Although in Malta we have been experiencing economic growth for a number of years and the economic outlook is favourable, this alone does not guarantee growth and prosperity. Skill shortages which are felt by employers today could limit growth in the years to come.
The education authorities developed Vocational Education Training (VET) programmes as part of compulsory education with the aim to equip students with the knowledge, know-how, skills and competences required in particular career paths or more broadly on the labour market. This training is given in all Senior Schools managed by the State for students between the ages of 13 and 16 (Years 9-11). It is up to the students to choose whether to receive training in these subjects, together with academic ones, or focus only on the traditional academic subjects.
The Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools (FTS) is a Government entity responsible for the design and construction of new State schools in Malta and Gozo. It also often entrusted with the extensive refurbishment of existing schools, converting them into modern, comfortable, accessible and welcoming education spaces. The Foundation is involved in the projects from concept stage up to their actual commissioning.
Over the past months the FTS was transforming old spaces in all Senior Schools into state-of-the-art modern VET labs which are a hybrid between the traditional classroom and a real-life workplace, providing the perfect opportu- nity for students to practice hands-on their newly acquired skills in environments which resemble those of real workplaces. The VET subjects that are being taught in State schools are engineering technology, information technology, hospitality, hairdressing and beauty care, health and social care, media literacy, woodworking, fashion and textiles, agribusiness, and retail. These labs were designed by FTS following extensive discussions with educational authorities and the senior leader- ship teams of each school. The creation of these labs for vocational education training is being done with an investment of €10 million.
At the Żejtun Secondary School, where space was limited, the FTS is building an additional floor over the whole school building to makespace for these labs as well as for the traditional classrooms. The school which was originally built
in the 1960s is being totally refurbished and modernised, making it more comfortable and welcoming. Old labs for science subjects, including biology and chemistry, are also being replaced with new labs equipped with the latest equipment. Lifts are being installed to ensure that the school is accessible to all students, classrooms will be equipped with lockers, and the school will have air-conditioning installed throughout. Sports and recreational facilities will also be revamped. The project is being done in phases so as not to disrupt students from their learning and will be completed next year. This project is being done with an investment of €5 million.
The end result of this investment in Senior Schools and the creation of VET labs should be fully engaged students and a better trained workforce.
The Government Policy on the Introduction of VET Programmes in Senior Schools – Hon Owen Bonnici – Minister for Education and Employment
A particular situation faced by local employers in certain sectors of the labour market is skill shortages. The decision to introduce students to Vocational Education Training (VET) during compulsory education and secondary school level is already practised in countries abroad. The teaching of these subjects does not take place in isolation but is located within the context of the wider curriculum. As from Year 9 (formerly known as Form 3), students are taught subjects of an academic nature while also having the opportunity to concurrently train in vocational subjects.
Vocational education is hands-on and practical and thus it helps our students to be better equipped for the labour market. It also benefits employers and the industry who in the near future will have better trained young people to join their organisations.
Teaching of vocational education is further enhanced by an ambitious Government investment, through the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools, in the creation of state- of-the-art labs in all Colleges. This investment is in line with Government policy to continue with the new school building programme where necessary and with the refurbishment of existing schools with the aim of having welcoming and accessible schools for all.