World Learning Supports Private Sector Solutions to the Skills Gap in Kosovo

Youth in Kosovo face a difficult labor market — but so do private-sector employers. About 18,000 people enter Kosovo’s labor market every year, while the economy generates only 10,000–12,000 new jobs, leaving many youths unemployed.

At the same time, many employers are unable to find Kosovars with the skills they need to grow their businesses. The skills gap is a serious issue that is constraining futures for Kosovar youth and for the economy as a whole.

In recent months, World Learning has partnered with the Kosovo Career Development Foundation (KCDF) to conduct the 2021 Youth Barometer study of career guidance and to gather private-sector perspectives on how to solve the skills gap. Together, our organizations hosted an influential event on Sept. 10, 2021, bringing together private-sector leaders in direct discussion with education and youth representatives.

According to the Youth Barometer, 60 percent of students reported finding it difficult to find a job in their hometown. This is strongly affected by their contact with the private sector during their studies. Female students experience significantly more roadblocks entering the labor market than male students, as do Kosovo’s minority populations including Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian jobseekers.

KCDF CEO Sovran Berisha explains, “Our study finds that around 60 percent of VET [vocational education and training] school students have a good understanding of their future occupation, while only 10 percent of gymnasium [academic high school] students share this opinion. And only 30 percent of graduates have been involved in internships during high school. A greater focus should be paid to aligning curricula to business needs, and students should obtain greater support in exploring opportunities in the labor market.”

Among the key industries in Kosovo having trouble recruiting enough workers is the wood processing sector.

Arjeta Vula-Pozhegu, executive director of the Association of Wood Processors of Kosovo, says “There are 1,600 wood companies in Kosovo and the demand for workforce in this industry is constantly growing. There are two issues. First, there is lack of people interested to work in the industry, and second, the people who show interest do not have the adequate skills and competencies demanded.”

Bekim Kasumi, CEO of the ICT company SmartBits, remarks, “Schools are not preparing students with basic life skills such as communication skills, problem-solving, writing, self-managing skills, and so on. Universities should develop curriculum for their profiles and employ professionals who are competent to implement the curriculum.”

Those present in the Sept. 10 discussion suggested an immediate need for solutions, given that significant potential for private-sector growth is constrained by recruitment challenges. Private sector-led solutions include offering more internship placements for students and contributing toward updating curricula.

A representative of the Kosovo National Youth Congress, Dea Fetiu, agrees that “school is not preparing students for the labor market, and basic skills, such as writing an email, communication, and critical thinking are not being taught.” She recommends mandatory internship programs as a solution.

Majlinda Rizvanolli, advisor to the Minister of Education, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI), explains “To advance this internship framework, we will need to develop discussions and cooperation between the private sector and education institutions. MESTI is actively working in this regard.”

Some of the initiatives underway, she explains, include reforming the Career Guidance framework to standardize the model for career education across public schools; setting up a working group to talk with leaders in strategic industries and businesses about their needs and potential solutions; and developing a dual VET system compatible to the needs and the context of Kosovo.

Vocational education providers face challenges of their own. Zejnullah Rrahmani, executive director at the vocational training center VTC Prishtina, declares, “We need more support in promoting VTC profiles. Also, our institution is not capable of following the fast-changing demands for skills in the profiles that the VTC offers, as well for other profiles that are demanded by jobseekers.” As an example, Rrahmani says, it’s difficult for VTC trainers to lecture about the operation of certain machinery.

Private-sector representatives at the meeting recognized the need for greater leadership in their sector to resolve these issues. They stressed the importance of business associations to advocate for the needs of their industries, and for the public sector to better coordinate with them to align education supply with the education demand.

“Occasions like these, when private-sector representatives can speak directly with the leaders of education and training systems, are crucial for resolving the skills gap,” comments Dr. Catherine Honeyman, the leader of World Learning’s youth workforce development programming worldwide.

“These opportunities do not happen often enough, and World Learning is pleased to have supported this conversation in Kosovo, part of our long-term commitment to the country. The understanding and relationships built during these conversations will provide an important foundation, as we continue working toward more effective systems that can respond to youth and private-sector needs at the same time.”

