Europe is rich in history and culture! With the strengthening of the European dimension, there is greater awareness for the need to conserve such heritage from the effects of nature such that future generations will be able to enjoy and appreciate Europe’s heritage. This requires many workers skilled in preservation, conservation and restoration skills.
Malta, as an island full of heritage, has in recent years become very much aware of this need. Heritage Malta was consequently set up as the national agency responsible for the stewardship of cultural heritage in both its tangible and intangible forms, and to address mismatches between national policies, education and the employment sector through its educational arm, the Institute of Conservation and Management of Cultural Heritage (ICMCH). Consequently ICMCH collaborates closely with other governmental and non-governmental institutional bodies with the intention to create and evolve courses in formal and informal education. Also, ICMCH promotes non-formal education through special exhibitions related to material heritage, artistic creations and craftsmanship that is bound to local traditions with the most popular being the village feast, Christmas and Easter.
There has been a great investment in Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Malta to ensure the provision of enough skilled workers to conserve cultural heritage. The Cultural Heritage Act (2002) merges material heritage with the intangible aspect of ‘skills employed in the performing arts, in applied arts and in crafts’. It reflects Article 9 – Sustainable use of the cultural heritage whereby the member states of the Council of Europe agree to sustain cultural heritage by promoting ‘the use of materials, techniques and skills based on tradition, and explore their potential for contemporary applications’ which can be achieved through ‘high-quality work through systems of professional qualifications and accreditation for individuals, businesses and institutions’. ICMCH also endorses Article 13 – Cultural heritage and knowledge where parties agreed to strengthen the link between cultural heritage education and vocational training through “facilitating the inclusion of the cultural heritage dimension at all levels of education, not necessarily as a subject of study in its own right, but as a fertile source for studies in other subjects” and by “encouraging continuous professional training and the exchange of knowledge and skills, both within and outside the educational system.”
Non-European countries such as Australia practise this approach by including VET in the government strategic plan and ICMCH strongly believes in this methodology. This approach is being undertaken through the number of vocational courses at different levels of the Malta Qualifications Framework which it offers and which run up to level 6. This has ensured a good supply of skilled workers in the sector. One good example are those workers, who are currently involved in the restoration of the bastions, which have stood up high for centuries yet require highly skilled workmen to be brought back to their original glory.
Malta is now experiencing a whole range of initiatives in the conservation of different aspects of its cultural heritage from sculptures, paintings, lithographs, to churches, and buildings. This would not have been possible had not there been an investment in vocational education and training in the sector.
ICMCH continues to invest in further training opportunities and believes that there is the need to embed the way forward firmly through a national strategy for educational sustainable development of the curriculum for all children as part of compulsory education.