EU Exchange for a Better Tomorrow
Malta, April 2017
AONTAS is the National Coordinator for the European Agenda for Adult Learning in Ireland. As part of the Learning Today for a Better Tomorrow project (2015-2017), AONTAS, in collaboration with Skills for Work, undertook ‘EU Exchange for a Better Tomorrow’, a professional exchange.
The delegation of eight comprised of the European Projects Officer at AONTAS, three Skills for Work staff, including their National Coordinator and four Skills for Work learners, coming from diverse backgrounds including: host families for student exchanges (Mná an Tí), a logistics warehouse operator and an employee at a semi-state railway company.
The delegation met in February 2017 to undertake a Media and Public Relations training. The purpose of the training was to familiarise all participants with media interviews (radio, television), as well as to learn how to take high quality videos and photos. The participants also learnt how to blog.
During the training, the group undertook a needs-based assessment to decipher the new skills the group would like to acquire whilst in Malta. Based on the findings of the assessment as well as group discussions, it was decided that an interpersonal skills training would be most beneficial.
During three days (24-27 April), the delegation was hosted by the Malta Ministry of Education and Employment who organised a stimulating and busy programme of activities.
The activities and the reflections of the participants were documented by way of daily blogs.
Teresa Mhic Fhionnghaile and Marian Mhic Pháidín, Skills for Work Participants, Mná an Tí, Donegal
We visited the Institute of Tourism Studies and met with the Director of Corporate Affairs who introduced the work of the Institute to us. Like Ireland, there’s a huge tourism industry in Malta and the college has all the training necessary for the students who will be employed for the tourism industry.
We had a special interest in this visit because of our role as a Mná an Tí, in particular as we had undertaken a course on special dietary needs with Skills for Work Donegal ETB.
We gowned up for hygiene purposes and then took a tour of where the food preparation takes place. In the kitchen, we met with the chef, who explained how the learners are trained. He had even visited Ireland and he told us about how much he appreciated Irish cuisine.
Food which is prepared by the learners is then served in two restaurants within the Institute. The restaurants are so popular, we were unable to get a booking!
We found the visit very interesting and inspiring, in particular, speaking with the chef about food preparation and serving.
Marian Lynch, National Coordinator, Skills for Work
The first day of the EU exchange for a Better Tomorrow in Malta was very interesting.
Our visit to the Institute of Tourism Studies in St Julians was hosted by the Director of Corporate Services who was very informative and explained the vast range of courses available to participants.
Approximately 2000 participants engage in study – with four fifths being international students. Many of these international students originate from Albania and other North African countries.
Some courses take up to 2 years which include 1-year training in work placements. There is a growing demand now for staff working in the tourism industry to have formal qualifications.
We undertook a tour of the facilities and our guide Luke Borg, Business Development Officer, explained the high standards of learning and health and safety throughout the Institute.
During the visit, AONTAS and Skills for work were given an opportunity to explain how the Irish education system works, discussing strategies and recruitment processes, including the increasing demand for recognised qualifications for work.
It was a fantastic opportunity for Skills for Work to promote its involvement in workplace education. Skills for Work educational programmes aim to enhance the adult learners’ lives, work, and community development.
Skills for Work participants also shared how they first became involved in the programmes. Participants explained how they had benefitted personally, and professionally, from the Skills for Work programmes.
Nuala Nejati, Skills for Work Regional Coordinator, William Kellett, Geodis, and Adrian Moore, Irish Rail
We enjoyed the afternoon Interpersonal Skills training. We found the lecture very interesting on many different fronts. We covered self-awareness, self-control and many other different aspects in relation to leadership and empowerment. We felt that the training was very challenging in terms of the content. There was a lot of psychology which was quite advanced at a leaders’ level.
We all undertook a personality test. It was excellent and a true reflection of ourselves. It was extremely good fun and very revealing. It’s good to know that we can all change and how to improve our skills.
We really loved being back in the classroom and having debates. The lecturer, Mr. Jesmond Friggieri, was very interesting and he discussed every subject openly and thoroughly. He gave sufficient time for discussion and debate and at no time did we ever feel rushed. He took all our points on board, even if he was challenging them. We were equal.