World Learning has been engaged in Kosovo since 2004 through USAID-funded initiatives supporting the training of leaders from civil society, public, and private sector. This work has also included developing the capacity of Kosovo’s premier public university, the University of Pristina, to improve higher education to prepare youth for the workforce.

View the full conference on Facebook.

This Young Kosovar is Transforming Her Country Through Entrepreneurship

Majlinda Ruhani believes entrepreneurship is key to a thriving Kosovo.

Though Europe’s newest country has made great strides in the 20 years since it won its independence, many Kosovars still struggle to find work. The unemployment rate hovers around 30 percent and more than 50 percent of youth are unemployed — forcing many to leave the country to find jobs.

Ruhani wants to turn that around. As the head of incubation at VentureUP, an innovation and entrepreneurship center at the University of Prishtina, Ruhani equips students with job and soft skills training, including the skills they need to launch startups and, ultimately, transform their country’s economy by creating new job opportunities.

“Entrepreneurship is one of the solutions to use all the potential we have with the youth of Kosovo,” she says.

Ruhani represents a new generation of Kosovar leaders that World Learning supports through the Transformational Leadership Program — Scholarships and Partnerships(TLP), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Since 2014, the program has awarded scholarships to promising young Kosovars to pursue their studies in the United States. It has also strengthened the capacity of the University of Prishtina to prepare students for the modern workforce.

TLP has been a catalyst for Ruhani’s work as well. VentureUP was conceived by the program’s advisory committee, and it is run by a cadre of talented TLP alumni. Ruhani is one of them — and she credits her scholarship with sparking a passion that changed the course of her career.

Discovering entrepreneurship at Willamette

In 2015, Ruhani was pursuing a career in finance when she won a TLP scholarship to the Master of Business Administration program at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

Willamette seemed like a perfect fit: Not only is the university known for the strength of its finance courses, it also places a premium on experiential learning. Ruhani was curious about the active, hands-on approach to learning. “It’s something that we’re missing here,” Ruhani says. “Our country is new and we’re still developing in many areas, especially in education.”

She didn’t realize that experiential learning could transform her career goals.

“That was one of the most difficult but at the same time one of the most amazing experiences,” Ruhani says. “It’s exciting to be able to go through the first stages [of a project] no matter if it’s business or an NGO. You have so many challenges, and that’s what makes it really interesting.”

Bringing knowledge back to Kosovo

After completing her MBA, Ruhani continued exploring this new world of startups and entrepreneurship as a consultant when she returned home to Kosovo.

Ruhani fell in love with entrepreneurship through one of Willamette’s signature programs, a two-semester course in which students team up to offer consulting services to nonprofit clients. Her team helped the Salem Parks Foundation develop plans for fundraising, marketing, and more. Ruhani was excited to help the organization launch initiatives like its now-annual Walk in the Park benefit.

“I feel like this area is one of the most interesting areas in the business world,” she says.

Her skills were in demand. Organizations across the country hired Ruhani to research donor communities, analyze their business models, and offer plans to expand their services. She saw how entrepreneurship could spur job creation firsthand through her consulting work with an NGO called E Shpis, which employs marginalized women to bake and sell traditional Albanian delicacies.

Ruhani loved that her consulting offered the opportunity to work with different ideas and perspectives. “My main goal was to get an understanding of the business culture here to identify the trends and all the changes that we’re going through as a country,” Ruhani says.

She’s optimistic about those changes. Ruhani says she now sees more companies in Kosovo creating partnerships with international organizations. Those partnerships force companies to meet the standards expected in more developed countries. “[It’s] really good for Kosovo,” she says.

Fostering entrepreneurship among Kosovo’s youth

As the new head of incubation at VentureUP, Ruhani looks forward to passing her knowledge along to the country’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

Founded in late 2017, VentureUP aims to connect University of Prishtina students to the working world. It offers experiential workshops to develop students’ soft skills as well as the technical skills they need to succeed as entrepreneurs. It introduces students to ways they can use innovation to make a difference in their communities and promotes research and development opportunities at the university.

Through the incubation program — which is just now getting underway with its first cohort of 10 teams — Ruhani and other staff members will guide students in turning their business ideas into reality. June Lavelle, a business incubation consultant in the United States who has created incubators around the world, donated her time and expertise to help develop VentureUP’s program.

