT industry and community of ICT practitioners. The framework also strengthens HR processes in the continuous professional development of ICT practitioners.

Last March the Foundation organised, facilitated and funded a two-day eCompetency (eCF) training course. This was done in collaboration with the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS).

The Foundation had been working with CEPIS to pilot this course in Malta as the first country to receive such practical training by CEPIS. Participants in the course came from the public and private sector, as well as the education sector.

Another of the foundation’s activities is increasing awareness among students about ICT career opportunities and competences. In collaboration with the Student Services Department the foundation conducted school visits and met over 200 Year 9 students who had already chosen computing as an optional subject.

The aim of these visits is to help students understand better the use of ICT, the various roles and the respective knowledge and skills requirements. The visits also serve to encourage the students to pursue ICT studies at post-secondary and tertiary levels. The foundation also took part in various career fairs and cxpos held during 2018.

EU Code Week 2018, which took place in 72 countries including Malta, set new records and was the most successful to date. Over 41,000 EU Code Week activities were organised this year, involving hundreds of thousands of participants. Of these activities, more than 36,000, or 88 per cent, were carried out in schools. Over 10 per cent of schools in the EU and western Balkans participated in EU Code Week this year, as targeted by the European Commission for 2018.

Malta is one of the few countries that reached and superseded this target. A total of 192 State, Church and independent schools, or 82 per cent of all schools in Malta, involving about 6,000 teachers and 28,300 students, participated in over 190 coding events in this year’s Code Week. This was an outstanding statistic that placed Malta at the top of the map in terms of the highest number of events per capita.

The foundation also organised an event on cyber security in collaboration with MITA, PwC, the University of Malta and SECFORCE. The two half-day event, hosted at MITA Data Centre, Santa Venera, was attended by about 100 people from the private and public sectors.

These were a few of the initiatives carried out last year. The Foundation looks ahead to 2019 to face even greater challenges with hard work, determination and enthusiasm.

Bernadette Zerafa is manager at the eSkills Malta Foundation.

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