Education has to be the basis for Malta’s transformation into a maritime centre of excellence. To really harness the growth potential of the maritime sector, the need for a skilled and flexible workforce is evident, particularly with the rapid technological advances affecting the various maritime economic activities. Malta’s main resource is undoubtedly human capital and this has been proven time and again throughout the centuries. This has enabled the Island to be resilient to the drastic changes experienced in the global economic environment. This is particularly true for the maritime sector, where a wide spectrum of skills and expertise are required in a very volatile and dynamic environment. Hence, maritime education is prescribed as a core dimension of our Integrated Maritime Policy to ensure the survival and further development of our maritime sector.
At present there are significant shortcomings in the maritime education sector with considerable employment skills mismatches being identified. The lack of awareness and the sometimes negative perception of the sector are two of the main reasons why there seems to be a deficit of skills in the maritime field. The Government is committed to increasing the visibility of the sector and emulate the very positive results achieved through awareness campaigns, particularly those directed towards the financial services and ICT industries. Career guidance and student exposure to the various opportunities available within the maritime sector will trigger a new wave of enthusiasm within the blue field and attract skilled personnel willing to work in the sector.
The compilation of an employability index for the maritime sector will provide a clear picture of the skills gap present in the market and how this will affect the economy in the future. This tool will enable both the Government and the private sector to identify the most adequate approach to mitigate the gaps present and anticipate any changes in trends. Accurate data of human capital in the maritime sector is imperative to ensure a proper assessment is carried out and in turn, the effective implementation of the policy. The current educational structure does not cater for the specific needs of the maritime sector and even though a Maritime Institute does exist as part of the MCAST complex, there are still recognised deficiencies in the provision of a holistic maritime education. At European level, DG Mare has embarked on a research study to determine the feasibility, added value and available options to set up a network/s or support existing networks in the Mediterranean sea basin to address the skills shortage in the blue economy.
The Government will be exploring close partnerships with internationally recognised educational institutions with the aim of establishing good working relations at an academic level, allowing for facilitated student exchange programs and the sharing of information and knowledge. The establishment of a sound institutional framework and international network of respectable educational organisations will ensure a constant pool of high level expertise, providing an ideal competitive edge for an island like Malta. A reliable and constant flow of human capital would undoubtedly strengthen Malta’s position in the blue economy and develop it into a leading maritime destination.
The Government believes that through the establishment of a Maritime Education Development Council, it will create and promote the necessary educational platforms to encourage individuals to enrol in maritime related courses. The Council will be tasked to encourage links between the education sector and industry in order to promote labour mobility, transferability of skills and the development of educational services, particularly relating to innovative areas arising from future developments in the blue economy. Hence, it will offer diverse learning opportunities ranging from the training of seafarers to the provision of courses related to offshore industry, alternative energy sources, port management, ship management and other back office support services, by cooperating with existing institutions.