News archive - Tackling Unemployment and Education Reform: A Dutch Initiative

South Eastern Europe, suffering both from its past conflicts and its present economic and political transition situation is characterised by high unemployment. One of the main causes is the discrepancy between the education offered and the skills needed in the labour market. SPARKS (former: Academic Training Association (ATA) - update in July 2007) aims to increase the employment prospects in SEE in two main ways.

First, to adapt curricula of higher educational institutions to market needs in line with the Bologna reform agenda. Second, ATA supports young entrepreneurs to start-up their own businesses by means of training, consultancy and micro-credit opportunities. ATA is working in these two areas and, more importantly, is forging a link between these two areas of expertise. ATA has various programmes to tackle higher education reform as well as micro-enterprise development. Programmes that focus on SME development include the establishment of a network of up to 25 Business Start-up Centres (BSCs) and incubators in the region, and a Private Sector Development Network.

New Business Start-Up Centres

As a result of a four year grant from the Dutch Government, ATA is operating five new Business Start-up Centres (including incubators) in FYR of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. These five BSCs are integrated into a new regional network of BSCs, that was established in Tuzla in October 2006: SENSI (Southeast European Network for Start-up Centres and Incubators). SENSI exchanges best practices, training materials and experts and promotes regional business opportunities between start-ups.
The establishment of the Business Start-up Centres is firmly embedded in ATA's Private Sector Development Network. Since 2005, this programme has been supporting cooperation between businesses, Chambers of Commerce, Ministries of Economics and Trade, and Faculties of Economics in South East Europe. Business skills training, conferences, economic research and other activities promote regional economic cooperation.

Support to Universities in SEE

ATA assists universities in the implementation of the Bologna Action Lines across the region. One of the largest programmes is the organisation of four annual international summer universities in PriÂstina, Bitola, Mitrovica and Tuzla. Approximately 1,500 students from the entire SEE region take part every year in one of these summer universities. They are fully working in line with the Bologna Action Lines, serving as an example for participating local universities.
ATA is a dynamic non-profit NGO based in Amsterdam, with five field offices in South East Europe. It is mainly supported by the Netherlands Government and the European Union. It has a budget of five million euro for 2007.

Article published in eJournal winter 06/07.
Author: Lieke van Gompel, ATA

Update in July 2007: ATAs new name is SPARKS, find the updated contact details following the link /org/653.html.

Entry created by Elke Dall on March 5, 2007
Modified on March 6, 2007