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Malta Vocational Centre, an aid for international mobility

In today's interview, we talk to a relevant partner of the Italian-Maltese Chamber of Commerce, Marco Arcella, a 42-year-old enterprenuer, originating from Calabrian, who has been living in Malta for 15 years and is in charge of MVC, Malta Vocational Centre, a small Maltese company operating in the field of international mobility and training.

1.  First of all, an introduction of our guest is necessary: Marco tell us something about yourself, the kind of training you have behind you and the path that led you here, to Malta.  

I am Marco Arcella, I am 42 years old, originally from a small town in the province of Vibo Valentia and I have been living in Malta for about 15 years now. My academic background is in information technology, a far cry from what I do today: I attended the Catholic University of Piacenza and then completed my studies in Milan with a degree in electronic commerce marketing and sales. After finishing university, I threw myself headlong into the search for a job in the sprawling metropolis of Lombardy, and within a short time I was hired as a computer programmer; in essence, I was in charge of managing databases, spending endless days in front of the usual monitor on the usual desk. I quickly realised that that lifestyle did not suit me, and so around the age of 22 I decided to apply for an internship abroad, the 'Leonardo da Vinci' project, and I was accepted to go to Malta.  

2. So your first time in Malta was around 2003?

I don't remember the exact date, but I do remember that I was no more than 23 years old and it was not just my first time in Malta, it was my first time outside Italy; I was young, independent and the island immediately welcomed me with open arms. My internship was always in IT, but here life was smiling at me: the wonderful climate, the growing economy and the multiculturalism of Malta immediately made a dent in my heart. After a few months, however, the project came to an end and I was forced to return to Milan.  

3. I guess it was not easy to get used to the rhythms of a hectic city like Milan again after savouring the Maltese quality of life.

 Not at all, so much so that after a few weeks I began to feel a deep nostalgia and an unrelenting desire to return to the heart of the Mediterranean. So, over the next few months, I got in touch with the company that had organised my internship on Maltese soil and soon started working for them. Initially I was transferred to their London office but after a few months I jumped at the chance to move permanently to Malta, where it all began.  

4. Once re-established on the island, what did you do specifically and what was the process that led to the birth of MVC?

When I returned to Malta for a short initial period I worked with the international mobility company I had been introduced to on the island; after which I threw myself back into IT hoping to find greater job satisfaction than in my homeland, but this was not exactly the case. The turning point came in 2010 when, together with Valentina, my current colleague, we decided to get involved and found MVC. Let me explain: Valentina and I got to know each other while working with the international mobility company I had previously referred to; she had done the "Leonardo da Vinci" project in Scotland and was now working in Malta as a receptionist in a hotel, but she was not satisfied with her job, just like me. So from a similar outlook, we came up with the idea of setting up and running a company in Malta that would deal with international mobility for young people, training and job placement. MVC certainly means Malta Vocational Centre, but the idea for the name came from the initials of Marco, Valentina and Concetta, another girl who worked with us in the early days.  

5. Certainly a courageous choice on your part, which 12 years later we can say has paid off big dividends in all respects. Turning instead to a more practical side, how do you carry out your activities on the ground? What are the steps to be followed to find workplaces where the young people involved in the various international mobility projects can carry out the internship that best suits their needs?  

It has been a long and tortuous process, made up of many no's, many doors in our faces but also many satisfactions and many important ties forged over the years. Of course, in the beginning it was necessary to build up a network of contacts with the various realities in the area, which meant physically going to companies, explaining to them what international mobility means and what our concept of an internship abroad is, trying to circumvent inevitable initial scepticism. Then, as the years went by, we came to have a really dense network of contacts in the most diverse fields, with some collaborations that are now more than ten years old.  

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6. As for the accommodations, i.e. the flats made available to the young people involved in the various projects, how are you organised?  

Initially, we relied on real estate agencies that had entire blocks or condominiums at their disposal and rented through them the flats to be made available to the boys. Then, as we intensified our work and delved more and more into the dynamics of the Maltese real estate market, we preferred to turn to private citizens who owned one or more flats. MVC currently has 7 flats in Malta: 6 in one building in Gzira and one in Sliema, just one floor above our office.  

7. Having clarified the two basic points concerning internships and accommodations, we now need to analyse the work of MVC from an economic point of view. How do you finance the international mobility projects you are involved in?  

It is important to clarify one concept immediately: MVC does not receive direct funding, but works as a partner with training centres, institutes and schools that have a project already approved and funded by third parties (European community, regional authorities to name a few). This modus operandi stems from a very specific choice: in the past, we had carried out some long-term international mobility projects and had also obtained the necessary funding to realise our ideas, but once we got to the selection of Maltese candidates, we came up against a different work culture. Here in Malta, many young people start working at the age of 18 and find it hard to get into the spirit of unpaid internships abroad. So we preferred to continue collaborating as a partner for already funded projects carried out by other organisations. 

8. Who is the MVC team composed of?  

We are a small company but with very clear ideas; Eleanor, Valentina and I are very close-knit and the three of us manage to perfectly divide the tasks and make the wheels of the MVC mechanism work. Specifically, Valentina mainly deals with the bureaucratic part of closing projects and collecting documents, Eleanor focuses more on the internship aspect and I concentrate on the accommodations.  

9. Before closing the MVC topic, I would like to understand what is your projection in the future: how do you imagine the Malta Vocational Centre in 10 years time?  

In all honesty, I hope nothing changes. MVC is perfect as it is, a small company, linked to the territory, with a turnover in line with our expectations and a focus on young people that we would risk losing if we got bigger.  


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