German Development Bank KfW and the Swiss Government, represented by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), have successfully closed a financing agreement to support the Regional Challenge Fund (RCF). With this agreement, SDC allocates 9.7 million CHF to fund cooperative training projects in the Western Balkans.
The RCF is a financing facility designed to increase youth employability. It boosts the competitiveness of enterprises in Western Balkan economies by funding investments in equipment and infrastructure for selected cooperative training projects implemented through partnerships between vocational training institutes and enterprises. The grants are allocated through a competitive regional challenge.
The RCF is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development BMZ to KfW Development Bank and executed by the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6-CIF), a joint initiative of chambers of commerce from the region. The Fund`s volume of 39 Million EUR, obtained through the German Financial Contribution, will increase to approximately 49 Million EUR thanks to the contribution of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). “
“The Regional Challenge Fund is about regional integration and opportunities for economic growth. It has already succeeded in bringing together the private sector and vocational training institutes, motivating enterprises to engage in vocational training by teaming up with vocational schools in submitting proposals for the previous two open calls. We welcome our partners from Switzerland. Together we will be able to extend our joint investments in dual and cooperative training arrangements around the region of the Western Balkans 6. Our common vision is a modernized, green, and innovative vocational education and training sector that successfully responds to the needs of the enterprises.”
„Switzerland’s dual system of vocational education and training is known to be a key factor contributing to our own economic success and social cohesion. Accordingly, throughout the Western Balkans region, Switzerland supports its partner countries on Vocational Education and Training (VET) and labour-market integration of young people. The RCF will complement and enhance the results of the Swiss bilateral programmes in the region, and the experience and networks of Swiss programmes in the region will be at the disposal of the RCF. Switzerland and Germany are both members of the Donor Committee for dual VET. The intelligent design of the RCF will promote our common objective of advancing labor-market relevance and private sector involvement in VET. It incentivized schools to engage with companies. To ask which occupational profiles are needed, what skills are demanded by the partner companies. And to design and deliver these trainings jointly with the companies.”
“Our recent analysis shows the significant growth of the Western Balkans economy in 2021 and new jobs created. But enterprises from six economies of the Western Balkan need adequately qualified employees if we want to keep this positive trend and resist all current challenges. The benefits of joint implementation of dual and cooperative training programmes in partnership with well-equipped vocational training providers are recognized among many enterprises. With additional funds coming to the Regional Challenge Fund, we hope to contribute to having even more graduates from vocational education programmes get the skills needed to develop their careers in the Western Balkan region.”
The Regional Challenge Fund aims to strengthen the labour market relevance of vocational education and training by reinforcing a cooperative training approach in the economies of the Western Balkans 6: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.
After its first call launched in 2021, RCF received 205 applications from consortia of vocational training institutes and more than 600 enterprises. It eventually selected the 37 most promising projects, allocating approximately 14,5 million Euros to the region. The RCF Second Call for Expressions of Interest was opened from March 7th until April 14th, 2022, bringing 123 competing consortia, 47 of which were invited to the second stage to submit the full project proposal. The final selection is pending, with the Fund dedicated to investing approximately 8.8 million Euros in the most successful applicants from the second call.
The Regional Challenge Fund is an innovative program that seeks to increase the productivity and competitiveness of businesses in the Western Balkans 6. The RCF is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to KfW Development Bank and executed by the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6-CIF), a joint initiative of chambers of commerce from the region.