Investing in a skilled workforce

Malta's Skills Pass project represents a transformative step towards enhancing the professionalism and quality of the workforce within the tourism and hospitality sector.

Malta’s Skills Pass project is a government-initiated verification process designed for individuals working in the tourism and hospitality sector. The project aims to recognise and certify the skills of workers, both local and foreign, ensuring they meet specific standards required to work in the industry in Malta.

Launched on 26th October 2023, the Skills Pass project’s public consultation phase saw extensive participation from various sectors, leading to extended stakeholder meetings until 12th December 2023.

Key contributors included industry associations, government entities, political parties, unions, and notable private companies. The initiative, aimed at vetting foreign employees in the local hospitality industry, received positive feedback and constructive suggestions from stakeholders.

The EU and International Affairs Directorate confirmed the project’s compliance with non-discriminatory practices and the Services Directive. The proactive engagement and feedback have significantly contributed to refining and advancing the project.

Registration for the Skills Pass project is available in various categories, allowing both self-registration by candidates and registration by entities like MTA-licensed establishments or licensed education institutions.

Self-registration is open to candidates from non-EU/EEA countries, whether living outside Malta, in Malta for less than a year, or for more than a year, as well as students enrolled in full-time courses with licensed local education institutions. These candidates must submit accurate documentation to obtain a skills pass, with ITS having the authority to revoke passes for fraudulent information.

Other categories, such as sector skilled workers, internship students, and ELT students, require registration by specific entities like MTA licensed establishments or EU-licensed education institutions. Should these entities provide fraudulent information or abuse the process, ITS can revoke their access to the Skills Pass platform.

The Skills Pass, initiated by the Government of Malta, is a two-phase verification process designed for skilled individuals in the Tourism and Hospitality sector, allowing them to gain recognition and work in Malta.

Phase 1: Online Training and Assessment

After registration, candidates purchase modules, including four mandatory assessments (English Proficiency, Basic Customer Care, Maltese Tourism Product, and English for Hospitality) and select one occupation from job families like Food Service, Bar Service, Kitchen, Front Office, and Housekeeping. Successful completion requires passing all assessments, confirmed by a Phase 1 Confirmation.

Assessments involve security measures like photo verification and random screenshots to ensure integrity, with a large, periodically updated question bank to maintain assessment relevance. A weekly vetting process checks for cheating, with an independent panel reviewing dubious cases.

Phase 2: Online Interview via Video Conferencing

Candidates who complete Phase 1 schedule an online interview three weeks in advance, conducted at designated centers for non-EU/EEA candidates, depending on visa requirements. Verification includes personal ID, candidate number, and Phase 1 certificate, with assessors verifying skills and English communication level. Interviews are recorded, with a sample verified weekly to ensure standards and professionalism. Mystery shopping and spot checks at VFS centers maintain compliance. Successful candidates receive a permanent Skills Pass, enabling them to work in Malta’s hospitality and tourism sector.

Certificates for the Skills Pass are categorized and issued with comprehensive details for clarity, using Blockcert technology to prevent tampering, with QR code verification. The system logs user interactions for auditing, adheres to GDPR for data retention, and conducts regular security tests. Quarterly reports ensure transparency and ongoing quality assurance.

Concessions include:

  • Full-Time Students: Eligible for a temporary, six-month Skills Pass for short-term hospitality work, free of charge, with verification from their educational institution.
  • Student Internships: EU-licensed institutions can register students for internships in Malta, receiving a temporary pass valid for up to one year, free of charge.
  • ELT Students: Entitled to a temporary six-month pass for summer work, with assessments in English and Hospitality English available for a nominal fee for longer employment.
  • Sector Skilled/Specialised Applicants: MTA licensed establishments can register highly skilled applicants for an invitation-only registration, including assessments and a Skills Verification Interview.

Visa duration extensions for non-EU/EEA tourism and hospitality workers are available upon renewal, given no objections from pertinent authorities and meeting specific criteria, including skill level advancement and employment conditions.

Timeline

Here’s a timeline of the implementation phases of the Skills Pass process for the tourism and hospitality sector

March 2024: Official publication of the legal notice for the Skills Pass process.

8th April 2024: Launch of Phase 1 online courses and assessments.

April 2024: Malta Enterprise introduces a scheme offering tax credits to local enterprises funding courses and assessments for their employees.

6th May 2024: Start of Phase 2 online verification interviews.

May 2024: After a two-month standstill, the Skills Pass becomes a mandatory requirement for the sector, as per the Small Business Act.

January 2025: Non-EU/EEA employees must undergo the Skills Pass verification for work permit renewal.

January 2026: EU/EEA and Maltese employees in the Tourism and Hospitality Industry will need the Skills Pass certificate to work in the sector.

Malta’s Skills Pass project represents a transformative step towards enhancing the professionalism and quality of the workforce within the tourism and hospitality sector. By setting a structured pathway for skills verification and continuous learning, the project not only promises to uplift the service standards across the industry but also to bolster Malta’s reputation as a premier tourist destination. With its phased implementation beginning in 2024, the Skills Pass project is set to align the talents and competencies of the workforce with the evolving demands of the global tourism landscape.

Through this initiative, Malta is not only investing in the immediate future of its key economic sectors but is also laying down the groundwork for sustainable growth and competitiveness on the international stage. The commitment to upskilling and certifying workers underlines the nation’s proactive approach to ensuring excellence in hospitality and tourism, benefiting not just the employees but also the wider community and economy.

Photo: Kampus Production

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