Bridging the Skills Gap to Create New and Better Jobs

Project summary:

The project aims to address some of the core issues of the unemployment and bridge the “skills gap” in three key industries in North Macedonia - textile and construction, as well as renewable-energy industry through the design and testing of training provision models including post-secondary education and non-formal training. The project will consider key demographic groups, including young people entering the workplace, long-term unemployed and some workers already in employment who need improved opportunities to gain the skills they need to prosper in the private sector. 

Development challenge:

High Rates of Unemployment. North Macedonia’s unemployment rate of 17.8% in QI 2019 is high when compared to the EU average of 6.2% and the Western Balkan average of 15.3%. The recent reduction in the unemployment rate is partly due to creation of new jobs but also due to emigration and withdrawal of discouraged workers from the labour force. Labour force participation rates at 57.1% for the population and 46.7% for women, are also among the lowest in Europe. The situation is particularly bleak for young people aged 15-24. The unemployment rate for this group was 34.9% in Q2 2019. 

A Crippling Skills Gap. At the same time, employers across a variety of sectors complain that they are unable to find the workers they need to maintain current levels of production, let alone to expand. EVN, the Austrianowned electricity utility, has said that the power industry could employ at least 500 electrical fitters immediately (this sector could be considered as an additional sector). Textile executives say they are hesitating to introduce new technologies because the country has no specialized technicians able to maintain or repair new equipment. The training model needs to take into consideration these shortages and provide a good model that would address this. The construction industry is looking to recruit 600 specialised construction technicians over the next year. From discussions with privatesector employers the situation is of such concern that they’ve suggested putting a moratorium on encouraging new foreign direct investment until skill gaps in targeted sectors are addressed. Challenges of gasification of the country that are ahead put a pressure on the educational system that needs to be prepared to provide services for the renewableenergy industry and new occupation in the area of the green jobs.

This shortage of skilled and qualified workers is not just constraining North Macedonia’s ability to generate more and better-quality jobs for its young people, but it is also slowing possible productivity improvements and by that the country’s transition to an economy that can compete in the EU marketplace. 

Project objectives:

Outcome: By 2020, more men and women are able to improve their livelihoods by securing decent and sustainable employment in an increasingly competitive and job-rich economy

In close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) the expected results of the project will be achieved through four major Outputs:

  1. Stakeholder mapping analysis focused on education and employment sector linkages & gaps 
  2. A sector-specific skills assessment 
  3. Model for post-secondary education 
  4. Policy and implementation modalities for regional VET centre


The Project aims to provide private companies with knowledge of the likely dynamics in the labour market in two selected sectors, textile and construction, and share evidences about sectors and skills demands which is predicted to grow in the future.

Pilot a Multi-Stakeholder Platform for Assessing and Addressing Labour Requirements. The Project will pilot a multi-stakeholder platform aimed at bringing together businesses, policymakers and development practitioners to explore and find workable solutions to common challenges faced by local businesses. The platform will be used to support the businesses in three industry sectors – construction, textile and renewable-energy industry to discuss and agree on possible new model for skills gap, becoming one of the biggest bottlenecks.

Design a Regional VET Model. The project aims to address some of the core issues of the unemployment and bridge the “skills gap” through the design and testing of training provision models including post-secondary education and Regional VET Centre. Once the skills gaps are identified, the project will assess the best approaches to skills matching, including designing a model of Regional VET, within either an existing vocational school or in private-owned facilities/companies. 

Develop Adult Learning Programs Aligned with Labour Demand. The project will examine possibilities for provision of post-secondary education, by development of training programs that will be adapted to adult learning needs, adjusted to the work of the private sector. Thus, it will also serve worker=s who need to upgrade their skills and move into higher quality jobs. 

Streamline Lessons Learned into Educational Policy. The lessons learnt from the implementation of this project will be captured in recommendations for the Ministry of Education and Science, who is key national partner in the project, to be reflected in the policy updates related to post-secondary education system and reforms of the vocational education system. Proposed models should recognize the current legal obstacles for their full implementation and shall identify potential areas for improvement.