In the ever-growing technology market, Serbia is determined not to be left behind. With huge investments in information and communication technologies and the support of startups and software education, the Serbian job market is on track to experience significant growth, specifically in the tech sector.
The Growth of the ICT Sector
In 2012, according to The World Bank, Serbia reported a 24% unemployment rate. Just 10 years later, this statistic dropped 14.8%– a 9.2% unemployment rate reported in Q2 of 2022, and the Serbian export of information and communications tech (ICT) definitely played a role. According to the International Trade Administration (ITA), Serbia generates as much as 10% of its GDP from its ICT sector. More than 3,300 ICT businesses employ almost 50,000 Serbs, and although that is just a small percent of the Serbian population of almost 6.9 million, it is evident that the Serbian economy is growing to rely more on ICT. That should ensure growth in the Serbian job market. Serbian tech companies produce software for everything from medicine to agriculture, games and testing. They run call centers and customer service centers.
Demand for More Skilled Workers
To meet the increasing demand for ICT exports, however, Serbia needs at least 15,000 more engineers in the tech sector. That is why the Serbian government invested 70 million euros in technical infrastructure, supporting start-ups and mandating software programming classes in elementary schools. This is particularly important because Serbia’s youth unemployment is 40%, and often young people will leave a country if they cannot find jobs there.
Importantly, Serbia and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are turning to the youth and aspiring entrepreneurs, with projects like Impact Hub Belgrade, Junior Achievement and ICT Hub Venture.
Impact Hub Belgrade
Impact Hub Belgrade (IHB), launched with a USAID grant, provides young aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools, support and skills to brainstorm products, develop business models and network with regional and international investors. It is part of a global network that has branches in 49 countries. It provides a co-working space for project collaboration and sharing of practice and knowledge. In December 2022, for example, it sponsored a Western Balkan Winter Demo Day to help young entrepreneurs assess if they were investment ready.
Junior Achievement Serbia
Junior Achievement Serbia (JAS), another program that USAID funded, aims to advance entrepreneurship through a training curriculum, which effectively equips high schoolers with essential business skills– from communication and problem-solving to specifics on how to set up a business and predict earnings. JAS is part of Junior Achievement Worldwide, a global network in 121 countries. JAS launched in 2005 and by 2021 had served more than 60,000 students in 286 schools.
While the Junior Achievement (JA) program has numerous success stories across Europe, its presence in Serbia has been “among the strongest.” In fact, JA’s 2018 Belgrade team, Groove Street, designed and coded wristbands containing the medical information of the individual wearing it. Thanks to the JA curriculum, guidance and support, these students invented a life-saving device while also gaining real-life business experience.
ICT Hub Venture
While both IHB and JAS specifically focus on providing Serbian youth with the skills they need to succeed in the growing tech sector, other projects aim to support aspiring entrepreneurs of any age.
ICT Hub Venture, another partner project of USAID, equips young businesses with developmental assistance, mentoring and networking opportunities. Established in 2014 as ICT Hub, in 2017 the project became an investment fund in Belgrade, dedicated to supporting information and communication tech startups. ICT Hub Venture provides its partners with financing, guidance, support and education, in exchange for a 5 to 15% share in the company. As of 2022, ICT Hub Venture fully funds nine startups.
Milan Brindič, a co-creator of Bincode Entertainment, a software company specializing in game development and mobile software, says that ICT Hub has been “very useful,” and through its support, has become “like family.” Brindič also said ICT Hub provided his company a space to work and networking opportunities, both of which are critical to a startup’s success.
With numerous success stories, Impact Hub Belgrade, Junior Achievement Serbia and ICT Hub Venture are innovatively helping to broaden the Serbian job market and tech sector by supporting and investing in the future. The ITA estimates more than 20% per year growth in the Serbian tech sector, with opportunities continuing to grow in sub-sectors such as cybersecurity, gaming, and e-government. Through programs like Impact Hub Belgrade, Junior Achievements, and ICT Hub Venture, Serbia is not only gearing up to meet the growing demand of skilled workers, but equipping its aspiring entrepreneurs with the support, funding, and necessary skills to thrive in a growing job market.
– Micaella Balderrama