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The purpose of this study is to determine the extent to which the Employment and Training Corporations training programmes enhance jobseekers level of employability. The dissertation is divided into chapters to provide: a review of related academic literature, an overview of the methodology, a presentation of the findings, and a conclusion drawn from the study. The appendices contains documents used during the research process such as the questions used for discussion, the questionnaire, the ranking lists and evaluation sheet, the ethics approval form, the participation letters and consent forms and a list of ETC training programmes for reference.
In this dissertation, there were two fundamental areas which needed to be tackled; the learning process and employability. Thus each core section is structured to give consideration to these issues. The first chapter provides an overview of the Maltese labour market and of the services offered by Malta's public employment and training corporation, the ETC. The aim and purpose for this study will also feature in this chapter.
1.1 The Maltese Labour Force
Malta is a small island with a small population. Though "â€¦ the population of Malta has nearly doubled, from 211,564 in 1911 to 416,055 in 2011â€¦" (NSO,2012a). According to the ETC (2011: 12), at the end of August 2011 there were 149,751 gainfully employed individuals on full-time basis with an increase of 2,551 when compared to August 2010. Therefore despite the unfavourable economic changes, Malta registered an increase in the number of persons in employment (ETC, 2011:12). Last July, the Times of Malta (2012) announced an increase of 180 in the number of registered unemployed in Malta and a decrease by 26 in Gozo.
Also it is interesting to note that as presented by the NSO (2012b), this year in Malta the rate of employment among females increased by 3 percentage points whilst there was a slight decrease of 1 percentage point among males. This activity rate indicates that there was a strong improvement in the labour market performance amongst females. Whereas the main contribution of males was in the 55 and older age brackets indicating an ageing labour force and the effect of the increase in the retirement the ETC (2011: 7). In addition there was a decrease in the employment rate for youths (ETC, 2011: 7). The ETC claims that this may be attributed to job search and economic changes which may be creating some difficulties for young jobseekers (2011: 7).
Furthermore the ETC also keeps records of the small and medium sized enterprises that make up the Maltese industry. The private sector is the major sector in fact "The private sector represented 72.6% of total full-time employment, which increased by 1.8% between August 2010 and August 2011" (ETC, 2011: 12). Tourism and related services are considered as key employers in Malta. According to the Institute of Tourism Studies (2012: 7); "Tourism is inseparable from the Maltese economic framework" and it is part of the Maltese culture.
1.1.1 European Targets
The following two sub-sections will illustrate the European and National targets with regards to education and employment. As stated by the European Commission (EC) (2012), a number of employment strategies were implemented by the EU such as the 'Europe 2020' for economic growth and increasing employment across the Union. According to the EC (2012), by 2020 the EU must reach the following targets with regards to education and employment;
75% of the population between the ages 20 and 64 must be employed;
early school leavers must be reduced to be under 10% and;
at least 40% of those between ages 30 and 34 must have pursued higher education.
1.1.2 National Targets
The local government initiatives can be found in Malta's first National Reform Programme which contains twenty-seven different measures aimed at ensuring that Malta reaches the Europe 2020 targets (MFIN, 2012). The targets were developed on Malta's needs to promote growth and jobs and as:
"Government believes that a timely and effective delivery of the announced policy measures in the first NRP under the Europe 2020 Strategy is a prerequisite for driving forward economic renewal as well as strengthening Malta's competitiveness" (MFIN, 2012: 19).
Moreover the targets set for the European Union (EU), related to employment and training in Malta are outlined below:
Setting the employment target rate at 62.9% by 2020.
Reducing the rate of early school leavers to 29% by 2020 and;
Escalating the number of those that completed tertiary education from 30 till 34 years old to 33% by 2020 (MFIN, 2012: 75).
Despite the increase in the rate of employment in Malta from 58.2 per cent in 2000 to 62.0 per cent, it is still below the EU-27 average, 71.4 per cent (MFIN, 2012: 4).
