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Enhancing skills training to boost growth and competitiveness

Since 2007 we have been supporting Montenegro to develop education and training to boost employability, increase access to opportunity and promote social cohesion. Complementing the work of the EU’s External Action Service, we bring together ministries and social partners to develop scalable projects.

The government of Montenegro is tackling structural challenges by moving vocational education and skills development up the policy agenda, as skills mismatch and lack of job creation remain a key obstacle to growth and competiveness. ETF provides policy support and focused financial assistance to the country. Priority interventions are: reforming curricula with the support of Sector Councils including companies and improving school‐to‐work transitions through work‐based learning. We are also promoting the appeal of vocational professions and carrying out apprenticeships with employers, as well as assisting with the provision of effective employment services and active labour market policies.

Political context and priorities

A small, open economy, Montenegro relies heavily on capital inflows from abroad to boost its growth, which leaves it vulnerable to external shocks. Montenegro is aspiring to join the EU by 2020 and the momentum for comprehensive reform is carrying the country forward. Priorities for the government are reforms in education, employment and social policy measures, as outlined in the Economic Reform Program (2018-2020). Recent meetings in April 2018 between Prime Minister Duško Marković and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini as well as with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, acknowledged that Montenegro is making good progress in the European accession process. It retains the role of a forerunner country in the region and good example for the Western Balkan countries.

Socio-economic situation

Montenegro has a relatively young workforce with one in five of the small population (some 620,000 inhabitants) aged between 15 and 24. GDP grew by 2.9% in 2016, mainly due to the expansion of industry, which grew by almost 6% in 2015 and over 4% subsequently. Almost three-quarters of Montenegro’s workforce is employed in services (75% in 2016.) Employment growth remains modest despite stronger investment and unemployment has affected nearly one in five of the active population in recent years (the rate was close to 18% in 2016); this rate rises to 36% for young people. Due to weak employment demand, tertiary education graduates are taking jobs below their formal qualification level.

Education and Labour policies

Education reform is ongoing, but more efforts are needed to provide qualifications relevant for the labour market. The workforce is relatively low skilled but the country is rapidly catching up with the EU2020 target, with 34% of adults aged 30-34 attaining tertiary levels of education in 2016. The Ministry of Education is moving ahead with the implementation of the Vocational education and training Strategy (2015-2020) and the Adult Learning Strategy (2015-2020). Involvement of the private sector is a priority and an important challenge in the reform process. The National Employment Strategy (2016-2020)points to long-transition from school to work, skills mismatch and ad-hoc review of skills intelligence as obstacles to employability.

EU support and the ETF

The EU provides assistance to Montenegro and the Montenegrin people through support for education and labour market reforms. The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance II is under preparation with the input of the ETF. Priority interventions are active labour market measures and local employment initiatives and improvement of the quality of education and development of educational programmes in line with the National Qualifications Framework

As an Agency of the EU, we are providing essential assistance across this agenda, strengthening education and business cooperation. In 2018 this focus is on:

  • Reviewing the financing and governance model in place for implementation of vocational education and training strategy
  • Assessing progress with entrepreneurial learning and SME skills development
  • Supporting with implementation of quality work-based learning through an in-company mentor programme
  • Reviewing the continuous professional development of teachers
  • Analysing skills needs