Chris Vassallo Cesareo’s time as Chairperson of JA Malta is coming to an end, as he wants to focus on his role as President of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, he has confirmed to MaltaCEOs.mt.
JA Malta is a member of JA Worldwide, providing hands-on, experiential learning in entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy. It seeks to give students pathways for employability, job creation, and financial success.
Mr Vassallo Cesareo has been serving as Chairperson of the non-profit foundation, which at the time was still called JAYE Malta Foundation, since 2021, being appointed for a three-year term. The foundation has confirmed that RSM Malta Director Fabianne Ruggier, currently Deputy Chairperson of JA Malta, will take his place.
Speaking to MaltaCEOs.mt, Mr Vassallo Cesareo said that he is the type of person who feels that once he gets involved in something, “he must project his full energy in it”.
“Additionally, I believe that one should leave space for other Board Members to have the opportunity to grow within the organisation, and to also challenge others’ thinking,” he explained.
Coupled with those reasons, he also remarked that given he is now President of The Malta Chamber, that role is taking up a lot of his time and he needs to be fully focused on it. Mr Vassallo Cesareo said that he would rather not renew his term than possibly not being able to give his maximum to either organisation.
He stated that even though he will no longer be directly involved on JA Malta’s Board of Directors, it is still an organisation that is very close to his heart. He noted that he has worked very well with JA Malta CEO Matthew Caruana and the rest of the foundation’s team, as well as at on an international level.
Due to this, as President of The Malta Chamber, Mr Vassallo Cesareo stressed that he “will for sure be involved in being able to support all the future entrepreneurs to integrate within the business community”. He stated he will do all he can to give them a “platform they can work on and grow”, and his link to JA Malta “will still be there” even after his departure.
When asked about his proudest achievement at JA Malta, Mr Vassallo Cesareo said that it has to be the process the foundation went through where it reevaluated what it “stands for and can offer the local market”.
During this process, JA Malta’s leadership team got external advisors to “take a snapshot” of where the foundation was at the time, to see how the environment around it had evolved, given that it had been in Malta for around 30 years.
“We wanted to understand the new players in the game, what they are offering, and to understand what our business partners wanted from JA Malta. We analysed all of this and realised that we needed to regroup to find key players who could offer different specialisations JA Malta needed, such as marketing, accounting and education, among other areas. This allowed us to understand what each Board Member contributed to the foundation, thus reevaluating our programmes accordingly” he explained.
Mr Vassallo Cesareo is also proud that JA Malta is now having a “greater international presence”, with more of its members making it abroad. Mr Caruana is currently Chair of the JA Europe CEO Board, and there are also two JA Malta members who are working at JA Europe and JA Worldwide.
Given his roles at The Malta Chamber and JA Malta, Mr Vassallo Cesareo is able to look at which skills are missing in Malta’s youths, together with the ones employers are really looking out for.
In this respect, he feels that the skills that need to be taught more are those that “JA ultimately stands for”, being employability, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and a number of other soft skills that employers would look out for.
“As employers, we want to employ people who are good at working in a team, problem solving, thinking outside of the box, public speaking, and possess good presentation skills. These are all elements we seek in job candidates,” he remarked.
“I can assure you that throughout interviews, JA achievers who have gone through a programme always stand out,” Mr Vassallo Cesareo highlighted.
He said that the skills gained during the programme are all life skills at the end of the day, so individuals must see it as an “investment for their lives”, rather than just as a “sacrifice”. Such skills can also be applied to a number of sectors, as whether one is an entrepreneur, a doctor, an accountant, or any other role, they need to be financially literate, work in a team, and problem solve.
Turning to presentation skills and public speaking more specifically, he felt that as a nation, Malta’s community is relatively reserved and holds back in this aspect. This is even the case in terms of the teaching of such skills in the education system.
“JA Malta encourages the development of these abilities and because it realises that Malta has an area that needs to continue to be improved,” Mr Vassallo Cesareo continued.
On JA Malta’s future following his departure, Mr Vassallo Cesareo said he believes the “structure is in place to keep JA relevant”.
“I believe that coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the way businesses are developing today, the skills that are learnt through the programme are only going to rise in demand,” he said.
He added that JA Malta is developing its programme to also cater for businesses, not just sixth form and University students.
“For example, JA Malta’s programme could help a sales team walk through different aspects of financial literacy, working in a team, and also the value of problem solving. This will enable them to realise that they are not only contributing to the company’s vision, but they are also aligning their own values with that,” Mr Vassallo Cesareo highlighted.
He concluded that JA Malta’s programme allows individuals to “challenge thinking”, assessing where they want to be in the future and if they have the potential to progress.
Outgoing JA Malta Chairperson Chris Vassallo Cesareo
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