Gege Gatt CEO and artificial intelligence (AI) expert Gege Gatt on Saturday expressed concerns over Malta’s low percentage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates in 2022, stating that this will result in challenges in maintaining competitiveness in the coming years.

The STEM industry has proven to be crucial in multiple sectors of the country’s economy in recent years, with more substantial investment in the area. The industry has been key to fostering Malta’s economic growth, global competitiveness, innovation, as well as solving complex issues such as cybersecurity threats.

Dr Gatt’s comments came as he reacted to the National Statistics Office’s latest 2022 graduates results. Overall, 5,472 students graduated in their respective courses, marking a decrease of 2.2 per cent over the previous years. Out of these, 15.4 per cent of graduates attained a qualification in STEM, 597 males and 247 females.

“If Malta is to be a hub for technology and finance, the low percentage of graduates, especially women, will be a barrier to realising this ambition,” he added.

He also remarked that STEM skills are critical in addressing fundamental future challenges, in a world moving towards a technology-driven economy.

Dr Gatt is a technology entrepreneur and lawyer with vast experience in ICT corporate strategy and operations. He is the CEO of London-based company EBO.AI, an artificial intelligence platform “which is disrupting the customer engagement industry through data.”

Offering a comprehensive set of recommendations, Dr Gatt listed 10 potential solutions to boost STEM graduates and reverse the trend.

These are:

1. Early education: He expressed his belief that integrating STEM in early education will be able to spark early interest. Estonia, he added, has implemented a digital-first approach in its education system, introducing programming and digital literacy from a young age. “This early exposure to technology and computing fosters interest in STEM fields.”

2. Updating the school curriculum: The next step, according to Dr Gatt, is to revamp school curriculum with hands-on, practical STEM activities. Citing another country’s “highly successful” approach, he said that Finland’s education strategy focuses less on homework and more on collaborative learning, with growing emphasis on problem-solving skills. “Their system encourages a more in-depth understanding of STEM subjects.”

3. Role Models: He stated that it is crucial for students to have role models and mentors from diverse STEM backgrounds.

4. Guidance: Dr Gatt also stressed that there needs to be better career guidance when it comes to knowledge about the diversity of STEM careers.

5. Scholarships and incentives: Offering “serious” scholarships and financial incentives for STEM studies will also boost students’ interest, he said. Germany’s vocational education system, Dr Gatt remarked, which combines apprenticeships in companies and education at vocational schools, “is effective for the STEM field”. Additionally, he stated that there needs to be more partnerships between schools and STEM industries, especially those outside of Malta.

6. Supporting women: Initiatives should be implemented to support women in STEM. “The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada has a programme for creating Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering, aimed at increasing the participation of women in science and engineering and providing role models.”

7. Specialised training: In addition, Dr Gatt stated that there must be more investment in specialised training dedicated to STEM educators.

8. Campaigns: “Launch public campaigns promoting the value of STEM education.”

9. Summer camps:  Offering extracurricular STEM programmes is another valuable addition to boost such numbers.

10. Government policies:  Finally, Dr Gatt said that the Government should develop supportive Government policies with funding for STEM. This is in addition to grant programmes, which need to be “correlated to the real needs of start-ups”.

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