High salaries, job flexibility, and continuous learning are some of the advantages of working in the information technology (IT) sector. This field is of growing interest to young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and is helping to reduce the disparity between high unemployment rates and the present needs of IT companies.
Mahir Kulić from Sarajevo is one of the young people working in the IT sector. In addition to the fact that young people’s interest in the IT sector has increased significantly, he explained that IT encompasses a diverse and interesting range of activities that permeate all aspects of our life and society.
“The IT sector offers great opportunities for beginners, internships, and possibilities to work from home… These things are very rare or totally non-existent in other sectors,” said Mahir.
One of the places where young people can enhance their knowledge of information technology is the ITAcademy, which operates in Sarajevo and Banja Luka, providing education and training to people from all walks of life, from those who are already employed to those who are still studying.
A recent project launched by the REDAH Association for Economic Development, in cooperation with the City of Mostar, the Employment Service of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (HNŽ/HNK), the University of Mostar, and the company IT Division Mostar, supports youth unemployment by establishing local partnerships, offering a sustainable model for cooperation between key stakeholders in order to increase employment.
“In the long term, an assumption can be made that such models of cooperation and active employment measures will be systematically incorporated into legislation and by-laws and thereby increase employment at the local level,” explained Himzo Tula, Expert Associate at the REDAH Association for Economic Development.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications of Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently working on an Information Society Development Strategy for Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the support of the Government of the United Kingdom and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its aim is to outline a trajectory for the development of digital education at all levels of society in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
According to the Bureau of Statistics for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the number of employees in the fields of information and communication in this entity increased by 11.1 percent in November 2021, as compared to the same month of the previous year. In the same period, the number of these employees in the entity of the Republika Srpska increased by 14 percent.
Excellent Working Conditions, Internships, and Training
Mahir, the promising young IT specialist, had the opportunity to work for a private company during his studies, at a time when the market in Bosnia and Herzegovina seemed to rely on “the exploitation of cheap labor.”
“To our delight, we today have dozens of local companies or companies with local capital that employ hundreds of local IT experts and offer excellent terms of employment. In addition, the largest companies in the software and application development sector offer excellent opportunities for internships, education, and acquiring initial job experiences,” notes Mahir, who himself has the opportunity to further his education and training at his workplace.
According to Tula, IT is naturally one of the fastest growing sectors and relies primarily on young people, who are the key to the development of any society. Through the project “Supporting Youth Employment in the IT Sectors, he says that young people are able to recognize their role and take part in various activities.
He described that the project consists of trainings that end with an exam, followed by drafting an employment action plan for the City of Mostar, grants for self-employment, the creation of a mobile application, as well as assistance with employment.
Arijana Bjelić, ITAcademy’s Learning and Education Advisor, explained that their trainings are adapted to the needs of the market and offer participants the opportunity to acquire competencies that are required by IT companies.
“This year, we have the largest number of participants at the ITAcademy in Programming, while the previous year there was an increase in the Department of Design and Multimedia. We’re also noticing an interest among young people in certain other departments of the ITAcademy.”
As she pointed out, they have participants of all ages because the IT sector offers a wide range of career opportunities. According to Bjelić, the biggest challenge in recruiting young people in the IT sector is the lack of qualified candidates, because IT companies often cannot find enough qualified candidates for certain positions.
“A lack of practical knowledge and experience can be an obstacle for certain positions. It is for this reason that ITAcademy provides its trainees with internships during the training itself, where trainees gain experience working on a large number of real projects,” said Bjelić.
In the drafting phase of the Information Society Development Strategy, Majda Tatarević, from the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Bosnia and Herzegovina stated that a thorough analysis was carried out on the EU strategic framework and the position of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in order to determine the current situation and define strategic goals and priorities for each pillar of the strategy.
“Since Bosnia and Herzegovina is firmly committed to EU integration, harmonizing its legislation with the EU acquis is a basic prerequisite on the way to full EU membership,” said from the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Important Steps to Increase Employment
The development of the Strategy is expected to be completed in the medium-term work program of the Ministry of Communications and Transport of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the 2021-2025 period. “It’s currently in the phase of being adapted to new EU documents and the current state of the information society in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After these final activities, it will undergo the procedure of public consultations, obtaining the opinions of relevant institutions and being adopted by the BiH Council of Ministers,” informed the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Bosnia and Herzegovina
While the strategy is being drawn up, Tula listed the key steps for increasing youth employment in the IT sector, including establishing “stronger cooperation between the private, governmental, non-governmental, and educational sectors, in order to create assumptions and conditions, both for formal and informal education, which, in addition to harmonizing with world and EU requirements, should generate new knowledge, which will be adopted by young people and thus become a source of overall economic development.”
According to Bjelić, the inability to quickly adapt to new technology can be a challenge for smaller IT companies. She stressed the importance of continuing to support the development of the IT industry in BiH in order to increase competitiveness on the market and ensure the availability of qualified personnel for the needs of IT companies.
This article is part of a series of texts within the #EmployMe project of the Post-Conflict Research Center and Balkan Diskurs. The series aims to raise awareness about the problems that young people face in the field of education and employment in BiH and highlight some good practices in battling these obstacles. This series is part of the “Youth Retention Program in BiH – Opšta Mobilizacija,” implemented by the Nešto Više Association and PRONI Center for Youth Development, with support from the Delegation of the European Union to BiH.