Project to Provide Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Attraction Coaching
June 14, 2013 - The Project has prepared an investment promotion coaching program aimed at improving local government officials’ skills in attracting foreign investors. Experts from the Serbian Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SIEPA), AmCham, the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED), the Foreign Investors Council (FIC), the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM) and the German Chamber of Commerce are engaged to lead coaching sessions and present FDI attraction models.
Four workshops will be held for select municipalities from the Novi Sad, Uzice, Nis and Vranje inter-municipal cooperation (IMC) areas, which recognize the importance of foreign investments as key to job generation in their communities. Only towns with an advanced state of investor ready sites – those with the proper infrastructure, no legal issues and adequate support facilities – will participate in the coaching sessions. The program covers topics from customizing offer for investor to finding and getting in contact with the right companies. The workshops will be followed by a study tour to the Czech Republic familiarizing participants with best practice examples. The first workshop will be held on July 3-5, 2013.
Beocin Develops and Adopts Local Sustainable Development Strategy
June 11, 2013 - The Municipality of Beocin adopted a ten-year (2013-2023) Local Sustainable Development Strategy, with a five-year action plan. The Project advised local officials on how to create an economically feasible plan, in line with regional and national development strategies. Project experts also assisted the organization of partnership forums, which served to incorporate civic and private sectors priorities in the final plan. The Strategy covers topics from improving the efficiency of the public administration and increasing access to social care for vulnerable groups to encouraging private sector expansion by promoting entrepreneurship and competitiveness primarily in agriculture, tourism and industrial production.
Youth Business Start-ups Across Three Inter-Municipal Cooperation (IMC) Areas to Receive Grants
June 10, 2013 - The civil society organization, Group 484, has approved nine small grants for business start-ups under the Project-supported activity entitled, "Promotion of Youth Employment through Collaboration with Entrepreneurs and Diaspora”.
Group 484 assisted 17 youth teams in refining their entrepreneurial ideas through trainings on business planning, determining products and markets, and preparing financial plans. Participating students then developed business plans, of which the best nine have now been chosen to receive 1,200 euros each in start-up grants through a joint Group 484/UniCredit Foundation.
Examples of grantees are: a producer of ecological heating pellets; a care center for children with special needs; a furniture manufacturer; and an architectural firm. Through Group 484, the Project assists young entrepreneurs to establish enterprises with the mentorship guidance by international and local experts.
Project Works to Diversify Agricultural Production and Attract New Investments
June 7, 2013 - The Project recently completed an assessment of the potential for introducing high-value non-traditional crops that can be grown in Raska, Vrnjacka Banja, Tutin, Sjenica and Novi Pazar, in an effort to give small-scale farmers options to diversify their cropping systems. The Project investigated the potential for introducing non-traditional crop to local farmers given the local context and the risks associated with venturing into new crop varieties requiring new agronomic practices and marketing channels.
Field surveys were conducted across approximately 15 key local farmers and 10 agriculture-supporting institutions to provide recommendations on potential crop diversification measures. It was found that due to their geographic position, climate, soil composition, and fragmented farming plots, certain niche crop varieties could be introduced and sustained. For instance, the findings showed the potential for growing medicinal and aromatic herbs, forest and berry fruits, as well as organic production of some traditional crops.
The Project will use these recommendations to further develop assistance programs aimed to increase the agricultural product offer in the region, while adding value to local produce and attract investment into targeted areas.
New Economic Magazine to Share Best Practices on Economic Growth and Local Development
June 7, 2013 - The Project will support a new economic monthly magazine titled New Economy, published by the Business Info Group (BIG), through its first six issues. The magazine aims to improve the business environment in Serbia by presenting economic development best practice examples, success stories and interviews with leading experts from the public, private and civil sectors.
New Economy will address topics in an impartial and professional manner, covering topics such as: job creation, public-private partnerships, agribusiness, entrepreneurship, and innovation. With Project support, BIG will also organize three high-level conferences and initiate dialogue on issues covering impediments to investment and job creation.
