Making The Skills Connection
This is an initiative by the Directorate for Research, Lifelong Learning and Innovation through the EU Agenda for Adult Learning in Europe project. In this blog post, Ireland’s Margaret Timoney travels to Malta to showcase how her country’s Skills for Work programme has benefited both employers and employees keen to engage in lifelong learning.
Work-place learning has found itself at the forefront of several national agendas. In Ireland, for instance, the Skills for Work programme is helping employees to gain skills and make headway in their careers, which is also proving of benefit to their employers.
Now, as a result of the success of Skills for Work, other countries are following suit. One such country is Malta, which recently invited Margaret Timoney – from Skills for Work – to the island to meet with a number of employers and unions, and to gauge whether a similar programme could work here too.
So, how does it work?
Margaret explains that Skills for Work delivers training courses to full- and part-time employees. It is particularly targeted at low-skilled workers who, without the opportunity to participate in the programme, may lack the confidence to embrace change in the workplace.
“Skills for Work is funded by the Irish Government under the Department of Education and Skills, and is part of the National Skills Strategy that recognises that the nature of the workplace is constantly changing,” Margaret says. “In today’s world, work is becoming less routine with a requirement for the workforce to be flexible, continuously learning and capable of personal growth.”
As a result, the programme has been carefully tailored to the needs of those in the workforce, as well as their employers. The courses generally runs for 35 hours, with options of daytime, evening or weekend programmes – all of which are delivered by qualified tutors in groups of between six-to-eight students.
Margaret explains that the programme significantly benefits both employers and employees, especially as the Irish model gives employers the opportunity to provide quality training to their team without tuition costs.
“To begin with, the programme helps to ensure a skilled and qualified workforce,” Margaret explains, “which is important because trained staff are more productive. In addition, higher productivity results in bigger profits, and improved core skills mean a reduction in wastage, which also saves money.”
And the benefits don’t stop there. Beyond the ones already mentioned, the programme can help to ensure better team performance, increased quality and output, the increased ability to handle on-the-job training, and a better health and safety record.
“Meanwhile, employees can also look forward to a substantial range of benefits, including a boost in self-confidence, motivation and knowledge,” Margaret explains. “These new skills and knowledge bring immediate benefits for the workplace, while also having positive repercussions for an individual’s personal/ family life, the wider community and indeed society as a whole.”
Plus, employees who have been through the programme also have higher performance outcomes and enhanced promotional prospects, as well as the opportunity to embark and continue on a lifelong learning process.
Could this translate to Malta?
Following her time in Malta, Margaret came to believe that the Skills for Work format could translate well to the island. “I have found the employers and unions here to be very enthusiastic,” she reported, “and I think there is an appetite for and scope to develop a programme similar to the one we have in Ireland. In fact, I will be returning to Malta in September to deliver a short workshop for employers. It will be an opportunity for employers to identify the basic skill training needs of their employees, voice concerns about the topic and find solutions, which I hope will encourage them to consider work-based learning in the future,” she says.
Finally, Margaret offers advice to other adult educators keen to reach out to the corporate world and encourage adult learning on a business level. “Think European and act locally,” she says. “Each EU country has its own unique challenges – this is a shared experience and we can learn from each other. It’s important to voice just how valuable a resource the labour force is, and the positive consequence of investing in it,” she adds.