Skills gap: US shortage of workers echoes Malta’s position

Helena Grech - 16th September 2019 

Study finds 83% of US companies struggling to find workers with correct skills, an issue which has impacted Malta for some time.

A situation developing in the USA echoes problems faced by the local private sector over the past few years: finding the right person, with the right skills for the job.

It is not often that you can compare the two nations, however both are experiencing historically low levels of unemployment, both are experiencing economic growth [albeit Malta is experiencing more rapid growth in this aspect] while low unemployment is enjoyed by both nations.

As at July 2019, America’s unemployment rate stood at 3.7 per cent with Malta registering a 3.4 per cent unemployment rate.

A study conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management in the USA found that some 83 per cent are currently struggling to find the right workers with the right skills. One major concern for the US jobs market is that a rapid ageing population will leave the private sector with a shorter pool of workers to tap into.

Malta has had a similar experience. The issue of a skills gap in the local workforce was first brought to the fore in 2014, with education minister Evarist Bartolo insisting that the biggest issue facing the workers is not unemployment but rather a mismatch of skills.

A European Commission report from 2018 noted how over 30 per cent of companies had reported that the skills gap was getting more pronounced. The 2018 EY attractiveness survey found that 57 per cent of respondents reported a talent shortage while the education sector was identified as a key area of focus in order to better develop the skills of the workforce.

While both America and Malta are experiencing a rapid ageing population, and both nations have had their workforce somewhat propped up by foreign nationals, the issue of early-school leavers somewhat diverges.

Malta consistently registers the highest rate of early-school leavers out of the entire EU, at 18.6 per cent. Early school leavers refers to people typically ages between 18 and 24 who has completed at most, lower-secondary education and is not involved in further education or training.

America faces a different challenge. In 2018, it was reported that around 48 per cent of the population were ‘college educated,’ which politicians hope to increase to around 65 per cent. Despite this, according to the Guardian, around 40 per cent of freshmen in the States attending public universities do not earn a bachelor’s degree in six years – two longer than the norm. It also reports that nearly 80 per cent of community college students at two-year community colleges don’t receive an associate degree in three years.

As jobs in finance, technology and other professional services continue to become more and more specialised, populations continue to age and other challenges abound in the modern world, educating young students in a way that reflects the modern job market becomes essential.

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Skills gap: US shortage of workers echoes Malta’s position