VentureUP will offer working space, mentoring opportunities, and trainings on how students can get their startups ready for the market. The incubator will also host events so students can network with potential collaborators and investors. “Youth in Kosovo really need this kind of opportunity,” Ruhani says. “We’re trying to help them as much as we can.”

TLP’s robust alumni network has helped make this all possible. Many of VentureUP’s staff members — including CEO Fis Malesori — are TLP alumni. Like Ruhani, these alumni returned from their scholarship programs not only with technical expertise but with a vision for Kosovo’s future. “It’s amazing being part of the TLP community, because pretty much every member of this community acquired a lot of knowledge through their studies,” she says. “They are so eager to apply that knowledge and make things better here.”

How One Woman is Overcoming Medical Stigmas in Kosovo

When Arta Uka’s mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, medical treatment included removing her rectum requiring her to live with a permanent stoma.

Uka, a policy analyst in Kosovo, and her family knew almost nothing about what this would entail, so she began searching for resources.

What she quickly discovered was that there was no support for the people in Kosovo living with the same condition.

Stomas are surgically created openings on the surface of the abdomen that divert the flow of bodily waste. Patients with stomas use stoma bags, which adhere to the abdominal opening and collect the waste.

As such, they need to be educated about how to manage and care for their stoma. But Uka couldn’t find any stoma nurses in Kosovo and it was difficult to get medical advice. Basic information did not exist in Albanian and Serbian, languages spoken in Kosovo.

So she founded a program called “Living in Kosovo with a Stoma.”

Arta’s mother, Naime Uka who inspired her to help the 5,000 people in Kosovo living with a stoma.

“I thought, if I am helping my mom, why not do this for other people as well?” she explains.

Uka’s mission is to increase public understanding of what it means to live with a stoma, inform ostomates of how to care for and manage their stoma, and provide them with in-kind support, such as stoma bags. She is also creating a network of ostomates in the country through her advocacy.

She explains: “People with a stoma in Kosovo don’t have health insurance, and don’t get any ostomy supply by the state or any other organization. We are trying to connect with doctors and nurses in other countries and get them to help people who need it in Kosovo.”

Uka recently received a grant to support her project as part of World Learning’s Advancing Leaders Fellowship. The award helps World Learning alumni build social entrepreneurship programs in their communities around the world. Previously, Uka took part in the Kosovo Leadership Transformation Program, which provides scholarships to Kosovo youth to study in the U.S. in an effort to develop leaders that will drive positive economic, social, and political change in the young country.

As part of the program, she earned a three-month professional certificate in management and leadership at the University of California, Berkeley last year.

Among her other achievements, Uka is the founder and first President of the European Young Cell Alumni (EYCA), an NGO funded by the beneficiaries of the European Commission’s Scholarship Scheme. She also helped establish the first Ostomy Association of Kosovo.

Her efforts are already making a difference.

She says the World Learning grant helped her create a web page with information about ostomies as well as print and distribute 150 brochures in local languages. She’s also launched a dialogue with the Ministry of Health on the challenges and priorities of ostomates in Kosovo and bought three media ads targeting the general population in order to familiarize the public about the issue.

“We’re breaking taboos,” Uka notes.

Arta preparing the delivery of ostomy bags. All bags are checked for the quality, size, type, and are selected according to the ostomate’s needs.

The project has increased the self-awareness of ostomates, their friends and families, as well as wider society by openly discussing what it means to live with a stoma.

Since she began her campaign, at-home visits have been made to 1,000 ostomates and their families. The project also created safe environments where ostomates gather in small groups to share their experiences and information, helping them overcome stigma.

With support from the UK Colostomy Association and Embassy of Luxembourg in Kosovo, Uka’s project has donated more than 1,000 stoma bags to ostomates in financial need.

Perhaps one of the most important outcomes for Uka is the new understanding among people living with a stoma that they don’t have to lock themselves away.

“Living a life with stoma doesn’t mean having a passive life,” she says. “There have been very important discussions on how ostomates can live an active life, just like everyone else.”

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars

Participant Profile

Participants are alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs and vary in age and level of expertise, but all will be engaged in the seminar topic and highly motivated to create change in their communities.

Please consult the list of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs below.

