The Intercept Pilot Project in Malta has been very successful in a proactive approach evolving and adapting its actions as obstacles and opportunities arise. Interesting lessons are brought forward and adopted on a large scale
The Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEET) population face various challenges, presenting obstacles to their entry into the job market. Jobsplus, the national employment agency of Malta, has launched the Intercept project with the aim of supporting 25–29-year-old NEETs with an initiative designed to unleash their untapped potential. INTERCEPT Project offers young individuals 25 hours of comprehensive training and a remarkable opportunity to embark on 240 hours of paid work placement in the green labour market.
This article takes a journey to explore the characteristics of NEETs aged 25-29 in Malta, along with the progress of this intervention. Uncovering triumphs amid challenges, it also seeks to reveal the promising road that lies ahead.
Engaging inactive youths aged 25-29 in Malta presents a formidable challenge characterized by various socio-economic factors. Research conducted by the Intercept Project partners also sheds light on the gender gap among NEETs aged 25-29, with 65% being females and 35% males. Caregiving responsibilities significantly influence this gap, with many females taking on crucial roles caring for children and family members.
Additionally, the study reveals that 52% of NEETs in this age group possess low levels of education, intensifying their challenges in entering the labour market. Alongside educational barriers, other hurdles include a lack of skills, work experience, and self-confidence. Furthermore, the fear of losing the flexibility and freedom that comes with employment often deters these youths from actively seeking workforce participation. The aspirations of these NEETs can be kindled through motivation, flexible arrangements, and professional support, particularly for those facing unique circumstances such as mothers, isolated individuals, or those dealing with social issues.
To conquer these challenges, the pilot program employs a range of measures, ensuring that NEETs are not left behind and are provided with the support they need to thrive. A national outreach campaign using a dynamic mixed approach was adopted, blending digital campaigns with traditional methods. Remarkably, direct outreach efforts, disseminated through electronic or postal mail-marketing campaigns, have proven more effective in capturing interest compared to social media posts, online ads, radio ads, influencers, and articles published on various platforms.
As part of a pilot program, the intervention includes work placement opportunities in green companies, but identifying these companies posed some challenges. Many companies, while embracing sustainability, do not explicitly label themselves as green, adding complexity to aligning them with the green economy. Undeterred, the program took a proactive approach, engaging in direct consultations with employers and meticulously assessing their objectives, work practices, and domains. This dedicated effort has successfully curated work placements that embody the essence of sustainability.
Digital Marketing, Renewable Energy, Energy Audits, Agriculture, and other dynamic sectors have opened their doors to participants, offering an exciting avenue for shaping sustainable prospects. Additionally, this intervention has revealed that besides the significance of soft skills such as communication, creativity, and critical thinking for green jobs, digital skills have emerged as vital assets for succeeding in the green job market.
Throughout the intervention, an intriguing observation emerges - a higher number of male applicants (78.6%) successfully completed the program compared to their female counterparts (21.4%). This discrepancy sheds light on the unique challenges that many females face due to caregiving responsibilities. Balancing the demands of intervention participation alongside parenting and household duties can be a daunting task, hindering their engagement.
Recognizing the importance of empowering mothers, the program takes a thoughtful step forward. Another Jobsplus initiative offers free childcare services during the Intercept scheme period, providing invaluable support to female participants, allowing them to fully embrace this life-changing opportunity.
In an era of adaptability, the program swiftly adjusts its approach to ensure inclusivity and accessibility. Originally planned as classroom-based sessions, the training now seamlessly transitioned to a fully online format, with tutors utilising platforms like Teams, Zoom, and Google Meets. Moreover, personalised profiling and matching exercises play a crucial role in providing tailored support, identifying ideal work placements that perfectly align with each participant's skills and aspirations.
During the course of implementation, the program encounters a notable obstacle - dropouts and no-shows among the NEETs. For some participants, hesitation arises due to their heavy reliance on social benefits, including free housing, healthcare, and financial subsidies. To tackle these barriers head-on and foster greater participation, a strategic measure is put to the test - the allowance rate offered to participants.Starting at 5 euros during the intervention's launch, the allowance rate has recently been raised to 6 euros and then further elevated to an encouraging 7.50 euros per hour. These rates surpass the national minimum wage in Malta, which stands at 4.82 euros per hour in 2023. This bold adjustment aims to create an enticing incentive for participants, propelling them to fully embrace this transformative journey. As the project advances, the impact of this allowance adjustment will be closely monitored in the months to come.
Amidst challenges and with a limited number of participants taking on the project, a glimmer of hope emerges as the outcomes prove to be highly promising. A remarkable 42.9% of program completers are offered employment opportunities, a testament to the transformative impact of the intervention. Encouraging testimonials from several participants further reinforce the program's significance, shining a light on its profound influence on their motivation and career journeys.
One participant's words echo the sentiments of many, stating, "Intercept was an amazing move in the right direction as it caters to the individual and gives you the tools you need to do something different, and honestly, that's better than gold." This resounding acclaim speaks volumes about the program's ability to empower individuals, providing them with the skills and confidence to chart a unique and fulfilling course towards their success.
The Intercept pilot program in Malta goes beyond its immediate goals, offering a fresh perspective on the green economy and its influence on the labour market. Not only do participants benefit from this experience, but the staff at Jobsplus also gain valuable skills and insights into the ever-evolving world of work.
The program's commitment is evident as the training program developed for NEETs on green jobs was further enhanced and accredited at ISCED level 3 with 2 ECTS. This recognition not only enhances its credibility but also showcases its inclusion in the free training portfolio offered by Jobsplus to the public, making it accessible to all aspiring participants.
Lessons gleaned from Intercept are not confined to the program alone; they hold the power to influence the reinforced youth guarantee initiative in Malta. With its extension of assistance to NEETs up to the age of 29, Malta's reinforced youth guarantee program offers a chance for greater impact, providing reinforced pathways to success for the youth in the country.
The ongoing Intercept pilot program illustrates a way forward, offering valuable insights on how to engage NEETs and nurture their transition into the job market. By prioritizing the green economy and tailoring training and on-the-job experiences, the program empowers its participants, paving the way for a sustainable and promising career journey.
Article written by Antonio Buhagiar, Senior Executive, Jobsplus