Malta has been experiencing significant economic growth along the past years, particularly in comparison to other member states in the EU, with the EU continuing to forecast similar growth levels for the years to come. Such effects of growth are clearly experienced in the labour market. An overly-discussed argument that has become an adage is that in the area of human resources and employment, demand surpasses supply, especially in high-demand industries such as IT. Undeniably, the probability of filling such vacancies is directly linked to Malta's capability to keep up with the.
One of the indicators of whether Malta is future-proof to meet such expectations can be obtained by looking at the number of graduates over the past years, i.e. the pipeline of homegrown talent that will be available to take up tomorrow’s jobs. Statistics published by the University of Malta unfortunately present us with a less optimistic picture than what one would hope for. We clearly have a problem that needs an urgent solution - we are failing to attract students to IT courses. This issue will certainly have repercussions on our economy in the coming years if it remains untackled.
The below table provides perspective on the number of graduates in IT over the past years (statistics for scholastic year 2016 / 2017 are yet unpublished at the time of writing of this article):
Notwithstanding the damning situation that these numbers depict, the inability to attract students to IT courses is magnified when comparing the situation to the number of graduates within other faculties:
Whilst one can explain that other faculties may have a broader selection of courses, reality exposes a weakness in the Maltese system, that in a certain sense is difficult to understand.
The IT industry guarantees employment and this can be validated by the growth experienced in the employee population within the IT industry from 2010 to 2016 - 42%, with the absolute employee population totalling 7727 employees by the end of 2016.
IT companies are often identified to be pioneers in championing forward-looking work cultures with features such as remote work, international career growth prospects, multicultural employee base and the possibility to work using the latest technologies - all features that have been widely linked to top the list of requirements to attract millennials to the workplace, even though such elements are not exclusively attractive to this working population.
An IT career requires skills such as complex problem solving, ability to deal with abstract issues and use of different software languages or systems. Nowadays, employees also need to possess refined communication skills and a disposition towards continuous development. All these expose the IT professional to amounts of stress and pressure that not everyone is keen to have in their career.
Notwithstanding these barriers, there is an urgent need for action at micro and macro level. Policies enacted by public administration to stimulate numbers within educational institutions will not be enough to significantly improve this situation in order to mitigate market demands. This must be done at a grass-root level to create a society that is more inclined and open towards a scientific direction.
In this respect, much can be done within family systems. It is in such nuclei that personality characteristics required to take up IT careers can be nurtured. The walls of one’s home can be the foundation for IT education to flourish.
Taking into account the skills required to be successful in an IT career, fostering an environment where kids are intellectually curious and exposed to different cultures is important and this should be done both within the home and the educational environment. Solving puzzles, playing a musical instrument, assembling small robots or using Raspberry PI are all good steps in this direction and this is where our whole education system requires a complete revamp in order to incorporate such elements in the building blocks of our education system.
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