© Simon B. Opladen

How Kosovo is Preparing Youth for the Jobs of Tomorrow

TEXT: Erris Boshnjaku , Fatlinda Mujko
© Simon B. Opladen

The future of jobs is no longer singular. It is diverging by industry, sector and profile, and is heavily influenced by technology, skills availability and the adaptability of the modern workforce.

The world of jobs and skills is changing faster than ever – requiring a workforce that is adaptive and constantly learning new skills. In this context, it is crucial to be on the constant lookout for skill gaps and to precede any intervention with research and data. Otherwise, today's youth will be prepared for the jobs of yesterdays, not the jobs of tomorrow. Consequently, different industries will experience divergence in the composition of emerging roles and in roles that are set to have declining demand.

Why do we need skills gap analysis?

According to the 2018 World Economic Forum, the increasing speed of technological advancements will require at least 54% of employees to upskill or replace their competencies. A lot of movement is transpiring in the fields of automation and artificial intelligence. Because of the rapid adaptation of new technologies, new growth in the ICT industry and the availability of big data will have a significant impact across all sectors, depending on digitalization and automatization. If the trend continues, many workers will have outdated skills and be unable to serve the needs of their workplace, thus pushing them toward unemployment. 

The latest World Bank STEP Household and Employer Survey in Kosovo shows that companies find it difficult to employ qualified individuals due to the lack of experience of job market entrants and the low level of education. Three out of four firms that attempted to fill a higher skill position, and three out of five firms that sought to fill a medium to lower skill position, encountered problems because of applicants’ lack of skills and/or experience. That is why the need for skills gap analysis has become imperative for understanding the needs of the sector and which skill gaps need to be addressed.

EYE’s approach to skill gaps

The Enhancing Youth Employment (EYE) project began in 2013, and since that time has been working to increase the employability of young women and men in Kosovo. EYE’s current focus is on achieving socially inclusive and sustainable employment by enhancing market-demanded skills through industry-led trainings and non-formal training institutions. The project is also helping young women and men make better-informed career choices through a demand-driven career guidance system.

As part of the intervention, the project collaborated with industry associations to conduct a skills gap analysis in retail, printing and metal industries. The goal of the analysis was to draw attention to the cause of the existing situation, its impact on the business community, the role of education institutions in the process, and possible reforms that can be undertaken to address the skills mismatch. This focus on specific sectors struggling to find skillful workers offers an opportunity to detect future-oriented skills development, while at the same time preparing youth for the future through career centers, vocational skills development, industry-led trainings and a more efficient labor market information system.

Skills gaps in the retail industry

The EYE project and Kosovo Retail Association conducted a skills gap analysis on 25 companies in Kosovo’s retail industry. The survey findings informed training design for youth interested in working in the industry, which is helping employment and labor productivity, thus creating a win-win situation for the employers and employees. Kosovo’s youth faces high unemployment levels of 49.1% and skills gaps within different industries, compared to youth unemployment in European Union, which is only 14%. While the government prepares different strategies, it does not suffice to tackle industry-specific needs that would potentially increase employment, specifically that of youth, and increase labor productivity.

As the largest employer in Kosovo, the retail industry warrants special attention. Based on the companies’ evaluation of a list of skills, there is a mild skills gap in the retail industry in Kosovo. The skills assessment grid showed that many companies found their entry-level employees and managerial employees to at least have some knowledge of the skills required in retail. The most problematic age group was 18-30-year-olds, especially teenagers, and youth in their early twenties; these groups typically had a lack of experience and lower level of education. The three trainings needs identified most frequently were communication skills, sales skills and customer relation skills. Additional competency gaps included digital fluency, software familiarity, teamwork and delegation skills.

Most companies agree that there is a need for their employees to learn new skills and to improve upon what they already know. The skills of the managerial employees were considered excellent at 44% of the 25 surveyed companies and good at 48% of the companies. Only 20% of the skills of entry-level employees were considered excellent. The skills needed to keep the business operating have also increased over time for 72% of the companies. Some main reasons for this are the challenging nature of the jobs, the adjustment to changes in the industry, the perfection of existing sales skills and the learning of sales skills in general.

In response to the “Skills Gap Analysis in the Retail Industry” case study, the Kosovo Retail Association partnered with the National Retail Federation of the United States to create two new training packages to bridge skills gaps: (1) Customer Service & Sales and (2) Business of Retail. These trainings are the only specific packages tailored to the retail industry in Kosovo that provide internationally recognized certificates. The Kosovo Retail Association offered these trainings to 91 mid-level managers from nine different companies geographically distributed across Kosovo. This training model is serving as an example for other business organizations and clusters to replicate when seeking affordable solutions for relevant training based on identified skills gaps.

Skills gaps in the metal industry

Following the successful trainings derived from the skills gap survey of the retail industry, the EYE project partnered with the Metal Industry and Renewable Energy Cluster of Kosova (KIMERK) to develop a skills gap analysis for the metal sector. The aim was to provide a clear idea of the needs of the employees in the metal industry, a company's willingness to invest in their current and future employees, and the recommended options for designing and organizing training programs tailored for the employees in the metal industry.

In Kosovo's metal industry, most employees are part of the production department, and there are fewer employees in administrative roles. The level of education of employees varies depending on the position, but more than half of employees come from vocational high schools. Though most employees have vocational education, not all enterprises are satisfied with the level of knowledge and skills. The reason employees are not prepared, according to enterprises surveyed and interviewed, lies in the education system of Kosovo, where the curriculum is overly theoretical, lacking teaching of necessary practical skills. More than half of the enterprises surveyed claim that there is a skills gap among employees. The remaining companies surveyed, which do not believe there is a lack of skills, are mainly enterprises with long-term employees. Those employees have gained knowledge and skills over time and are now stable.

Out of 89 enterprises surveyed, 64% stated that there is a skills gap among employees. Among the most lacking skills for employees and most-needed for surveyed enterprises are welding skills (31%), CNC machine programming (13%), operating CNC machines (13%), and AutoCAD (8%). The research is expected to serve as a foundational analysis for KIMERK’s future strategy, and could be very useful to other donor and non-governmental actors. However, finding the right partner to deliver trainings in a sustainable way remains an issue.

An Upskilling Revolution

Employers are looking for workers who are well-organized, perform unsupervised tasks with confidence, and can solve unexpected problems as they occur in the work process. With a lack of skilled employees, productivity can decline and lead to slower production times, increased operation costs and other performance issues. Companies should provide information on skills gap analysis research because in the long term they benefit from a better-trained workforce. The existing and the expected skills gap in different industries is a pressing concern, and workers need to upskill in order to remain in their jobs. Now, more than ever, companies are situated in an important time to embark on an “upskilling revolution” that allows employees worldwide to be prepared for the future of work, whatever that may entail.

Technical education and training systems have not yet evolved to cater to the advancements and changes within the industries we surveyed. Because of this, younger generations do not have the proper training needed to fulfil skilled job roles. This has led to many unfilled jobs and workers’ shortages in Kosovo. Stronger engagement with educational institutions, industry leaders, and private sector associations on education that responds to the labor market is crucial for covering the immediate and future skills needs of employers.


This article appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of Helvetas MosaicSubscribe to never miss an issue.

Did you learn something new about this topic? Share it and keep the conversation going →

Subscribe to Helvetas Mosaic

Our articles explore new trends and fresh ideas about international development work in Southeast Europe.

Get inspired with our insights.