Regional Challenge Fund Announcement of the 1st Call for Expression of Interest

The Regional Challenge Fund (RCF) is announcing the 1st call for Expression of Interest to support investments in cooperative training projects which is open for applications from the six Western Balkans Economies. The Fund will disburse EUR 18.8m until 2025 (over five years) to support investments in our region. The goal is to fund up to 60 projects during the programme period. The Regional Challenge Fund organised the launch event for its first call, online on February 3rd and gathered the representatives from international organizations and initiatives, regional organizations, public institutions in charge of vocational education and training, chambers of commerce, vocational training providers, enterprises.

On this occasion, Mr Frieder Wöhrmann, Team Leader of Regional Challenge Fund stated the following: “Businesses need skilled employees. And young people need to build the right skills, which can be difficult in today’s challenging environment. The RCF will help bridge this gap by funding investments in the equipment and infrastructure for selected cooperative/dual training projects, that vocational training institutes (VTIs) need to help their students build the skills that today’s companies demand. We are aiming to strengthen the quality and labour market relevance of vocational education and training by promoting partnerships between vocational training institutes and the enterprises.”

Cooperative training involves the business sector throughout the entire process of VET development, implementation and assessment. It does this by combining vocational institution-based and enterprise-based learning in a flexible manner to develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes of future workers. This approach has been proven successful in producing graduates with practical skills that match the demands of the labour market. Cooperative training is recognized by most educational authorities in Western Balkan countries as a useful tool for bridging the gap between educational supply and labour market demand. However, it is still in early-stage development and the Regional Challenge Fund (RCF) has been established to provide such support.

Mr Mihajlo Vesović on behalf of the Western Balkan Chamber Investment Forum, as the joint regional chamber estimated that „this project now becomes even more important, in the light of a pandemic, because it will ensure additional training and new employment in companies and industries that have been most hit by the Coronavirus. This businesses now operate with the reduced capacities, and will have to reduce the number of employees and undergo serious structural changes.“ Vesović emphasized that the chambers of commerce, the members of the Western Balkan 6 Chamber Investment Forum would do their best and invite companies from those industries that are of the key importance for the development of every economy individually and the region to apply. They should partner up with secondary schools, higher professional schools and faculties to apply for the funds of the Fund, and jointly establish training centres that will enable trainees to get familiarized with machines, equipment and tools simulating the realistic work environment during the training and later when they get employed.

“Participating VTIs partner with companies to develop cooperative training programs that teach students the skills that partner companies need. The result is highly trained employees who are well qualified and ready to work.” Mr Wöhrmann added.

Applications are open to consortia from the six Western Balkan economies consisting of one vocational training institute and at least two enterprises. The effort should result in nationally recognised certificates. The first call for expressions of interest will be open from February 1 to April 30, 2021. All necessary information can be found at


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