1.2 The Employment and Training Corporation
In Malta, the employment data is gathered by the ETC which maintains a national computerised database of employees and jobseekers to identify and respond to labour and skill shortages (ETC, 2011). In addition the ETC (2010e) offers general and specific training to registered unemployed jobseekers and to persons in employment who wish to enhance their knowledge, competencies and skills. More specifically, ETC aspires in:
"Enhancing employability by recommending policies and implementing initiatives aimed at empowering, assisting and training jobseekers to facilitate their entry or re-entry into the active employment market, promoting workforce development through skills and competency development, and by assisting employers in their recruitment and training needs" (ETC, 2010a).
1.2.1 ETC Employability Programmes
The corporation is also actively involved in the development of a number of employment measures such as:
The 'Occupational Guidance' where job seekers are assisted by ETC employment advisors to identify their occupational preferences and are referred to appropriate training programmes organised by ETC or by other organisations (ETC, 2010b: 6).
The 'Personal Action Plan' which takes place when a person goes to the ETC to register on part 1  of the unemployment register for the first time and is allocated an employment advisor (ETC, 2010b: 6).
The 'Supported Service for Persons with Disability' and 'Bridging the Gap' which target registered disabled persons and persons in disadvantaged situations by offering them all the support needed for them to find employment (ETC, 2010c).
The 'Community Work Scheme' which aids the long-term unemployed  gain work experience and to enhance their skills (ETC, 2011: 17).
The 'Work Trial Scheme' (WTS) which was launched in 2009 and is beneficial as it provides a 13 week on-the-job training for the disadva ntaged groups (ETC, 2010b: 19).
The 'Employment Aid Programme' (EAP) which also helps disadvantaged groups by targeting those with no work experience, or who have been unemployed for a long period (ETC, 2011: 21)  .
The 'Employment in the Social Economy' which aids disadvantaged and disabled persons in finding employment with non-commercial organisations (ETC, 2010d).
1.2.2 ETC Training Programmes
In addition to its services, the Corporation operates a number of training programmes and schemes to facilitate the integration of jobseekers in the labour market:
The 'Training Aid Framework' (TAF) which offers direct subsidies of the cost of training to enhance knowledge and skills of the employees in the private sector (ETC, 2010b: 22).
The 'Apprenticeship schemes' to train youngsters to acquire the skills needed in the labour market and to prepare them for employment (ETC, 2010b: 19).
The ETC (2010) also offers training courses which range from management and development courses to basic skills and trade courses (Appendix I).
1.2.3 Political and Legislative Aspects
Moreover the ETC is affected by a number of political and legislative issues regulating employment in Malta and its mandate derives from the Employment and Training Services Act (1990) (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2010: 1). The Social Security Act also affects ETC's registration services, because a jobseeker must be seeking work to be entitled to social benefits (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2010: 20). Whereas the ETC's employment licences section is governed in part by the Immigration Act (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2010: 2). The ETC is also indirectly affected by the Employment and Industrial Relations Act and the Conditions of Employment (Regulation Act) which regulate employment (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2010: 1).
1.3 Research Purpose
Additionally this study will focus on Malta's public employment agency, the ETC in order to draw up a series of recommendations towards its training methods. This problem was chosen as a strategy towards the type of learning and training needed to address the development of jobseekers that are willing to acquire new skills. Thus this study seeks to contribute to academic thinking by highlighting the importance of learning and development and by promoting employability.
The extent to which the ETC training programmes enhance employability will be examined through a post-positivist approach and a mixed-methodology. In fact through the use of focus groups and semi-structured interviews, the researcher will gain the perspectives of both jobseekers and employers towards the ETC training programmes. The supply side will also be taken into consideration through a final semi-structured interview with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ETC.
Moreover the researcher chose to explore this central research problem after observing jobseekers' behaviour during various training programmes at ETC, which is the researcher's workplace. Also the ETC has currently conducted a telephone survey among individuals (registrants and non-registrants) to find out the reason why many of the applicants did not turn up for the training programmes recommended to them in the last year hence the study is timely with the current events.