Business Info Group is a media company which deals with business journalism, media trainings and B2B events management. It has created economics-themed special editions for widely-circulated newspapers such as Politika and Vreme. The first issue of New Economy will be published on June 15, 2013.
Project Connects Zrenjanin-led Inter-Municipal Cooperation (IMC) Area Youth with Employers
May 28, 2013 - The Project and partner civil society organization, Belgrade Open School (BOS), organized a roundtable connecting employers and high school students to help students learn about job skills currently demanded by employers. Company representatives presented their current labor needs and stressed that they are looking for motivated and communicative workers. The company representatives also extended an invitation to interested youths to visit their companies and offered the opportunity to shadow employees on the job to gain an understanding of the daily routine and skill sets of current positions.
The roundtable, held in Zrenjanin, was attended by representatives of large regional companies such as Dijamant Zrenjanin and Dunav Insurance, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises from the entire inter-municipal cooperation area (encompassing Zrenjanin, Kikinda and Novi Becej). Youth Office representatives from Zrenjanin and representatives of the National Employment Service also participated at the event. This activity was organized as part of SLDP and BOS support to local mobile career guidance teams, which aim to improve access to information and career counseling for young people, enable better coordination of career counseling activities in this field, and to unify existing resources at the local and inter-municipal levels.
Eight Municipalities trained in Asset Management to Increase Economic Development Opportunities
May 20-22, 2013 - The Project supported the City of Uzice to train representatives from four inter-municipal cooperation (IMC) areas in asset inventorying and management. The city hosted 24 local economic development experts from eight municipalities (Novi Pazar, Sjenica, Nis, Gadzin Han, Merosina, Bujanovac, Zrenjanin and Kikinda) who were presented with best practice models from the Uzice City Administration as well as local public enterprises.
Since Uzice has had great success in both its asset inventory and organization of public enterprises, the Project proposed that the city mentor other Project partner municipalities in these areas. Uzice presented its catalogue of public assets (vacant land, infrastructure and commercial property) as well as how concrete administrative challenges can be overcome in preparing assets for commercialization. Representatives of the eight municipalities were acquainted with model ordinances for the disposal of municipal assets and action plans, and were introduced to asset inventory software such as the city’s Geodetic Information System (GIS) database.
Through this activity, SLDP ensured a wide transfer of technical and administrative knowledge, experience and know-how among partner cities and municipalities, necessary for accelerating their economic development and attracting investors.
Forty-Seven Interns Begin Working as part of Youth Employment Efforts
May 21, 2013 - The Project, as part of support for job growth activities and increasing youth employment, continues to work with non-governmental organization Smart Kolektiv (SK) to develop internship opportunities in the public and private sectors. To this end, throughout April, SK delivered six comprehensive business-skill trainings to over 100 potential interns on everything from CV writing and job interview skills to work place conduct and team work. In May, companies began interviewing interns; marking the beginning of the third cycle of the Youth Business Serbia program through which forty-seven youths have already begun internships in twenty companies. The work being done by these young people ranges from journalism and television production to web design and administration.
The two-month internships will provide youths with practical job skills, while upon the completion of the internships period the youths’ work will be evaluated, and the most suitable candidates may be given employment opportunity with their respective firms. So far, 67 young people have gone through two cycles of internships, of which, at the end of the first cycle, twelve received their first permanent jobs. The second phase ends in June, when more youths are expected to receive job offers.
The YBS program is implemented by SK in partnership with the National Employment Service and Erste Bank with support from SLDP and the Ministry of Youth and Sport.
Grant Approved for Training of Local Officials in Economic Development Skills
May, 2013 - In order to improve the skills of newly elected local officials in effectively utilizing local economic development (LED) tools, SLDP awarded SCTM a grant for approximately $100.000. From June 2013 to May 2014 the SCTM will improve local officials’ capacities through a combination of trainings, coaching and web-based distance learning programs. The Project and SCTM will train at least 200 local officials (members of municipal assemblies and municipal councils from 32 cities and municipalities) in legal and institutional framework for LED tools and teach officials them to effectively manage LED.
