TIRANA, May 26
Head of Investment Council Secretariat Diana Leka speaks in an interview for Monitor Magazine about the steps that can help to grow employment
Diana Leka, Head of Investment Council Secretariat says in an interview for Monitor Magazine that the Albanian economy is oriented toward services and we should focus our attention in this direction. However, she added that in order to be competitive, quality in the provision of services is needed. In the analyses of Investment Council, it has come out that there are new sub-sectors in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) area (expansion or specialization in more dedicated sectors) where demand might reach 50,000 jobs (current employees and new potential requests). But this should be combined with an all-inclusive growth strategy that favors employment and the business.
Which are some of the sectors, where the country has an advantage in the generation of new jobs?
Services are the main sector where major attention should be given. First, the statistical data and our economic trend show that we have an economy increasingly driven toward services, the contribution of the service sector in the economic growth is around 62percent (ASN, INSTAT). Secondly, also from a regional point of view, we are positioned the second in the Balkans in the export of services in information technology (World Development Indicators, 2017), after Serbia, although not in high numbers. Thirdly, we are the country with the youngest population in Europe, about 40 percent of the population is below the age of 35, whereas 46.1percent is the participation rate in the workforce for the group aged 15 – 29 (INSTAT).
Importance should be given to the model and quality of service provision in order to be competitive in the region. In recent analyses of the IC, it came out that for example that there are new sub-sectors in the BPO area (expansion or specialization in more specialized sectors) where demand might amount up to 50,000 (current employees and new potential requests). But this should be combined with an all-inclusive growth strategy, in favor of employment and the business, with an agenda which stimulates economic growth with a special focus on stable and reliable institutions.
How can these sectors be supported with development policies?
I think that it is fundamental to have an economy opened toward global and regional trades, with a sustainable fiscal system and investing in the education of the human capital. Specifically, it is time for the education to be based on four pillars such as problem-solving skills, skills in Microsoft, communication and foreign languages. In the latter one, we should maintain the “quality” we have had so far as it has begun some kind of regional competition, but also to diversify, not focusing only on the English and German languages.
In a recent analysis of the Investment Council, it was found that there are some gaps in the human resources. How can this be resolved in the middle term?
Based on consultations with the business in the sector (representing around 10,000 employees), it was confirmed that the new generation is very dynamic, eager to learn new skills, motivated, but it lacks the model while the education in universities does not correspond to the real needs of the market. Therefore, it was recommended to grow the partnership between the universities and the private sector and Employment Offices by strengthening the role of the Career Offices in internships and employment of students, early development of the career counseling in schools.
Adapting university curricula for certain industries by having projects and subjects implemented by the local business. Intervention in the university curricula to carry out programs related to growing the analytical and practical skills of students. Flexibility by the public universities in offering knowledge through short-term innovation programs in partnership with the business: Business Academy (intensive programs of 1-3 days in a certain area e.g.: Consulting in Management and Operations, Taxes, drafting business plans, feasibility studies, etc.). The certificates obtained upon successful completion should be accredited by the Ministry of Education and Labour as an added value to access the labor market. An initiative for the creation of a “pool of talents” e.g., in the IT sector identified through competitions or other activities that can be organized in collaboration with professional IT schools and universities or high schools.
Support to business initiatives in creating centers for continuous qualification in technology and innovation (Digital Academy), as well as a “software house” for setting up a pool of certified IT experts. To consider, incentivising ICT providers through public contracts for example by including in the TORs training in the IT area or to provide internship to students or newly graduates in professions relevant to the tender won for a certain period by companies subcontracted through state budget funds.
The whole world today is focusing on start-ups. How about Albania?
It is important to clarify that startup is a business that should be registered in the form of a commercial entity such as Ltd, Joint-stock company, etc., or even as an entrepreneur-natural person. From a legal point of view, like any other business, it pays taxes such as local ones as well as social insurance etc. In the Secretariat, we have started to work on the investment climate problems of the start-up, as the members of the Council have asked to highlight specifically the administrative burden during their beginning phase, also based on direct consultation with them.
For example, they say that they are young, there is a lot of bureaucracy, they are not consolidated, do not have the experience to work with the administration, while the state and donors provide support funds. Therefore, if we want to promote the start-up model, highlighted as well in the latest articles published in the World Economic Forum showing the startup trend in Eastern Europe and Balkans, and more specifically Albania, we should consider some models for Government, to consider not only promoting innovative ideas but also to provide specific support to these businesses.