Subsequently the dissertation will seek to answer the research problem by attempting three research questions:
What are the characteristics of jobseekers seeking clerical occupations?
What are the employers' expectations when seeking prospective recruits for vacant clerical posts?
What are perceptions of registering jobseekers and employers towards ETC training programmes?
These research questions will aid the researcher in identifying the employability level of jobseekers and if there is a gap between jobseekers' skills and capabilities and employers' needs and expectations. Furthermore the study's aim and objectives will aid the ETC improve its training programmes.
2.0 Literature Review
While conducting the review, there was a significant amount of literature which was relevant to the key areas explored in this study. The challenge was to identify the authors that contributed in the most significant way to the study. The body of the literature is classified into two areas: learning and employability.
2.1 Learning, Education, Training and Development
Hodkinson (2005: 110) argues that learning can be understood from different theoretical positions such as learning by participating in activities and learning by constructing one's own understanding. Hodkinson (2005: 116) portrays learning as being broadly similar in different contexts and it can be general or specific. While Jarvis (2010: 17) explicates that as society is changing so is the context in which we learn. Fragroso et al. (2011) contribute to this debate by illustrating development and adult learning in Europe. The authors claim that the current economic changes should be considered as an opportunity to learn at a local and global level (Fragroso et al., 2011: 42).
While carrying out the literature review, the researcher noticed that many authors differentiate formal learning from informal learning. Indeed Van Dam (2012: 49) states that formal learning is curriculum based and can develop an individual's competences. Whereas Engestrom (2004) considers informal instruction ideal in a workplace to ensure that goals and targets are met. The work of Engestrom is supported by Boud and Middleton as it describes informal learning as another learning option. Boud and Middleton (2003: 195) portray informal learning as "part of the job" or a mechanism for "doing the job properly".
"Although learning is generally perceived as a way to improve employees' current job performance, so far no research has been conducted to explore the possible relationships between formal and informal learning, on the one hand, and employability, on the other" (Van der Heijden et al., 2009: 19).
Van der Heijden et al. (2009: 19) chose to explore the effect of learning on employability by distributing an e-questionnaire amongst 215 Dutch non-academic university students. The work of Van der Heijden et al. (2009), demonstrates the need of providing more formal training opportunities to employees as practical learning is not enough to enhance their level of employability. Additionally the relevance of Van der Heijden's work will be discussed in the findings of the study.
Education and training are also significant in the learning and development process. In fact "Education is the longer-term process that is to do with the rounded formation of the whole individual" (Harrison, 2002: 4). Durkehim (2004) defines education as the knowledge gained formally from experiences. While training has been defined by Armstrong (2006: 535) as "The systematic development of the knowledge, skills and attitudes required by an individual to perform adequately a given task or job".
Additionally a social experiment was conducted by Rosholm and Skipper (2009), to determine whether classroom training is beneficial to the unemployed. In this experiment, the findings indicate that training may increase the time spent in unemployment for an individual who has just completed the training programme (Rosholm and Skipper, 2009: 361). However this risk is for a short term as in the long run, training does enhance an individual's employability (Rosholm and Skipper 2009). Rosholm and Skipper (2009) insist that further research should be done to verify if higher wages are then offered to the trained person.
Apart from analysing training needs, this study will also measure the effectiveness of the ETC training programmes in developing jobseekers' potentials. According to Baum (1995) 'development' can take place at any time and there is not a definite way of how it occurs. Additionally Garavan (2007: 27) argues that learning and development are fundamental to facilitate the development of a learning culture. The work of Garavan (2007) is important for this study as it demonstrates that development focuses less on learning outcome as perhaps training does and is more on enhancing employability.
Antonacopoulou (2000: 260) argue that in order to understand the relationships between learning, education, training and development there is a need to understand these processes at different levels of the hierarchy; at an individual and organisational level. Antonacopoulou (2000: 260) claim that the holographic perspective can help enhance the understanding of the nature of learning, education, training and development in society (Illustration 2-1).