Simultaneously, through a distance learning program, at least 50 LED practitioners will improve their knowledge and skills to attract investments and generate new jobs. During last year’s elections, a large number of new local officials were appointed, who lack governing experience and knowledge of economic policies. This trend has had a noticeable impact on local economies and resulted in the role of some LED offices being minimized within local administrations.
Founded in 1953, the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities is the national association of towns and municipalities in Serbia. The organization aims to improve the position of its members by advocating for their interests at the national level and fostering cooperation among local authorities.
Third Career Guidance Training to Reduce Youth Unemployment Held
May 15, 2013 - the Project held the third career guidance development training in the Novi Sad-led Inter-Municipal Cooperation area (encompassing Novi Sad, Sremski Karlovci, Temerin and Beocin) to prepare professionals who work with youth to support the transition from school-to-work.
The training included representatives of the Vojvodina Metal Cluster, a key stakeholder in the Project’s Novi Sad IMC economic development program. Metal cluster representatives presented their current labor needs and informed participating Novi Sad Education Center teachers, psychologists and youth office representatives about how to assist young people in searching for job opportunities within one, of over 116, metal cluster members.
The training also addressed the shortcomings in Serbia’s education system, which has no set mechanism for informing students of career opportunities, existing labor market conditions and/or further educational opportunities.
The training strengthened the participants’ career guidance skills to better match the interests and education of youth with the existing labor market needs.
Ministry of Youth Supports Project Youth Employment Activities
May 10, 2013 - In Zrenjanin, the Ministry of Youth and Sport signed a MOU ensuring government support for Project youth employment programs and the development of youth agricultural entrepreneurship in rural areas of Serbia. The Project used the event to present its “Diversification of Agriculture – New Jobs for Rural Youth” program.
This activity is being implemented in the Zrenjanin inter-municipal cooperation area (encompassing three municipalities), and aims to shift local agriculture production from grain to vegetable processing in order to add high-value crops and create a diversified product portfolio, with the goal of increasing small farm revenue and sustainability. The Project will also support the creation of agriculture start-ups for vegetable production, primarily targeting rural youth and providing these young people with access to land, equipment and infrastructure. The event was attended by representatives of all three local governments (Kikinda, Novi Becej and Zrenjanin), agricultural cooperatives, local businesses, the Petroleum Industry of Serbia (NIS) and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Development of Economic Faculty in Bujanovac to Create Skilled Workforce
May, 2013 - At the request of the Bujanovac local government (LG), the Project provided tailored technical assistance allowing the LG to obtain land for a planned economic faculty. Despite the availability of EU funding in excess of 400,000 euros for the construction on this facility, it turned out that the land the faculty was to be built on did not belong to the municipality but to the Heba Company, which bottles mineral water. At the request of the local economic development office the Project prepared a detailed legal analysis and proposed an exchange of land which will allow the faculty to be built. Based on this analysis the municipality will allocate land with mineral springs to Heba, while the company will give its land to the municipality, enabling the construction of the economic faculty.
Once this arrangement is approved by the Bujanovac Municipal Assembly an exchange of plots will allow the EU to release the approved funding and construction of this facility will begin. Currently the Economic Faculty in Bujanovac is located on one floor of the local culture center which does not have the required facilities or infrastructure to support the growing number of students. A new modern faculty will allow for the training of a qualified workforce with skills needed by employers, boosting the local economy and curbing youth outmigration.
Project Recommends Changes to Labor Law to Reduce Grey Economy and Stimulate Youth Employment
April 30, 2013 - The Project recently completed a comprehensive analysis of legislation governing engagement of work practitioners by companies and public institutions. The research compares different types of contracts available to employers engaging young people on a short-term basis.
