In September 2009, the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST), responsible for the provision of vocational and education training in Malta, formally launched a number of degree programmes for students and members of staff as part of a project funded by the European Social Fund (ESF). The project consists of three components: the development and delivery of vocational degrees which over a three-year period will allow students in all MCAST Institutes and who achieve the Higher National Diploma to proceed with their studies for a further year and obtain a Level 6 vocational degree; the implementation of a Masters degree programme for academic staff which will upgrade MCAST’s teaching staff involved in the degree programmes in respect to their pedagogical and research skills; as well as the development and delivery of short courses in professional development for all staff within the MCAST institutes.
This project is being undertaken in collaboration with Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, a world renowned German research institution known by many as the developer of the MP3. Through Fraunhofer- Gesellschaft,, MCAST has acquired access to practically all universities in Germany. In September 2009, MCAST issued a call for applications for the first group in its vocational degree programmes in the Institutes of Art and Design, Business and Commerce, Electronics and Electrical Engineering, and Information and Communication Technology.
During the academic year 2009-2010, for example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering offered two degree courses where MCAST teaching staff have shadowed lecturers from foreign universities throughout the delivery of the programme study modules. While logistically complex in its initial stages, and the courses are improving as the college acquires experience, the results obtained in the first year have been encouraging. Comments from the external professors with regard to MCAST students were overall positive. This was a learning experience for all concerned and has also opened international links with a number of foreign universities. The degree courses for this academic year 2010-11, are now being run by the Institute’s lecturers independently.
Malta has in the last decade invested heavily in the development of the vocational and education sector at post-secondary level. It is still investing through the implementation of its master plan for a new Campus in Corradino. This investment is already reaping results as MCAST injects more and more trained youths in the local industry to help it maintain its competitive edge in the current difficult global economic situation.
In 2011, the Ministry of Education will also be introducing vocational subjects in mainstream education. Passes in these subjects will carry the same parity of esteem as academic/traditional subjects. This initiative coincides with the Malta Qualifications Council ESF project VQPACK which aims at making vocational education and training visible in compulsory/secondary education.