Illustration 2-1: The relationships between learning, education, training and development
Source: Antonacopoulou (2000: 260)
2.1.1 The Learning Process
In this dissertation, the learning process is considered fundamental for enhancing individuals' potentials. The learning process and the different learning styles adopted by jobseekers will be observed through the research methods adopted. David Kolb claims that "learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience" (Kolb, 1984: 38). According to Kolb (1984) the learning cycle starts from experience, the development stage and then the decision-making part (Illustration 2-2).
Illustration 2- 2: The Experiential Cycle of Learning (based on Kolb, Rubin and McIntyre, 1974)
(Planned or accidental)
(Actively thinking about the experience, its basic issues, and their significance)
(Trying out the learning in other similar situations: creativity, decision-making)
(Generalising from reflections, analysing, in order to develop a body of ideas, a theory or principlesâ€¦)
Source: Harrison, R. (2002: 8)
In addition Chan (2012: 406) tested Kolb's theory by conducting an experiential project to observe students' learning process. Through the findings, Chan (2012: 405) affirms that Kolb's learning process produces a variety of learning outcomes. Chan (2012) supports Kolb's theory as it allows the learner to reflect, practice and act in a cyclic process.
"Experiential learning can be defined as the development of personal understanding and skills through the analysis of, and reflection on, activity"
(Moody, 2012: 16).
In a study conducted by Moody (2012), even employers are confident that experiential learning delivers results.
Moreover Kolb (1976) identifies four learning styles which can be adopted by different kinds of learners:
The Activists- Learning through practise
The Reflectors- Learning through observation and judging
The Theorists- Learning through initiatives involving new ideas, concepts and structures
Experimenters- Learning by testing theories.
A learning style is the ability of an individual to obtain information in a particular way or combination of ways (Zapalska and Brozik, 2006). Research on learning style started in the late nineteenth century and it was documented that there were different styles adopted amongst learners (Zapalska and Brozik, 2006: 326). According to Rogers (2002: 111) we tend to use all learning styles but we prefer to use one or two more than the others.
Illustration 2- 3: Learning styles based on learning cycle
Source: (Rogers, 2002:110)
2.1.2 Diversity of Ways of Learning
Furthermore Rogers (2002: 88) explores four types of learning theories: those that focus on the learner, on the context, on the task undertaken and on the process involved. Learner-based theories include the behaviourist theories and the cognitive theories (Rogers, 2002). Harman and Brelade (2000: 14), posit that the behaviourist theories enhance an individual's motivation to learn by recognition or rewarding the individual when targets and goals are met, by creating activities to look forward to and by offering all the support needed. Additionally Burns (2002: 114) describes behaviourism as the "relatively permanent change in behaviour".
Skinner's work is also important within the context of this study as it contributes to the understanding of the learning process by external influences. Indeed Skinner illustrates the importance of positive and negative reinforcements during learning (1978). Skinner (1978) encourages continuous reinforcement on behalf of the trainer as it increases the rate of learning whilst intermittent reinforcement retains what is being learned in an appropriate context.
Furthermore in a study conducted by Fuller and Unwin (2005), the workers are seen keener to learn if the training concerned is relevant to their daily tasks and if it helps them improve and work more effectively. According to Fuller and Unwin (2005: 22), there are two types of learning that new entrants experience when in a work environment 'learning as attainment' and 'learning as participation'. 'Learning as attainment' involves all the training opportunities offered by the organisation to enhance the new recruits' skills and knowledge whereas 'learning as participation' is the understanding of learning to work in a social environment (Fuller and Unwin, 2005).
According to Rogers (2002) other learning theories are built on the analysis of one's personality and on the learner's actions. Besides Rogers (2002) argues that there is diversity of ways of learning and there is no consensus about learning. In this dissertation, learning is considered fundamental in enhancing jobseekers' potentials and employability.
