National Employee Skills Survey: Insight into the Maltese labour market

The National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE), Jobsplus (the Public Employment Service) and Malta Enterprise, conducted this research during the first quarter of 2016 among a representative sample of employers as part of the Erasmus+ project ‘Promoting the Bologna Process in Malta 2014-2016’. It identifies skills shortages and provides insights into the Maltese labour market.

Researchers Angelique Dibben and Mario Cardona report that the main findings indicate that the largest categories of employees consisted of professional workers, followed by clerical support workers and technicians and associate professionals. Around 40% of employers declared that they had recruited staff without work experience in the previous three years, most of whom had completed their studies in further or higher education. Two thirds of respondents employed female workers on a full-time basis whereas 35.8% employed part-time female workers. Around 50% of employers had recruited foreigners in the previous three years.  46% of them held a university qualification and 29.5% held a compulsory level of education.  Employers were overall satisfied with both Maltese and foreign workers.

The commonest sources used for recruitment were by word of mouth (20.9%), by notification through Jobsplus (19.9%), and through social media (15.8%). Vacancies were mostly available for clerical support workers and professionals. Clerical support workers and service/sales workers were recorded as hard-to-fill vacancies. Vacancies for craft and related trade workers, professionals, technicians and service/sales workers took longest to fill.

The main reasons given to explain this shortfall included a lack of applicants with the required skills (56.2%), a lack of applicants with the required attitude or personality (43.7%) and a low number of applicants (37.7%).  Written communication, technical skills, problem-solving and team-working resulted as the commonest skills that prospective applicants lacked for hard-to-fill vacancies.  These were also the skills that employers considered to be the most pertinent.

The highest demand within the next three years will be for clerical support workers and service/sales workers followed by professionals and trade workers. 39.4% of respondents stated that only basic level qualifications (between MQF Level 1 -3) were required for the most vacancies. However, 33.9% of respondents expected their recruits to have at least an MQF level 4 or 5 qualification.

34% of employers stated that more than half of their employees held qualifications up to MQF level 4. In comparison, 13% and 16% of companies stated that more than half of their staff attained MQF level 5 and MQF level 6 respectively.  Respondents reported that 6% of their employees were overqualified whilst 8% were not fully proficient. Overqualified personnel were mostly amongst professionals and clerical support workers whilst not fully proficient workers were technicians and associate professionals or in elementary occupations. Up-skilling appears to be needed mostly in planning and organisation, customer handling, team-working and multitasking.

Around 40% of employers provided on-the-job training whilst around 35% provided off-the-job training. Training was mostly job-specific, while 40.5% of it was not accredited. Three-quarters of employers did not allocate any fund for training.

94.6% of employers stated that there should be more collaboration between education providers and employers while 84.1% of employers are willing to participate in such collaborative practices. However, only a fifth of them participated in such ventures, the reason given being that the structures to facilitate this cooperation still need to be put in place.