Employment and Industrial Relations Law

A Skills Validation Programme for a Superior Workforce

24 Nov 2023

6 min read

Authors: Ann Bugeja & Miguel Mallia

The hospitality and tourism industry calls for no less of a need for a superior workforce, especially on a small island which is predominantly Tourism driven. With the said industry being a key sector in the Maltese economy, both Maltese and foreign staff competence are imperative to sustain it, hence the prospective implementation of the “Gateway to Better Quality Employment in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry” programme envisions a constant flow of a certain quality level assurance for Maltese, EU and Third Country National (TCN) staff to employers.

The Strategic Objectives of the Programme

This initiative comprises of a prospective benchmark that workers envisioning to work in the hospitality and tourism sector in Malta, must pass to prove their competence in the sector. In the envisioned drafts pending implementations of the programme, the said benchmark is made up of two (2) phases that the employee must pass, establishing a quality over quantity employment in the consideration of applicants seeking work permits.

The intention is for the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) to establish three (3) goals throughout the establishment of such a programme:

  1. Establishing a benchmark to ensure a high-quality workforce by introducing obligatory training and assessments that an applicant must pass to obtain to basic knowledge and skills needed within the industry.
  2. The establishment of a systematic approach to be applied with Third Country Nationals (TCNs) initially and the subsequent implementation of the programme to the Maltese and EU population in January 2025.
  3. Mobility assurance in conducting training and assessment procedures by providing them through online means to ensure the efficacy of the system for both the employer and the employee.

Programme Structure

The objectives of the programme highlighted above will be achieved through the implementation of two (2) phases which consist of the following:

  1. The Assessment Stage:  This stage will be carried out from the applicant’s country of origin through online means and will consist of an English proficiency test, a basic customer care course and assessment, a basic Maltese tourism product course and assessment, a basic hospitality English course and assessment and a skills assessment for the job families and respective National Occupational Standard (“NOSs”) which include employment in a bar, restaurants, kitchens, housekeeping and front office workers. Upon the obligatory pass mark needed which in turn leads to the issuance of a skills card, progression to the second stage is achieved. It is pertinent to state that the issuance of a skills card does not guarantee an entitlement to work in Malta on its own and the second stage must be completed.
  2. The Interview Stage: Once the first phase is completed and a pass mark is achieved, an in-person interview and skills practical assessment will be conducted at the ITS before the work permit is issued and once the applicant is in Malta within the ninety (90) day period that is allowed without visa. The applicant is to advise the ITS of their arrival three (3) weeks prior to arriving in Malta and will be given an appointment within three (3) days of landing on the island. If the applicants fail the interview assessment they will be repatriated instantaneously, and the prospective work permit application is subsequently withdrawn.

The entirety of the qualification process will be managed through the training school of the ITS who will provide the training and assessment section of the programme, the Malta Tourism Authority (“MTA”) who will issue the skills card required and Identita’ who will issue the single work permits at the final stage.

The “Gateway to Better Quality Employment in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry” will be effective from January 2024 for Third Country Nationals (TCNs) from Visa Exempt Countries and countries not listed in Annex II of Regulation 2018/1806 of the European Union, from which the latter require an additional written promise of work by a hospitality establishment MTA. The programme will be effective from January 2025 for Maltese and EU Nationals. Any previous qualification obtained by citizens of any nationality will not be recognized and only the official ITS training and assessment will be recognized as a qualification. Maltese and EU students looking to spend a summer placement in Malta are given a temporary card issued by the MTA, yet if their placement is for longer than three (3) months the students are required to undergo the assessment required. The programme is silent on the treatment for student TCNs.

Fees Payable

The training course provided is subject to a fee of €450 for the online course and €125 for the in-person interview held in Malta, bringing the total cost up to €575, with a one-time resit chance to be made against an additional fee. There will be no payment required in the subsequent implementation in January 2025 for applicants of the programme being Maltese and EU nationals.

Third Country Nationals Domiciled in Malta

For TCNs who are already residing and employed in Malta, this programme is also applicable to them upon the renewal of their work permits from October 2024. They will need to go through the two stages mentioned above to prove their competence as a skilled worker three (3) months prior to the expiration of their current work permit. It is also pertinent to state that TCNs coming from countries not listed in Annex II of Regulation 2018/1806 of the European Union and are already working in Malta will not be able to apply for the process unless they are employed by a MTA licensed hospitality establishment.


There was an ongoing public consultation being conducted which was in force from the 26th of October and had till the 16th of November to be finalized, where stakeholders within the industry participate and provide their feedback on the proposed programme in question. Up till this date the general outlook on the implementation of this programme is a positivistic one, yet there are concerns on the efficiency of such, where due to the high demand of workers within the industry, some parties are concerned that the demand will exceed the supply of employees that are actually needed to conduct business within the sector. Information on further steps to be taken for implementation is still pending following the expiry of the public consultation period.


In October 2023, the Government announced that non-EU workers seeking employment in hotels, bars and restaurants must hold a specific skills card to work in the tourism industry in 2024. The idea was to expand the skills card as a requirement for Maltese and EU workers in 2025. However, it has now been announced that the introduction of a skills card for foreigners seeking jobs in the tourism industry has been postponed from January 2024 until the end of March 2024 to enable it to be amended and modified further.