Online Distance Courses for Older Workers: A Maltese Case Study

Joseph Vancell
University of Hull, United Kingdom, United Kingdom


Europe has an ageing labour force. However, major surveys confirm that, while the overall participation of older workers in lifelong learning is increasing, there remains a consistent gap in participation between younger and older workers (older workers, in this paper, refers to those persons aged 50 and over and who are gainfully employed). There is also a mismatch between the training content and forms, and the needs and aspirations of older employees. The literature is thereby arguing that older workers must have access to other, more innovative forms of education and training programmes, such as those offered online.In Malta, as in other European countries, SMEs are a driving force for its economic success.This paper presents the findings of a qualitative investigation of the perceptions of manager-owners and older employees in Maltese micro enterprises about online training programmes. This case study is part of a three-year project that is investigating the possibilities of online learning for Maltese workers. The project is co-financed by the Ministry of Education and Employment (Malta) and the European Structural Cohesion funds (under Priority axis 3). The main data-gathering tool was the semi-structured interview. The analysis of the empirical data was achieved through Grounded Theory approaches, including constant comparison, coding and memoring. The findings indicate that owner-managers and older employees have a negative attitude towards training in general, and company-related e-learning efforts in particular. Various factors were identified. However, the data suggests that, if the online courses are designed to meet the demands of both owners and employees, and if they have a non-formal, non-directive form, like work-based learning, they can encourage the participation of older employees for training.

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