A perfect match? MITA bring employers and students together
Written by Paul Cocks
MITA’s Student Placement Programme (SPP) is an annual, mutually beneficial programme for ICT and ICT-related students and employers of all sectors during the summer season. The programme aims to reduce the mismatch between supply and demand for ICT skills in the Maltese labour market.
Andrea Mallia explained that the SPP provides work experience for the students while employers benefit from having an employee on a trial period and having their wages subsidised.
“The SPP covers a maximum of 330 hours over a period of 11 weeks in summer,” she said. “Placemements nomally start in the beginning of July.”
Flint is an Augmented Reality (AR) startup set up in 2019 and has since participated in the SPP every year and plans to do so again this year. Incidentally – or probably not – the two company’s co-founders, Zoe Gatt and Nicolai Callus, participated in the programme when they were University students.
Gatt, the company’s CEO, told MaltaToday that as students, she and Callus had already verified the value the programme brings to the table. Now, as employers, they knew that students would bring fresh and useful ideas to their business.
“These students bring an added vibrant buzz to the office,” she said. “And of course, as a startup, the programme also helps us with payroll.”
2020 of course presented a lot of problems as the COVID-19 pandemic brought all business to its knees.
She and Callus chose to take minimal funds fom the company, because COVID put the company in a precarious situation, leading them to reinvest what they earned.
“Having the SPP cover part of the payroll was a massive help and it helped us grow even under such dire circumstances,” Gatt said.
The wage reimbursement is fast and easy, she said. “It’s a simple case of submitting an invoice and receiving payment within two weeks.”
And for a startup like Flint – as for other businesses used to not being repaid for services for months – that too is an added bonus of participating in the programme.
As to the experience of students participating in the programme, Gatt said that the employee that they had chosen last year was already a graduate. That student impressed Gatt and Callus so much that she is now a full-time employee of the company.
And that in itself is part of what makes the programme so successful: employers and students learn about each other and build a relationship, leading many companies to ask for the same student year after year.
Mallia said that around 500 students apply to join the programme each year and MITA endeavours to find a placement for all applicamts, thus far successfully. The programme is open to all full-time students of an IT-related course, at all levels.
Mallia said the students were not graded at the end of the placement but, as of last year, MITA started holding a survery among participating students to get their feedback on their experience.
Gatt said the application process for employers is easy and straightforward, even providing the facility for the employers to choose students from a particular school, a particular course and a particular year of studies.
“MITA then forwards us CVs for us to select students to interview,” she said. “The process is as easy as can be.”
Mallia confirmed that employers only need to submit a letter of intent to participate in the programme providing details about the company. Then MITA starts matching applicants with the company’s requests.
She said that for this year, to help with the financial pressures that COVID-19 has brought, private companies participating in the SPP will receive a 75% refund of the students’ wage, i.e. 25% more than the normal rate. NGO’s and public sector entities get a 100% refund. MITA also establishes a minimum threshold for the students’s wages, with companies being able to increase the wage as needed.
For an IT-based company like Flint, the SPP is a perfect source for new ideas, innovation and a new perspective.
Gatt explained that the company strives to provide memorable experiences for businesses, creators, publishers and more through the use of AR.
“We use AR technology to bring projects like books, marketing campaigns, tourism, packagaing, photography, print and more to life,” she said.
The huge success of AR-based Pokemon Go had served to bring the technology to the general public on a scale not seen before. AR is now set to become more mainstream; in many ways, it already is in markets like Asia and the US. In Europe, the technology was still relatively new but gaining a larger foothold with more innovative use.
In Malta, three companies were already offering AR-based services, all in the tourist industry.