2.1.3 Analysing training needs
In addition learning and performance happen during the transfer of training (Vermeulen and Admiraal, 2009: 65). According to Vermeulen and Admiraal (2009: 52), training refers to the planned and organised teaching while transfer is the application of what is learnt in different contexts. The analysis of training transfer will help identify jobseekers' specific learning style.
Zapalska and Brozik (2006: 237) argue that there are many techniques the trainer can use to identify a learning style and the first step is to perform a training need analysis. A training need analysis provides a benchmark of the skills trainees possess prior being submitted to a training programme and will increase the effectiveness of training (Blanchard and Thacker, 2003: 116). Blanchard and Thacker (2003:116) imply that "A training need analysis is important because it helps to determine whether a deficiency can be corrected through training".
2.1.4 Design, Development and Delivery of Training Programmes
Subsequently in order to implement an effective training programme, Vincent and Ross (2001: 37) suggest the following steps:
Planning including selection of trainers;
Designing and developing the training programme;
Implementing with the use of presentations and interactions and;
Evaluating and following-up productivity and improvements.
Likewise Ghosh et al. (2012) imply that the selection of the trainer is the first and foremost important element when planning a training programme. The trainer must possess knowledge on the subject of the programme:
"However, mere possession of knowledge is not sufficient; the trainer must be articulate enough to reach out to the participants with the concepts being covered in a programme" (Ghosh et al., 2012: 198).
In order to implement an effective training programme, the trainer should consider the learning theories prior the design of the training programme (Vincent and Ross, 2001: 37).
Additionally Werquin (2012) argues that knowledge of learning outcomes is fundamental during the course's design and it is essential for the labour market and for employers. "The concept of learning outcomes is at the heart of many research programmes and policy responses" (Werquin, 2012: 159). Learning outcomes focus not only on the content of the training programme but also on the objectives and what the learner is expected to achieve at the end of the course (Werquin, 2012: 159).
"Training research has typically found inconsistent relationships between trainees reactions to the actual training event (also commonly referred to as training satisfaction) and learning outcomes" (Orvis et al., 2009: 960).
A related issue is present in the findings of an experimental study conducted by Orvis et al. (2009) which investigates the learning process in an e-learning environment. The results suggest that further research is needed on how to engage learners for instance by including learner control tools in the training programmes (Orvis et al., 2009: 969). In fact Long et al. (2011) claim that games are an additional effective method which trainers can use to stimulate learning and assess.
Besides Dwyer (2004: 82) suggests that the atmosphere and environment in which learning takes place affects the amount of learning and the perception of learner. This can be illustrated in a case study conducted by Hodkinson and Hodkinson (2004), where the trainers' dispositions and relationships with workers are seen having an important effect on the learning process. Also according to Arends (2009) trainers can vary their lessons through formal or informal activities.
It is interesting to note that the developing stage is the most time consuming as "All elements of a particular training programme are determined during the development phase" (Blanchard and Thacker, 2003: 23). According to Blanchard and Thacker (2003) once the training material is ready, pilot-testing can be performed during the implementation phase and some minor changes can be made in the developed content.
2.1.5 Evaluation of Training Programmes
Following implementation there is the evaluation phase which involves informal and formal observation, and the use of discussions or questionnaires to collect feedback from the learner (Dwyer, 2004). Likewise Scruggs and Mastropieri (2010: 222) argue that evaluation can take place in a variety of forms such as on a one-to-one basis, whole-class activity or written.
The evaluation phase is critical to the success of a training programme (Wang and Wilcox, 2006: 532). In an article by Wang and Wilcox (2006: 529), the evaluation process is classified into two categories:
formative evaluation which provides information for the design of the training programme and;
summative evaluation which is more focused on learning outcomes and benefits.
Tennant et al. (2002: 234) claim that there are a number of models for measuring the effectiveness of a training programme such as the Kirkpatrick model which measures the change in skills as a result of training and the CIRO model which measures the change in skills prior and after training.
