The name is an acronym and a play of words derived from “Proactiveness” and “Action”. The Initiative derived from the MEA’s recognition for the need for action to instigate a national concerted effort towards making Malta an attractive place for investment and starting a business by minimising as much as possible the bottlenecks to growth and scale-up for start-ups and SMEs in order to ascertain resilience, competitiveness and sustainability of Maltese businesses.
The MEA was confident that in helping SMEs becoming more competitive, they would be better prepared to expand their businesses beyond Maltese shores and embark on Internationalisation. Through PROAction Initiative, the MEA is steadfast in its belief that the current conditions necessitated concrete action as opposed to prolonged academic debates.
The string of Actions taken under the PROAction Initiative aimed to promote innovation and change amongst the business community in such a way as to supporting the “Think Small First” principle and by leveraging on the resourceful and focused entrepreneurial mindset of the local investor.
The MEA intended to ensure the right conditions for growth of start-ups and SMEs also by seeking solutions to the prevailing shortage of workers and talent whilst ascertaining the necessary skills for tomorrow by teaming up with other stakeholders to seek lasting tangible solutions on a national scale with enhanced educational structures, strengthened resources for regulators and support business transformation.
PROAction Initiative include:
- Initiatives taken under the title of “Ensuring the Skills for Future Competitiveness” which consisted of primary research conducted by way of 4 Working Groups, a Stakeholders’ Session held in Parliament, an SMEs National Forum and the articulation of a publication containing 13 tangible recommendations which was presented to the President of Malta.
- A follow-up EU-Funded Project called “Regeneration Plan for Workplaces” which is still ongoing. This Project complements other elements in the PROAction initiative, by facilitating change in management which has become more necessary than ever before in a post-COVID scenario. The Project through National Round Tables, survey, and a Conference addresses bottlenecks in business transformation processes created by weak planning or communication between management and employees. This project works on Concrete recommendations for management to enhance their engagement with employees through communication and training to implement the change process within Maltese and European Companies. These will be contained in a Manual which will support other tangible outcomes emerging from other actions taken under the PROAction.
- Innovative reference points, principally MEAIndex, MEA’s HR Handbook, Conferences and Seminars and other
The HR Handbook and MEAIndex under the PROAction Initiative serve for SMEs and start-ups to cut-through red-tape and information deficits that often discourage investment and growth. These online references, in fact, provide a gateway for businesses into a vast directory of public sector entities and regulatory bodies whose services, processes and licences are required in the day-to-day functioning of any business. This online toolbox for business entrepreneurs, contributes towards minimising the “time to market for start-ups” and bureaucracy for SMEs.
- In an effort to support entrepreneurial talent amongst start-ups and SMEs, the PROAction Initiative also included training and courses on MEA’s Employment Law guidance, HR Management in Practice, the Award in Leading people at the Workplace and Employment: Fiscal & Practical Considerations.
- The PROAction Initiative aimed to “educate” and arm SMEs and start-ups with entrepreneurial acumen through other information-led initiatives including the MEATV programme which provides new insights on topical, business-related insights.
The PROAction initiative, if there will be focused determination, can easily be replicated elsewhere by other organisations both locally and also in other countries.
The MEA measures and reviews the results of its projects including its PROAction Initiative, according to both quantitative and qualitative matrices to ensure that the projects in question are achieving their intended targets and publics.
In this regard, PROAction was analysed against the following quantitative indices:
3. Number of people reached
The MEA counted almost 300 different stakeholders, that were involved in its PROAction Initiative. This involvement was in the form of either (or more) of the following:
- made interventions during the Parliament Session;
- Panel Speaker in the SMEs National Forum;
- Participated in Focus group meetings
- Contributed in MEA TV Programmes;
- conducted Training during MEA courses;
- conducted research studies;
Besides 289+ different stakeholders, it is estimated that the MEA’s PROAction Initiative reached no less than 158,776 (almost 32% of Malta’s population) people in the form of attendees or followers of the initiative:
4. Strengthening of Institutions
As a result of MEA’s constant representations under its PROAction Initiative, Government has re-established the National Skills Council and a meeting with MEA already took place in February 2023.
The Ministry of Education has announced various initiatives triggered by the PROAction Initiative:
- A public consultation which has just been launched on a Quality Assurance Framework for Education in Malta.
- Malta’s National Strategic Action Plan for Further and Higher Education 2022 – 2030
- Educators will be involved in writing the National Education Strategy for 2024-2030.