Based on this analysis, Project experts recommended abolishment of redundant taxes and charges that burden contracts with career practitioners thus boosting employers’ incentives to engage volunteers, interns and part-time workers, while paying their social and health benefits. The Project also recommended limiting the duration of these contracts, thus preventing employers’ misuse of work practice as a means of evading full time engagement.
If these changes are incorporated in the Labor Law, they will ensure legal protection of career practitioners and help in limiting the grey economy. This analysis was presented during a roundtable on proposed changes to the Labor Law, organized by USAID’s Business Enabling Project with the Ministry for Labor, Employment and Social Policy, trade unions and representatives of the employers and their associations.
Twenty-Two Youths Employed Through Project Supported Internships
April 23, 2013 - To-date 22 young people have become employed as a result of two internship programs funded by the Project and implemented by civil society organizations (CSO) Smart Kolektiv and Group 484. This success was achieved thanks to the demand-driven method used, which begins with determining labor market demand: companies are first invited to specify their work force needs after which youth with matching qualifications are selected for placement in internships.
Through this program and the effort of the two civil society partners, the Project is familiarizing companies and perspective employers with the potential of internships, a concept that is new in Serbia. Smart Kolektiv assisted local young people to gain internships in the Subotica, Novi Sad, Kraljevo and Nis-led inter-municipal cooperation (IMC) areas (encompassing 17 municipalities) within the Youth Business Serbia (YBS) program. This program, supported by the Ministry of Youth, Erste Bank, NES and the Project has, so-far, enabled 25 youths to participate in internships, of which 12 have gotten jobs.
Group 484 has successfully worked to increase youth employment in the Novi Pazar, Vranje and Uzice–led IMC areas (encompassing 12 municipalities). So far, these efforts have enabled 48 short-term internships in various companies, resulting in 10 youths gaining jobs. In addition to work-placement, both programs provide education and training in skills needed by employers to participating youths, increasing the young people’s chances of gaining first employment once their internship periods are over.
Project Assists Development of Brownfield Locations to Attract Investment
April 19, 2013 - Supported by the Project, the city of Nis has established a working group, headed by the deputy mayor, for the revitalization of five brownfield locations and adopted an interim action plan. Earlier this year, the Project provided support in defining legal, institutional, economic and technical preconditions for re-development of these sites. Possible re-development options include a plan for structural conversion of facilities (keeping their industrial profiles but rearranging the capital structure), functional conversion (changing the industrial function of the brownfield site) or just protection measures for highly polluted areas.
Additionally, the remaining local government partners in the Nis- and Vranje- led inter-municipal cooperation areas (covering an additional eight municipalities) have utilized Project assistance to preliminarily define 23 brownfield locations for possible development. Project experts will provide restructuring recommendations for these sites and develop a catalogue of selected brownfield locations to attract targeted investment.
Round-tables Highlight Potential Public-Private Partnerships
April 9 & 11, 2013 - Last week the Project and its implementing partner, the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED), held two businesses-to-government roundtables to initiate dialogue on public-private partnerships (PPP) aiming to help local authorities increase efficiency and spur job creation, despite limited local budgets. Since 2011, there has been a favorable legal framework governing PPPs in Serbia but not much interest among municipalities due to a lack of expertise. The two events presented PPP potentials to improve various utility services and infrastructure in local communities. NALED will ultimately help develop eight most feasible and impact oriented PPPs.
The first PPP roundtable was held on April 9th in Novi Sad (gathering ten LG partners from three Project supported inter-municipal cooperation (IMC) areas, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Health), where healthcare sector PPPs were of particular interest.
The second roundtable was held on April 11th in Kraljevo (gathering thirteen LG partners from three Project supported IMC areas as well as representatives of the Ministry of Regional Development). Participants in Kraljevo were mostly interested in recycling and public transportation PPPs. Out of 32 local governments, the best eight ideas will receive technical assistance for implementation of PPPs. An investor conference will also be organized in November, to introduce LGs with potential private partners. A third roundtable is planned for April 16, in Nis (gathering the remaining 9 Project IMC area partners).
