WF: How would you characterize the role of Jobsplus in successfully implementing the Government’s strategy for building a more inclusive workforce throughout the last decade?
CC: Jobsplus is Malta’s public employment service and it helps the Maltese business community to attract the necessary human capital from abroad. Our real economic growth is about 6% and it will be 5 or 4.5% in the coming year and that will require additional people. Given that Malta’s population is aging, and our employment ratio has plateaued in terms of local people, we need to get necessary labour resources from abroad. Jobsplus uses its European channels and helps employers to get additional labour from outside the EU as well. We facilitate the advertisement of vacancies abroad and help employers process their permits as fast as possible.
WF: Is that part of your employment policy plan?
CC: Yes. Five years ago, our main challenge was to push people from dependency into employment. The government achieved that goal by reforming welfare and unemployment has decreased. The number of people that were long-term dependents on benefits have decreased substantially. Given that we have exhausted any excess capacity from the native population, the only way for us to supply enough labour is through accessing the foreign market.
WF: Can you tell us about your ICT plan to digitalise Jobsplus?
CC: Our economy is attracting new businesses that work in the area of fintech, AI, gaming and that requires specialised workers. We at Jobsplus have to pull our socks up in the sense that we have to change the way we work from an IT perspective. In the coming months, Jobsplus will invest a substantial amount of money on improving its internal processes and the way we reach our clients, both in terms of people who are willing to change their job and prospective employers. At the end of the day it is useless if we have people who are looking for work but no employers looking for the necessary talent. We have to keep apace with the changes.
WF: What are Malta’s advantages in terms of doing business?
CC: Malta offers a good quality of life relative to other member states. It is safe to live here and in the AI, gaming, and fintech industries wages are going up at a significant pace. The foreign community is growing at a fast pace. We have about 60,000 foreign workers in Malta and 40,000 of them come from the EU, so there is a substantial European community living here. The biggest grouping is the Italian community, and we have about 10,000 Italians residing and working here. The UK community is the second largest community here, followed by Spain.
WF: Are there any other sectors that you are trying to attract workers to?
CC: Europeans tend to fill the most value-added jobs and that is because the cost of living has increased through the past years as a result of this influx and as a result of that Europeans look for highly paid jobs. Europeans tend to find those jobs most attractive.
WF: Can you tell us about the specific education plans and initiatives you have launched with schools, universities and training centres?
CC: Upskilling is a big challenge at the moment because employers are significantly short of staff and the willingness to train and upskill labour is low. Employers will tell you, ‘I barely have people to keep up with the demand I have let alone spare time to train them.’. That is a short-sighted approach but a reality that you can understand. We have a good number of initiatives, but the uptake is low at the moment because the economy is doing well. Although we have funding for upscaling skills the uptake is a little low. Employers are focusing on employing more people and meeting their targets rather than spending money and time on training.
WF: What is your vision for the Maltese economy ten years down the road?
CC: Over the past ten years the Maltese economy has changed significantly. This is because we have managed to attract new sectors and our traditional sectors of finance and manufacturing has changed dramatically too. For example, no one imagined Malta would have better developed the printing of money, but we have managed to attract new firms. From here, it would make sense for Malta to invest in sectors that are high value adders and are not so labour intensive. Malta is a small geographical area and if we continue to attract more investment that requires a lot of people, that is going to have a negative impact on the real estate sector, traffic, and so on. We have to be wise in attracting sectors that add high value and are not labour intensive.
WF: What would you like your legacy, as chairman of Jobsplus, to be?
CC: I would like to leave an authority that, irrespective of the economic cycle, has the lowest possible unemployment. We want to make it possible for people who want to change employment do so as quickly as possible. We want to ensure that the labour market remains as dynamic as possible. We are brokers. We are there to facilitate the communication between jobseekers, job changers, and employers. The easier and cheaper we make the process the better it is for everyone.
WF: What would be your final message to Spanish readers who may be interested in coming to Malta to work or invest?
CC: We have a highly dynamic market full of people who are looking for better opportunities. The local workforce is skilled and well versed in English, IT, and so on. It is one of the most productive workforces in Europe and we are competitive in terms of wages. We have physical, communication and financial infrastructure, and space, which makes Malta an ideal country for someone to invest in, especially if they are service orientated.