Bosnia and Herzegovina is struggling to reduce its excessively high youth unemployment rate. The MarketMakers project aims to create new employment opportunities for young people in companies across four economic sectors: IT, Tourism, Food Production and Processing, and Business Process Outsourcing.
Every year a great number of young adults leave Bosnia and Herzegovina to look for work in the European Union, North America or Australia. When asked how to curb this ongoing exodus, experts often point to two promising industries: IT and business process outsourcing. These are the sectors, in addition to the food industry and tourism, in which Helvetas promotes open, dynamic markets with our MarketMakers project.
The objective is to work with ‘ecosystem players’ to build a better environment for private enterprises in these industries to create jobs for young people, to link up actors in the employment market, and remove legal or mental obstacles to sectoral development. MarketMakers has so far helped to generate around 1,500 jobs for young people and the target for the project’s second phase is 2,500 jobs by mid-2021.
Helvetas’ interventions in the IT sector exemplify our market-making approach. Until just a few years ago, software companies in the IT industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina largely worked in an isolated manner, often with few connections to one another. In fact, for fear of losing skilled manpower, many of them sealed themselves off from the competition. Instead of investing in developing the next generation of skilled labor, the tendency was to attract staff from one company to another leaving the industry no better off. Furthermore, academic training in IT at universities was outdated and out of touch with current market demands.
In 2013 and 2014 some IT business owners overcame their mutual distrust and pooled their forces to breathe new life into the industry. Helvetas provided support for the creation of an association, which has grown to around 20 IT companies from across the country. The association, among other things, invests a lot in improving vocational and university education. IT companies in Bosnia now share ideas and solve problems together. The importance of the association is now recognized, even by the government. It is now accepted as an industry interlocutor by the Canton of Sarajevo, for example, and was consulted in drafting the cantonal government’s strategy to promote the IT sector.
Medina Banjić, who trained in computer programming in 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina
MarketMakers is also working to improve the information available to secondary and post-secondary level students on what career options exist for them in the IT industry. Offering young people comprehensive insight into current industry skills demands, available opportunities for learning and self-improvement, and illuminating pathways into the industry the IT Careers Portal that MarketMakers is supporting aims to widen the pipeline of young people interested in entering one of Bosnia & Herzegovina's fastest-growing potential sectors.
MarketMakers is piloting different financing options that support young people in re-training and developing industry-demanded IT skills. The premise is to further reduce possible barriers to entry, specifically among the unemployed, many of whom lack the resources to re-train. This effort further contributes towards MarketMakers' strategic objective to resolve the principal constraint to the Bosnian IT industry's further growth: a shortfall in qualified workforce causing prominent companies to invest elsewhere in the Balkans.
MarketMakers is a mandate of the Swiss Government, implemented by Helvetas and the Bosnian KOLEKTIV d.o.o.