Identity Malta has become active in engaging with MEA itself in an effort to continuously improve on its efficiency to facilitate the job engagement processes of TCNs for the benefit of employers and SMEs.
Jobsplus was given €60m to provide equal-amounts worth in training programmes aimed at re-skilling and upskilling purposes with a view to rectify skills-gap problem.
PROAction Initiative’s recommendation was “greater commitment towards Work-Based Learning”, and MEA was pleased to note that by 2027, every course provided by MCAST will include work-based-learning to render the qualification (and corresponding skills) more relevant to the labour market.
Through the Foundation for Transport of which it is a co-founder, the MEA instigated an effective awareness campaign targeted at thousands of drivers who already opted to shift towards alternative energy operated vehicles. Also, for the coming weeks, another TV campaign will soon be launched, encouraging youngsters to go for specialised careers,
Through PROAction Initiative, the MEA stimulated other Organisations to feel the need to advertise and encourage youngsters to lead them into innovative careers in specialised sectors. These stakeholders included ITS, and the Malta Films Commission.
5. Simplification Initiatives and “Think Small First” Principle
As part of PROAction Initiative, Identity Malta agreed to implement new simplification procedures via flowcharts which map out its processes. These were launched during a public event held in conjunction with the MEA at the MCC on 4th May 2023.
Jobsplus officials are regularly holding 1-2-1 meetings with employers at MEA’s premisses. As a result, Jobsplus, also launched an online match-making platform to provide better visibility of available skills to employers.
The Department for Industrial and Employment Relations embarked on a “Fair Work” project aimed at reducing the risk of exploitation of workers. It also published a booklet on conditions of work in simple language.
The MEA PROAction Initiative is innovative in the manner in which it is derived from a bottom-up approach. In fact, through this initiative, the MEA designed PROAction to provide a meaningful link between the outcomes of its different elements to ensure success in the promotion of the “Think Small First” principle as well as to encourage further investment and initiative on the Islands by minimising as much as possible the bottlenecks to growth and scale-up for start-ups and SMEs as well as by reducing administrative burdens and frictions in the labour market in order to ascertain resilience, competitiveness and sustainability of Maltese businesses.
In embarking on its PROAction Initiative, the MEA was steadfast in its belief that the current conditions necessitated concrete concerted action on a national level for which the MEA sought to instigate several other stakeholders as opposed to prolonged academic debates.
The bottom-up approach of the Initiative arises from the fact that the design of the various elements is demand-driven from outcomes desired by the business community as expressed during internal consultation processes which formed an intrinsic part of several key Actions including mainly:
- “Ensuring the Skills for Future Competitiveness”
- “Regeneration of Workplaces”
Both main Actions, incorporated within their specific projects coordinated internal deliberations amongst members of the business community representing specific economic sectors, namely:
Transport | ICT | Hospitality, Tourism, Wholesale & Retail, and | Manufacturing and Professional Services.
While succeeding in bringing together nothing less than 289+ stakeholders and convince them to work together rather operating in silos, these and all other Actions in the Initiative are based on specialised deliberations, surveys and feedback which the MEA has sought to pursue proactively as part of the PROAction and in line with its Mission to engage with Employers and follow-through on their collective needs and challenges.
The PROAction Initiative breeds Innovation not merely through design but also through functionality. In fact, due to the COVID pandemic needed to alter the manner in which it operated and accelerated internal digital transformation to ensure that it could proactively continue to serve its publics in a seamless manner as it did before.
The internal meetings and deliberations referred to above became exclusively virtual for some time before settling “half-way” back to “hybrid-mode”. The same can be said for surveys which for the purposes of the PROAction Initiative were conducted partly physically and partly online.
Through the PROAction Initiative, the Association sought new innovative channels for its MEAIndex, HR Handbook and other Actions. For instance, the popular HR Handbook was digitalised and adapted to online channels also in due consideration of the MEA’s ESG obligations.
Similarly, whilst already acting innovatively when embarking on its MEATV project and taking its opinions out in the mass media, as part of its PROAction Initiative, the Association decided to introduce a YouTubeTM channel to reproduce its TV content and make it available to its publics “on-demand”.
Clearly, all PROAction Initiatives are supported by the Association’s social media channels, namely FacebookTM and LinkedInTM which contribute to important synergies in maximising exposure and effectiveness to all Actions.