Moreover when developing an evaluating methodology, one must take into consideration the group concerned and in obtaining consensus from participants prior the evaluation process (Dwyer, 2004). Lee and Pershing (2002: 176) also emphasise on the need of examining the participants' reactions to the training programme. In a study conducted by Lee and Pershing (2002), it was concluded that a well-designed training programmes occurs when there is a proper design criteria.
2.1.6 The ETC Training Programmes
The primary objective of this study is to measure the effectiveness of the ETC training programmes. Article 16 of the Employment and Training Services Act (1990), states that the Corporation shall provide training programmes to assist individuals in finding employment or to improve or update their knowledge and skills to increase job opportunities and career aspirations. Furthermore the ETC (2010b) aims to anticipate future labour market needs to sustain or build individuals' employability.
The ETC (2011: 14) declares that the current training programmes are funded by the Employability Programme which is a component of the European Social Fund 2.4 and are open to both unemployed registrants and to employed or inactive persons (Appendix I). Also the ETC (2010g) procures and provides the training equipment, the facilities, and the clerical and administrative support to trainers. An important component which was missing by the ETC is the Training Programmes Design and Quality Assurance Unit. This unit has been set to re-design and develop new ETC training programmes and is working for the recognition of the training programmes sought from the Malta Qualification Council (ETC, 2010f).
It is interesting to note that in 2011, "The total number of participants in ETC training courses was of 15,072 hence there was a 10% increase on the previous year" (ETC, 2011: 9). In 2011 there was also an increase of 27% in female participation in ETC training courses (ETC, 2011:9). Nonetheless this year a telephone survey was conducted by the Research and Development Unit at the ETC, to analyse why almost two thirds of individuals applying for Office Skills, IT, Trade, Technical and Care Worker training programmes did not turn up on the date scheduled (R&D, 2012: 2).
Consequently one inquires "Why do so many training sessions seem to waste everyone's time?" (Dwyer, 2004: 79). According to the findings, the reasons why many of the respondents did not participate in the ETC course were the long waiting lists and others claimed that they were never contacted to start the course (R&D, 2012: 11). A smaller percentage did not attend due to job commitments whilst for the remaining, the time indicated for the course was not suitable (R&D, 2012: 11). This study will observe in more depth the jobseekers' positive and negative perspectives towards the ETC training programmes.
2.1.7 Developing a jobseeker's potential
A similar research was carried out by Larson and Milana (2006) which establishes that the lack of participation in adult education and training is due to:
lack of time and/or energy
lack of motivation in re-entering education
lack of courses/equipment
lack of support and;
lack of confidence in own competencies.
According to Larson and Milana (2006), lack of time and/or energy is more likely to be a barrier to women than men, whereas lack of confidence can be more of a barrier to youth and elders.
Similarly when adult education and training participation studies were analysed in Canada, it was observed that the main reasons for many not attending courses were financial issues, training conflicted with work schedule, lack of family-friendly measures and training offered at an inconvenient time (Peters, 2004). This is further supported by Cullen (2011) whose findings indicate that jobseekers express a negative attitude towards training and employment due to several social barriers. Furthermore Martin and Grubb (2001: 32) argue that when labour market programmes are compulsory to jobseekers they are less effective.
Blanchard and Thacker (2003) extend this further when stating that a person's performance depends on a number of factors such as motivation, knowledge skills and attitudes and the environment (Illustration 2-4). In this study, the researcher will analyse the jobseekers' motivation to learn, their characteristics and the environment in which learning takes place.
Illustration 2- 4 Factors Determining Human Performance
Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude (KSA)
P= M x KSA x E
Source: Blanchard and Thacker (2003: 75)
Carr et al. (2009: 16) imply that people must first recognise the reason they should apply their skills. Therefore in order to enhance ones' potentials, it is necessary that an individual is made aware of possessing the knowledge, skills and competencies needed for a particular job (Carr, 2009).
"Most job-seekers wish they could unlock the secret formula to winning the hearts and minds of employers. What they wonder, is that unique combination of skills and values that make employers salivate with excitement?" (Hansen and Hansen, 2009).
