[Read more session reports and live updates from the 2nd Western Balkan Digital Summit]
Moderator Ms Dzenana Aladjuz, (Director of INFOHOUSE SCO.) noted that the panel will try to address the questions of modernisation, digitalisation, and the importance of economic development for the labour market.
The first speaker to take the floor was Ms Siria Taurelli, (Senior Specialist in Governance and Lifelong Learning at European Training Foundation) who spoke of new alliances for the workforce of tomorrow. The speaker highlighted that digitalisation is an area for action, in particular, action for skills shortages and alliances which can play an integral part. Even though actors might have different roles and preference, alliances between them are needed for the economic growth. Taurelli emphasised that companies are providers of skills development, and consequently the private sector can help provide insights on skills shortages. She went on to highlight that only through well prepared people and good use of skills can the ICT sector develop.
Mr Safet Gerxhaliu, (Secretary General at the WB6 Chamber Investment Forum) observed that the WB6 tend to focus on political integration, however economic integration is also important. To this end, co-operation between private and public sector is essential, and there is the need to eliminate barriers and enhance dialogue, partnership, and communication between stakeholders. Consequently, priorities of the forum for the future are the 5Es; Europe, economy, education, environment, and experience.
Gerxhaliu emphasised that the brain drain of young people is an important challenge that needs to be addressed and regional actors need to identify ways to keep them in the region. He also noted that the image of the labour force of the Western Balkan economies needs to be promoted from cheap labour to a good and educated workforce. He also stressed that more attention needs to be accorded to the development of practical skills rather than academisation of young people.
Ms Mirjana Kovačević (Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia) stressed that the entrepreneurial spirit and competitiveness of micro-businesses as well SMEs in the WB6 should be accelerated. Ms Kovačević highlighted that there is a need to synergise the development of the workforce of tomorrow. To this end, the future generations need to have more practically oriented education as well as possibilities to enter into the real working life as soon as possible.
Ms Hille Henebry, (Senior Project Manager at KfW) spoke about the KfW's project the ‘Regional Challenge Fund’ that allows any state-recognised public and private entities in the Western Balkan economies to apply for financial support in the area of vocational education training (VET). The idea behind the project is to establish a VET consortia composed of VET providers such as schools or private companies who would in turn develop and submit a VET proposal. Proposals would be examine by independent experts who would select projects on the basis of technicality.
Henebry also observed that the time is ripe to take advantage of the window of opportunity in the WB6, given that the the rate of unemployment is high and that the demand from the private sector for skilled labour is growing.
By Natasa Perucica