The launch of a skills card for foreign workers looking to work in the tourism industry has been put off until the end of March after discussions with industry stakeholders, Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Clayton Bartolo has confirmed in comments to the Times of Malta.

The reform, announced back in October, aimed to address the skills shortage that exists among workers in Malta’s hospitality and tourism industries. Originally planned to be introduced in January 2024, it would see prospective workers be required to attend a training course and pass an assessment.

Government had stated that the skills card will be introduced gradually, and it will first apply to third country nationals (TCNs) who do not currently work in Malta. These individuals will need to go through a number of training sessions and assessments, including a mandator course in English, a course on Malta’s tourism product, and another course on basic customer service and other necessary skills based on the area chosen by the person, such as bar, front office, restaurant or kitchen.

The cost for these assessments will come in at €450, while the prospective workers will also need to sit for another examination once they arrive in Malta, costing €125. Those who fail the practical test will have their work permit revoked and will be repatriated.

In an interview with the Times of Malta on Wednesday, Minister Bartolo remarked that the introduction of the skills card is the Malta Tourism Authority’s first goal of 2024 in a bid to attract higher-spending tourists.

“We had initially said we were going to start with the skills card from 1st January but, after consultation, we realised we could make some changes that will leave us with a more practical system and which guarantees the industry has the workers it needs,” he said.

“So, we are making changes,” he confirmed.

“Right now, we are working on the courses that are going to be offered and we plan to start rolling it out by the end of the first quarter next year,” Minister Bartolo continued.

The scheme received mixed reactions from Malta’s tourism and hospitality businesses, with many expressing their support for the measure, yet also noting that the costs tied to it are too high and that many TCNs cannot afford such an amount of money.

Philip Fenech, Chamber of SMEs deputy president and head of the tourism sector, was in support of the measure, stating that the introduction of a skills card will give the workers “the basic knowledge needed” and employees will have the “option to learn more than the basic requirements”.

“The slow but steady introduction of skills cards will raise the desired standards not only for TCNs but eventually for everyone working in the industry,” he had said.

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