2.2 Employability-Towards a Definition
Employability is another key theme of the dissertation. While carrying out the literature review, the researcher found many social factors that can be of an employment barrier to jobseekers. In this dissertation there will be a brief overview of these social factors and an analysis of the employers' needs and expectations when recruiting. Furthermore the extent to which the ETC training programmes meet current labour market needs will also be examined in this section.
The International Labour Organisation (2004: 9) states that;
"â€¦the term employability relates to portable competencies and qualifications that enhance an individual's capacity to make use of education and training opportunities available in order to secure and retain decent work, progress within the enterprise and between jobs and cope with changes in technology and labour market conditions".
Brown et al. (2002: 10) extend the definition of the term employability by attributing it on the supply and demand within the labour market, namely on the employability level of others. Furthermore Glastra et al. (2004: 291) argue that in order to survive in this competitive world it is necessary for the workforce to engage in lifelong learning. The current economic changes altered the working life hence the need of lifelong learning to enhance employability (Glastra et al., 2004: 305).
2.2.1 The Jobseeker's Perspectives
The jobseekers' level of employability is a matter of concern in this dissertation. The main factors which contribute to the transition from education to employment will be taken into consideration. These factors vary from unstable jobs, labour market conditions, population's employability levels and the education system (CEDEFOP, 2010:30).
Indeed Mifsud et al. (2006: 16) finds the transition from school to work, particularly challenging as without further education and training the jobseekers will lack the skills and competences needed in the labour market. According to Muller and Gangl (2003), the transition process is the period between the end of the primary education and the settling into the work environment. Likewise Braun et al. (2001) distinguish between two stages in the transition period:
the initial job search after leaving education and;
the beginning of the employment experience.
During this transition there are two types of risks for new entrants, these being the inability to find employment and instability of the first employment (Braun et al., 2001).
Also according to ILO, due to this transition from education to working life, youths need more encouragement towards finding a suitable employment (ILO, 2006: 20).
Additionally Yorke (2006: 2) states that many times "The transferability of skills is often too easily assumed". When investigating the employability gap between the long-term and short-term unemployed, Thomsen (2009: 451) finds that there exist major differences for instance in skills and health status. These employment barriers make it harder for the long-term unemployed to find work (Thomsen, 2009: 451). The disadvantaged groups are also finding it difficult to get employed; these groups include the elderly, people with special needs and former substance abusers who need further support during job seeking (ILO, 2006: 21).
Another factor that affects employability is the changing lifestyle with more women participating in the labour market (NSO, 2012b). Despite the increase in employment rate, it still remains difficult for women to maintain a full-time job without shared responsibilities (Zerafa, 2007: 39). Thus the need of more family-friendly measures (Zerafa, 2007). Furthermore Ostrouch and Ollagnier (2008) demonstrate how difficult it is for women to advance in professions considered atypical for women. Women may also be discouraged to study in their area of preference due to gender stereotyping (Ostrouch and Ollagnier, 2008).
"Previous studies indicated that racial and ethnic discrimination at work limit job opportunities and contribute to reduced career aspirations and expectations" (Forstenlechner and Al-Waqfi, 2010: 768).
Forstenlechner and Al-Waqfi (2010) decide to examine workplace discrimination in the context of immigrants and jobseekers. The findings of the study indicate that discriminatory actions can take place during the pre-employment stage; or after the recruitment process (Forstenlechner and Al-Waqfi , 2010). Ultimately these discriminatory situations influence jobseekers in their quest of finding a job.
2.2.2 The Employer's Perspective
This study will also investigate the employers' perspectives towards learning and employability. The employers' point of view is needed in this study to analyse the extent to which the ETC training programmes are meeting their needs and expectations. Furthermore this study will also go through the characteristics employers seek in prospective employees and the difficulties encountered during recruitment.
Vera and Crossan (2004) indicate that a learning climate that adapts quickly to change will eventually sustain an organisation. Also the study conducted by Carrim and Basson (2012) revealed that a learning climate can be used in different types of organisations and should be aligned with the organisations' profiles. On the other hand Warhurst (2012) implies that employers are more concerned with the current economic changes then staff development.