Saorlaith Ni Bhroin, European Projects Officer, AONTAS
Our final stop of the day was with the Ambassador of Ireland, Padraig Mac Coscair. The delegation was thrilled to be hosted by the Ambassador at the Irish Embassy. The Ambassador warmly welcomed the delegation and conveyed his appreciation and interest in the work of AONTAS, Skills for Work and the learners. The Ambassador himself is a lifelong learner and discussed the benefits he has experienced of lifelong learning.
The Ambassador explained the role of the Embassy in Malta, and its current priorities under the Malta EU Presidency. He receives Ministers on a regular basis and is responsible for sharing pertinent information regarding national affairs in Malta, as well as conveying EU developments when appropriate.
The delegation introduced their work to the Ambassador and the learners spoke of their experiences as participants in the Skills for Work programmes. We were delighted that the Ambassador was able to take time from his busy schedule to meet with us.
Nuala Nejati, Skills for Work Regional Coordinator, William Kellett, Geodis, and Adrian Moore, Irish Rail
Our first visit on our second day of the exchange was to the Malta College of Arts Science and Technology (MCAST). Its mission is to provide vocational and professional education and training with an international dimension responsive to the needs of the individual and the economy.
A presentation was delivered on the various training offered as well as the levels delivered at MCAST. Established in 2001, MCAST has 6700 full-time students and adult learners across three colleges: Foundation, Technology and University. The College has extensive networks, including government and industrial partners working in collaboration. The migration crisis has also led to an increase in migrant learners in the college.
Dr. Nadia Maria Vassallo is the Director of Curriculum. Nadia’s presentation was extremely motivational. She is a very innovative and this comes out in her tutoring. She spoke of thinking outside the box, and using social media to aid learning in modern Malta.
The college also has a Learning Support Unit, which consists of small group tuition in key skills such as: English, Maltese, Maths, IT, Science and Individual and Social Responsibility. Oftentimes, learners haven’t decided what exactly they want to pursue, hence this allows for greater reflection and flexibility.
We were brought on a tour of the facilities and workshops following Nadia’s presentation.
The next day, we visited the Toyota Showroom and Garage who employ many of the graduates from MCAST. Those on apprenticeships, spend 2-3 days per week in the classroom and the remaining time in the workplace.
It was very helpful to link both visits as it brought together the understanding of how the systems operate in Malta in relation to workplace learning.
Malta does not have a developed Skills for Work-like programme which targets lower levels of literacy, numeracy and IT. Workplace learners, however, are well-integrated into Adult Education Centres.
Teresa Mhic Fhionnghaile and Marian Mhic Pháidín, Skills for Work Participants
We were really interested in joining a class on HR Management with Maltese learners. There were a total of 8 Maltese learners, so we introduced ourselves to them. We are both self-employed, so it was very helpful to talk through setting targets and keeping them SMART (specific measurable achievable, relevant and time-bound).
Our tutor Theresa was absolutely fantastic. Her energy and enthusiasm was infectious and she held our attention for three hours. Her humour and interest in our lives in Ireland made us feel part of the class and included in the exercises. We really enjoyed the group work and speaking to the Maltese learners about their own interpersonal skills development.
As Bean an Tí, we are committed to high standards for our visitors and we provide support and mentoring to one another informally. We shared our own experiences with the class who was very interested in our culture and work.
"The trip was an amazing experience and a brilliant learning curve for all in the group. Everyone is taking learning back to Ireland."
“I have gained confidence speaking in public. I particularly enjoyed the Human Resources presentation which is very relevant to all workplaces. I can take some pointers home to use in my own workplace."
“This experience was professionally, socially and culturally enriching. The discussions during the site visits and those in between the group were thought-provoking and will certainly shape my work going forward.”
“Our group used Whatsapp and Social Media to share information and photos on the trip. I have learnt to use these during the trip, so I have improved my IT skills.”
“I have definitely developed my leadership and self-management skills. I have integrated with new people and I have learned about their experiences.”
“I have developed my communications skills through the HR training. I will have a different approach to promoting Skills for Work going forward with companies. I have also learned about my personality type, through the personality test and I’ll be more aware of this in the future. Finally, I learned that I love being in the classroom as a student and I will look at returning to the classroom to undertake a course in management as a result of this exchange.”