The ETF is skilling up the Western Balkans agri-food sector: digitalising, greening

The ETF’s Skills for Enterprise Development activity in the Western Balkan countries focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) active in the agriculture and food sector. It addresses the skills needs of niche areas or sub-sectors with growth potential. The activity scope is to provide tailored support in linking vocational education and training (VET) and SMEs for innovation, productivity-enhancing skills and quality of work in the agri-food sector.

The ETF’s call Create the future of skills in agri-food was carried out in 2022. Running from 2022 to 2025, the activity will contribute to:

  • identifying opportunities to enhance regional cooperation among Western Balkan countries as well as cooperation with EU member states in the agri-food sector;
  • strengthening skills development for innovation, competitiveness and convergence of the sector with the agri-food developments in the European Union.
Who is this activity for?
  • Innovative SMEs involved in areas such as digital transformation and sustainable transition of the agri-food sector
  • SMEs looking to make an innovation shift
  • Business associations and industry clusters supporting SME internationalisation 
  • VET institutions involved in innovation and skills formation in the agri-food area
How can I get involved?

The companies, business associations and industry clusters in the agri-food sector selected through the call will become partners in the project.

Although the call is now closed, the companies that are still interested to join, and that fit within the cluster of selected companies, can express their interest by e-mail to: Following an interview with ETF experts, they may be included in the group of selected companies.

What’s in it for me?

Participants selected through the call will take part in various activities, in collaboration with VET institutions involved in the agri-food area.

Analysis of technology and future skills
  • Human capital review: in-depth skills assessment addressing both skills demand and supply. The assessment will focus particularly on current and emerging skill trends, technological developments as well as future skills needs in the agri-food sector.
  • Partnership review:a review of the cooperation and working arrangements in the business ecosystem, in particular in terms of training, advisory services and innovation.
  • Technology review: a review of existing and emerging technologies in the Western Balkans and the EU, leveraging on digital and green transitions, and how they impact skills needs and education and training provision in the agri-food sector.
Networking and peer learning
  • Foresight: a strategic visioning and priority setting for education and training provision. This will include engaging with other actors such as companies, business associations, industry clusters, universities or vocational training institutions from the Western Balkan region and the EU already with experience and know-how in manpower developments, applied research and technology transfer in the agri-food sector.
  • Advisory group:a group of sector training experts will be tasked to advise the foresight, partnerships, and strategic direction of the activity, particularly in maximising its potential in terms of digital and sustainable solutions for companies.
  • Peer learning partnerships:pairing participants up with partners to address critical challenges and problems identified through the human capital and partnership reviews.
  • EU financing routes: discovering options to engage within wider EU sectoral and business support framework (e.g. European Enterprise Network) and financing streams (e.g. Horizon Europe, Erasmus+Pre-accession Assistance InstrumentEuropean Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s technical and financing facilities).
Support to implementing smart specialisation
  • Smart specialisation is an innovative approach that aims to boost growth and jobs in Europe, by enabling each region to identify and develop its own competitive advantages. ETF supports the implementation of smart specialisation by anchoring the strategies in a realistic supply of relevant skills – in particular at medium and high levels. The collaboration on skilling, upskilling and reskilling that ETF facilitates prepares the ecosystems to make the most of the opportunities offered by the EU’s sectoral and business support frameworks.

Source and photo credit: ETF

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