The European Movement in Serbia organised a corporate conference titled Education in Serbia – Jobs for the Future, attended by the heads of the leading companies operating in our country, representatives of the government and NGOs, chambers of commerce, diplomatic and academic community.

The main theme of the first in the series of planned corporate conferences, which gathered nearly 200 people at Belgrade’s Aeroklub on 12 April, were current changes in the Serbian education sector, with a special focus on harmonising the secondary and higher education system with the needs of the labour market and companies operating in Serbia.

The conference was opened by Prime Minister of Serbia Ana Brnabić, who said in her speech that it was expected that today’s youth would work in more than 10 different occupations during their careers, often in very different areas.

‘Education for one occupation and the entire working life in this one profession will be rare’, said Brnabić, adding that one of the key issues that needed to be deal with was how to educate young people for future occupations which we could hardly imagine today.

The new generations today need to learn universal skills that will be useful to them anywhere in the future, she said, pointing out that this primarily related to skills in learning, problem solving, critical, analytical and creative thinking.

‘We want to create a knowledge-based society, a society of competent people whose ideas, innovations and knowledge are the main drivers of development. Quality education, I firmly believe, today more than ever, is the foundation of a successful society’, the prime minister said.

Speaking about the dual education programme, which was one of the topics of the conference, Brnabić pointed out that it was established in 128 secondary schools in Serbia in cooperation with 205 companies, and that this programme included more than 4,500 pupils.

German Ambassador H.E. Axel Dittmann said that dual education was important for the development of his country, because it gave young people an opportunity to work, and that this kind of education was accepted by universities and employers in Germany.

‘It is my pleasure to participate in this very important event organised by the European Movement. Putting education at the centre of the discussion shows how important this topic really is on Serbia’s road to the European Union, which is its strategic commitment that we fully support’, said Ambassador Dittmann.

He said that his country was focused on better preparation of pupils and students for living in the digital world, which was of particular importance today.

Secretary General of the European Movement in Serbia Suzana Grubješić, said that there was no successful European society without a good and stable education system, or without a good business community operating there.

‘If it is understood that education is one of the most powerful tools that can pull a society out of intellectual, social, cultural, economic and every other backwardness, than there is also a chance to change the situation in which young people, when they graduate from school, college, cannot find a job and leave Serbia because of that. The desire of all of us is that when their faculty and school education ends, young people will remain in Serbia, and those who have left will return’, she said.

The conference was divided into three panels. At the first, dedicated to the European education models applicable in Serbia, as well as to the dual education system, the participants were Hemofarm CEO Ronald Seeliger, deputy head of the trade department of the Embassy of Austria in Belgrade, Marlene Burgstaller, Deputy Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office in Serbia Priska Depnering and the leaders of the German Organisation for International Cooperation (GIZ) Ann-Kathrin Hentschel. The panel was moderated by the director of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce’s Education Centre, Mirjana Kovačević.

The education system in Serbia from the perspective of the companies was the topic of the second panel, where the senior vice president for strategy and development of Delta Holding, Marija Desivojević Cvetković, CEO of Gorenje Serbia Stanka Pejanović, and director of corporate communications at Delhaize Serbia, Mirjana Jovašević spoke. The panel was moderated by the programme manager of Smart Kolektiv, Neda Stanković.

The third panel focused on the digitisation and reform of the education system in Serbia. In relation to the previous industrial revolution, the digital revolution does not leave too much room for adjusting the workforce, but also for companies, for everyday innovation and access to markets. New skills, knowledge and talents in the field of information and communication technologies have become prerequisites for finding a job in the world, and Serbia is not lagging behind in this regard. ManpowerGroup Solutions Manager Marta Forai, researcher at the University of Oxford and Executive Director of Kampster E-learning Ana Ranitović and associate professor at the Faculty of Organisational Sciences Vesna Damnjanović spoke at the panel, moderated by the director of the Centre for Educational Policies, Jasminka Čekić Marković

Bearing in mind that there is no successful society without successful companies, the European Movement in Serbia will continue to organise conferences in the coming period, with the aim of connecting the EU accession process with the overcoming of systematic obstacles and creating a favourable business environment, which is a prerequisite for overall economic progress.

The European Movement wants to contribute to the establishment of dialogue in our society in order to better hear the voices of companies and the business community in the process of bringing Serbia closer to the family of European countries.