Connecting employers and youth to increase employment
April 10, 2013 - Project partner civil society organization Belgrade Open School (BOS) has organized a roundtable to connect employers and high school students, facilitate an exchange of information and help students learn about the jobs and business skills currently in demand. The roundtable also allayed the many dilemmas that young people have concerning finding employment in their communities. Participating employers invited interested youths to visit their companies through job shadowing visits, volunteer work and possible internships.
The event, held at the Novi Pazar Youth Office, was attended by more than ten representatives of small and medium-sized companies from Novi Pazar, representatives from secondary schools in Novi Pazar and Sjenica (students, practical training organizers, educators and psychologists), representatives of the National Employment Service and the Sjenica and Novi Pazar Youth Offices. This activity was organized as part of SLDP and BOS support to local mobile career guidance teams which aim to improve information services about career counseling for young people, enable better coordination of activities in this field and unify existing resources at the local and inter-municipal levels.
Food Sector Analysis Begins in Three Inter-Municipal Cooperation Areas to Attract New Investments and Increase Export
April 1-10, 2013 - As part of a drive to expand the private sector and create jobs, the Project has initiated an analysis of the potential for growing the food processing industry in partner communities.
To accomplish the anaylisis, the Project engaged an international expert to examine the strengths and capabilities of the Serbian food sector and make recommendations aimed at growing value-added food processing. The expert met with approximately sixty representatives of over twenty different food companies, processors, associations, and individual owners/farmers from the Nis, Subotica and Zrenjanin -led Inter-Municipal Cooperation (IMC) Areas (encompassing 11 cities and municipalities). These communities have processing potential thanks to their geographic location and agricultural tradition.
Some of the initial impressions of the analysis highlight the potential for growth in the dried, pureed, or concentrated fruit industry. Further research will also be carried out to determine the viability of packaging honey for Russia and other export markets. A similar opportunity exists for jarred/dried vegetables and mushrooms which could yield some excellent results. Despite existing challenges to growing a successful, vibrant value-added food processing industry, SLDP intends to marry Serbia's rich agricultural traditions with the necessary food processing business expertise in order to attract investment into targeted IMC areas.
New Round of Career Guidance Training to Reduce Youth Unemployment
April 5, 2013 - The Project began the first of three career guidance development training programs in the Novi Sad-led Inter-Municipal Cooperation area (encompassing four municipalities) to improve young people’s school-to-work transition.
Due to shortcomings in the Serbian education system, students often do not know how to manage their own careers or how to match personal interests and skills with the existing labor market demands. A Project-supported labor skills gap analysis, performed by the National Employment Service (NES) in 2012, showed that even when perspective employers are willing to hire youth, the young people seeking jobs often lack the required skills. Career information and counseling also helps youth to become aware of diverse career paths that can be realistically pursued, leading to personal benefit and economic self-sufficiency.
Participants of the Project-organized training were high school psychologists and pedagogues from Novi Sad, Sremski Karlovci, Temerin and Beocin, representatives of NES and youth offices. The training strengthened the participants’ career guidance skills to better match the interests and education of youth with the existing labor market needs.
Vladicin Han Officials trained in EU Grant Application Procedures to Secure More Funding for Local Economic Development
April 4, 2013 - From April 2-4, at the request of the mayor of Vladicin Han, Project experts provided a three-day training program covering EU grant application procedures to local government officials and technical staff.
The training was attended by 18 participants, mainly local economic development office staff and sector-oriented youth from Vladicin Han, who acquired or improved their knowledge on procedures and documentation for EU-funding. The participants were also introduced to Project Cycle Management methodology, and applied their skills through practical hands-on work.
Throughout the training, the Project guided local government participants towards realistic, economically sustainable projects, stressing the need for cooperation in order to maximize the applicants' chances of being grated funding for development initiatives at the upcoming EU call for proposals.