Bridging the Talent Gap.

James Staunton, partner at international communications company, Instinctif Partners.

In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote of an ‘invisible hand’ at work in society. With this metaphor, he described the almost mystical ability of the market to meet people’s needs. To match what is possible with what is required. Supply with demand.

Since the intellectual godfather of capitalism wrote those words, sitting at his desk in Kirkcaldy more than 200 years ago, we have come to trust markets. Our faith in them is such that the self-interest that lies behind their efficiency isn’t questioned.

But sometimes markets fail.

Nowhere is this more apparent that with the labour market’s inability of to match the supply of employees with demands of employers. The failure of the market to meet employers’ needs, and the resultant skills gap, is leading to different solutions around the world – solutions that the UK could learn from.

Malta’s aviation industry is currently enjoying a period of unprecedented growth. Last year, it was announced that Malta’s sole airport will be expanded. By April 2019, more than 1,400 people were employed in the aviation industry in Malta – an increase of more than five% over the previous 12 months. That was before the announcement that British aircraft manufacturer Britten-Norman was investing 1m to establish a local base on Malta, growing the cluster further. In June, Ryanair announced plans to launch a new Malta-based subsidiary airline, Malta Air. The new carrier currently has six B737s based in Malta but there are plans to increase the size of the fleet to 10 aircraft within the next three years, with the creation of over 350 news jobs. In addition to transferring six of its fleet to the new airline, Ryanair is re-registering another 50 aircraft from France, Italy and Germany onto the Malta AOC, raising the prospect of using the island as a maintenance hub.

But, predictably, growth in the sector is leading to a skills gap and that presents an enormous challenge for the industry.

A novel solution has been proposed by Qualitair, an international aviation recruiter which has just expanded onto the island. In the medium term, Qualitair has said they intend to help graduates from the local college, Malta College of Arts Science and Technology (MCAST) gain real-world experience by finding them positions around their international client network off Malta. Once these young professionals have that experience, Qualitair is planning to guide them back to Malta and into the burgeoning aviation industry there. They have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with MCAST to formalise their partnership. Of course, you can’t produce qualified people overnight and in the short term, Qualitair has said it is going to need to facilitate the immigration of skilled professionals to Malta from elsewhere in the EU. I can’t imagine it’s going to be too challenging to persuade aviation professionals that working in Malta is an attractive proposition!

It’s an innovative approach.

Discussions surrounding the UK’s labour market often deal with the big picture like the freedom of movement – and that is indeed a hugely significant for the country in the long run.

But Qualitair’s plans for Malta show there’s also a place for a bit of pragmatism.


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