Participant Selection

Alumni TIES participants who are not U.S. citizens are nominated by the U.S. Embassies or Consulates in their countries. Please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country to learn how you can participate in Alumni TIES. Potential Alumni TIES participants who are living in the United States can apply for specific seminars managed by World Learning. The web link to the online application will be distributed widely by the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

All participants for Alumni TIES seminars are selected by the U.S. Department of State.

Program Design

Alumni TIES seminars take place in six world regions and the U.S.; each seminar is three to four days for small groups of alumni. The seminars include speakers, capacity development trainings, and alumni networking activities. Through the small grants initiative, alumni have the opportunity to take action and make a positive difference in their communities.

Learn More

Watch more videos about the Alumni TIES program.

Read stories from past participants about their experiences at the seminars or with their small grant projects on the Alumni TIES blog.

For information on programs for U.S. government-sponsored exchange program alumni visit the International Exchange Alumni website.

Alumni TIES is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and supported in its implementation by World Learning, in partnership with the Office of Alumni Affairs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).  

Communities Connecting Heritage

Communities Connecting HeritageSM  Program Impact


CCH Alumni Small Grants

At the conclusion of the program’s third year, the CCH team opened the Communities Connecting Heritage Small Grants to organizational and community member alumni from all three CCH cycles. The following projects were selected for CCH Small Grant implementation.

Kristina Llane (Albania)
Title of Project: Beekeeping Tradition as and Educative Tool

This project aims to preserve and share the importance of local beekeeping traditions in the Gjirokastra community of Albania. Kristina will work with elementary school students to cultivate youth interest in beekeeping’s cultural role in their community. Throughout the project, students and teachers will contribute to an educational book on beekeeping to that will equip teachers to continue sharing with future classrooms. The project will conclude with a panel discussion focused on protecting and preserving culture, tradition, and the environment in Albania.

Kalpana Gagdekar (India)
Title of Project: Connecting Community with Their Traditional/Heritage Cuisine

This project will explore and document the Chhara community’s traditional cuisines, which are experiencing a disappearing effect under modern global influences. Kalpana aims to document the rituals and heritage of Chhara cuisine through seven video interviews with Chhara women elders. The project combines modern technology with traditional food heritage and welcomes Chhara members of all ages to reclaim and rediscover their own heritage.

Mandala Theatre (Nepal) and Creative Connections (Connecticut, U.S.)
Title of Project: Hamro Sanskriti: Preserving Cultural Heritage through Participatory Theatre

The goal of this project is to provide youth in Connecticut and Nepal with a deeper connection to their own culture through student-led virtual workshops. The workshops – spearheaded by theater trainers in Nepal and Connecticut – will teach participatory theater techniques to 250 high school students and conclude with a model forum theater piece produced by students for the public.

Athar Lina (Egypt)
Title of Project: Rawya: The Water Women

Rawya: The Water Women is a Cairo-based project aimed at restoring the historically significant Sabil Um Abbas, a 19th century religious building and gathering place, into a usable community space once more. In addition to restoring aspects of the building, the project will connect U.S. and Egyptian women storytellers Donna Bryson and Chirine El Ansary to curate a storytelling experience of powerful 19th century women from their respective countries. Their work will culminate in a video exhibition that will be on display in the newly renovated Sabil Um Abbas for the local community to experience.

Bhasha Research and Publication Centre (India) and University of Northern Colorado (Colorado, U.S.)
Title of Project: Reclaiming Heritage II: Building Social Bonds and Bridges with Cultural Heritage

This project will utilize digital library resources at UNC to create and share cultural heritage “snapshots” with the broader community. These short videos will help immigrants and refugees in Colorado and indigenous peoples in India share their cultural heritage while building bonds with their local communities. The project will provide its participants with the ownership and platform to share their own heritage while paving a pathway for integration with others in their community.

Outside the Lens (California, U.S.)
Title of Project: Youth Tellers

Youth Tellers is a cross-cultural collaboration between Latinx youth in California and Bosnia-Herzegovina, relying on the concepts of past, present, and future to explore students’ complex cultural identities. Using digital media tools including photography, videography, and youth-facing communication forums like Discord, the project will culminate in a virtual exhibition showcasing the participants’ cultural heritage exchange with one another.

Explore the Story section on the right to learn more about the unique cultural heritage projects implemented since 2018.