"In an age of austerity with many organisations facing cuts and imposed changes, it might be assumed that learning within organisations would fall victim to pressure for the competitively efficient delivery of products or service" (Warhurst, 2012: 1)
A related hypothesis investigated by Joyce (2008: 376) is that "Today many companies are hiring less and/or take longer to find just the right person with the right skills for the right job". Employers, apart from utilising the general face-to-face interviews are returning to situational behavioural interviews and the use of other tests including psychometric tests, written exams and a second interview (Joyce, 2008: 379).
This happens as "In today's competitive world, one cannot ignore the fact that employers look for people who are well trained in the area of their employment" (ETC, 2010e). Indeed the data given by the NSO shows that often employers seek to recruit skilled individuals rather than partially or non-skilled applicants to avoid the time taken to train (2001). Consequently these long recruitment processes are leading to more costs and are becoming stressful for employers (Joyce, 2008: 379).
2.2.3 Labour Shortages
The long recruitment processes may also be attributed to labour shortages though Cohen and Mahmood (2002) argue that job vacancies can exist even at low employment rates. If one takes a look from a local viewpoint, one finds that in recent years, a number of low-skill manufacturing companies in Malta have closed down like Denim and VF, resulting in redundancies as well as decreased absorption of lower-skilled school leavers (The Malta Independent, 2007). This happens as "â€¦Malta has not managed to attract enough activity in growth sectors to replace declining activities" (MFIN, 2012: 10). In order to reverse this, the ETC is collaborating with various employers to avoid labour shortages and to implement its training programmes accordingly (ETC, 2010b).
Additionally a study by Fsadni illustrates the local labour and skills shortages which employers predict for the period of July to December 2012. It is interesting to note that according to the study conducted by Fsadni: "In all sectors, the majority of the employers are confident they will find the right people for the jobs" (2012: 6). Thus Fsadni suggests employers are confident that supply will be meeting labour market demands. The findings by Fsadni will be compared and contrasted with the final results of this study.
2.2.4 Skill Shortages
In this section, importance is given to skill shortages as often a low unemployment rate suggests a skill shortage. Although Cohen and Mahmood (2002:12) hint that a high level of employment does not necessarily imply that there are no skill shortages. When analysing the skill shortages, one must take into consideration the economic activity as
"The students population is becoming more diverse and education and training systems are having to adjust to the requirement of globalisation and internationalisation, increased immigration, and rapidly changing occupational profiles resulting from technological and economic developments" (Cedefop, 2010: 12)
The ESF 3.75 Unlocking the Female Potential, considers skills shortages in Malta and the main target group are females (NCPE, 2012). The employers, who also had their say in this research, mentioned some of the training needed for inactive females which included computer skills, specific technical skills, social skills like teamwork, and customer care (NCPE, 2012). The NCPE (2012) also recommends that the ETC should provide more on-the-job training to women returning to employment. There is also the need to improve the position of guidance especially when it comes to youths to make a smooth transition into work (CEDEFOP, 2010: 16)
While conducting the literature review, it was felt that the key themes of the dissertation contribute in more significant ways to academic thinking, through the development and understanding of the learning process and the employability concept. As seen from the literature review, the three main factors to take into account when considering a successful training programme are: the jobseekers' perspectives, the employers' perspectives and the local economy.
Furthermore the approach chosen will assist the researcher in evaluating three hypotheses:
The first hypothesis is that jobseekers do not acknowledge their skills and abilities in front of employers.
The second hypothesis is that the higher the level of mismatch between the criteria listed for clerical occupations by employers and those characteristics possessed by clerical jobseekers, the lower are the employability prospects of such jobseekers.
The third hypothesis is that during the recruitment process, employers seek for already trained candidates.
Finally these hypotheses will also contribute to the objective of the main research question in that to what extent do the ETC training programmes enhance jobseekers' employability in Malta.