VEGA Member IESC was awarded a new three-year, $4 million, USAID-funded cooperative agreement to stimulate job creation by advancing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s trade integration with and expansion into European Union and regional markets.
Bosnia is home to a growing number of small and medium enterprises that are adopting international standards to supply sophisticated EU customers. Despite seven years of private sector-driven growth, the Bosnian economy is still not generating enough jobs for the great number of unemployed—especially young people.
For these enterprises to succeed, they need to be able to add value, increase their competitiveness, and develop a highly qualified workforce. The Workforce and Higher Access to Markets Activity will improve the capacity and capabilities of high-growth, exporting, and export-ready SMEs.
The activity ensures private sector buy-in by offering assistance through a grants program that requires some cost-share. In other words, enterprises receiving assistance are required to invest in their own growth and success.
The grants will fund a combination of technical assistance, training, and equipment to address the interconnected issues of workforce development, market access, product quality, and technology.
Businesses that receive grant funding will have a choice of local service providers, volunteer expertise, and will be able to build a custom, integrated service package that best suits their needs. IESC’s flexible grant mechanism is built to respond quickly and decisively to businesses’ needs, allowing them to capitalize on market opportunities.
The Workforce and Higher Access to Markets Activity leverages IESC’s core expertise in small and medium enterprise development and technical assistance. IESC has provided this kind of support since it was founded in 1964.
The focus on volunteers also aligns with IESC’s founding principles and approach. Over the three years, IESC anticipates generating 1,356 days of volunteer assistance. IESC will draw on its robust database of thousands of volunteers with specific expertise to address real market needs, encourage innovation, and help enterprises grow. Assignments will range from two weeks to six months. After 53 years of fielding volunteers, IESC knows that volunteers have a special added value: they are not there to solve a single problem, but rather, take a 360-degree view of a business and go beyond the scope of their assignment to provide an exceptional level of support. They often maintain personal and professional relationships with beneficiaries that last well beyond the assignment.
IESC is joined on this activity by local partner ENOVA, a leading development consulting company based in Sarajevo.
The program is funded by the United States Agency for International Development through the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance. VEGA is a consortium of 29 member organizations that bring together highly skilled volunteers with people around the globe seeking opportunities for self-reliance.