Digital Communication Network

Examples of Past Digital Communication Network Projects

  • Internet vs. Democracy Forum
  • Roaring 20s #Digital Forum
  • Combatting Disinformation Training Program
  • Digital and Media Literacy for NGOs Training Program
  • Tolerance and Coexistence 2.0 Forum
  • Montenegro Digital Influencers Hub
  • Humor and Games for Social Good Forum

Fulbright Specialist Program


Link U.S. Experts and International Institutions

A program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Specialist Program is a unique opportunity for U.S. academics and established professionals to engage in two- to six-week consultancies at host institutions across the globe. Host institutions, including universities, non-profits, and other organizations, develop and submit projects for approval by the U.S. Embassy or Fulbright Commission in their country in wide-ranging academic and professional fields that build capacity and promote long-lasting linkages between individuals and institutions in the U.S. and abroad.


Address Priorities and Build Institutional Capacity at Institutions Around the World

An important companion to the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program, the Fulbright Specialist Program differs by providing short-term exchange experiences that tackle discrete, sometimes rapid response, projects. The Fulbright Specialist Program encourages participation of both university faculty and highly experienced non-academics, including legal experts, business professionals, public health practitioners, scientists, IT professionals, artists, and journalists. The program is a mutually beneficial opportunity for the Specialist who may not be available to leave their position for an extended period of time and the host institution which needs an experienced partner to jointly tackle a problem or examine an issue on a short-term basis.


Become a Fulbright Specialist: Apply to Join the Roster

Fulbright Specialists are a diverse group of highly experienced, well-established faculty members and professionals who represent a wide variety of academic disciplines and professions.  In order to be eligible to serve as a Fulbright Specialist, candidates must have significant experience in their respective professional field and be a U.S. citizen at time of application. Eligible disciplines and professional fields supported by the Fulbright Specialist Program are listed below.

  • Agriculture
  • American Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Archeology
  • Biology Education
  • Business Administration
  • Chemistry Education
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Science and Information Technology
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Engineering Education
  • Environmental Science
  • Law
  • Library Science
  • Math Education
  • Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies
  • Physics Education
  • Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Public/Global Health
  • Social Work
  • Sociology
  • Urban Planning

Interested candidates can find more information about the Fulbright Specialist Program and apply to serve as a Specialist at Candidates who meet all eligibility requirements will have their full applications reviewed by a panel of their professional peers. Candidates who are approved by the peer review panels will then join the Fulbright Specialist Roster. Individuals remain on the Specialist Roster for a three-year term and are eligible to be matched with a host institution’s project abroad during that tenure.

The following costs are covered for those Fulbright Specialists who are matched to a project: international and domestic airfare, ground transportation, visa fees, lodging, meals, and incidentals. A daily honorarium is also provided.

Become a Host: Bring a Fulbright Specialist to Your Institution

The Fulbright Specialist Program allows universities, cultural centers, non-governmental organizations, and other institutions abroad to host a leading U.S. academic or professional to work on diverse, short-term collaborative projects where the Specialist conducts activities which may include, but are not limited to:

  • Delivering a seminar or workshop
  • Consulting on faculty or workforce development
  • Developing academic or training curricula and materials
  • Lecturing at the graduate or undergraduate level
  • Conducting needs assessments or evaluations for a program or institution

Institutions interested in hosting a Fulbright Specialist should contact their local Fulbright Commission or U.S. Embassy for country-specific requirements and deadlines.

Contact information for all participating countries is available on the website.

For more information or questions about the Fulbright Specialist Program, please email [email protected].

The Fulbright Specialist Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by World Learning.

Leaders Lead On-Demand Program

Examples of past leaders Lead On-Demand Projects:

  • Vietnam Legal Aid
  • Refugee Integration and Resettlement in Central and Eastern Europe
  • Sports Leadership Program for Colombia
  • Mongolia Disability Rights Legislation and Implementation
  • Promoting Open Educational Resources: Middle East and North Africa
  • Tourism and Development in Serbia and Kosovo
  • Religious Freedom and Interfaith Dialogue for Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand
  • Emerging Leaders Exchange for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
  • Environmental Advocacy for Mongolia
  • Getting Connected Program for the South Pacific
  • Civic Engagement Program for Moldova
  • Disinformation and Fact Checking in Kenya

The Leaders Lead On-Demand is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.