Bridging the Skills Gap in the Food and Beverage Sector of South East Europe

The food and beverage sector is a cornerstone of the South East European (SEE) economy. With its rich culinary traditions and diverse agricultural resources, the region has the potential to be a major player in the global food and beverage market.

However, to realize this potential, there is a pressing need to address the skills gap in the workforce. This article delves into the challenges and opportunities in bridging this gap, drawing insights from the OECD report on the subject.

Bridging the Skills Gap in the Food and Beverage Sector of South East Europe

The Current Landscape

The food and beverage processing sector is the largest manufacturing industry in the SEE region, accounting for 27% of turnover and 18% of employment in manufacturing. Despite its significance, the sector faces substantial skills gaps, particularly in areas like purchasing, product development, production maintenance, and quality assurance.

The Skills Challenge

A skilled and flexible workforce is foundational for any economy to attract investment, participate in global value chains, and sustain growth. The SEE region, while recognizing the importance of skills, faces several challenges:

1. Outdated Curricula:  The vocational education and training (VET) systems in the region often have outdated curricula that don't align with current industry needs.
2. Lack of Practical Learning: While there is an emphasis on practical learning, it often takes place in academic settings rather than real-world business environments.
3. Low Participation in Lifelong Learning: Lifelong learning is crucial for continuous skill development. However, participation rates in the SEE region are low, with only 4% of the population engaged in education and training in 2013.

International Good Practices

To bridge the skills gap, SEE economies can draw inspiration from international best practices:

- Efficient Education and Training Systems: Countries with successful workforce development approaches focus on practical learning through updated curricula and involve the business sector in education provision.

- Matching Skills Supply with Business Needs: Anticipating future skills needs and aligning education systems with labour market requirements is crucial. This can be achieved by enhancing public employment services and offering effective career orientation.

- Promoting Lifelong Learning: Governments can collaborate with businesses to offer relevant and flexible training programs, ensuring continuous skill development.

Policy Recommendations

For the SEE region to bridge the skills gap in the food and beverage sector, the following policy measures are recommended:

1. Update Curricula: Collaborate with industry experts to ensure curricula are in line with current and future sector needs.
2. Promote Practical Learning: Increase opportunities for students to learn in real-world business settings.
3. Strengthen Lifelong Learning: Offer incentives for continuous learning and training, ensuring that the workforce remains skilled and adaptable.


The food and beverage sector holds immense potential for the SEE region. By addressing the skills gap, the region can not only boost its economic growth but also enhance its position in the global market. With the right policies and a focus on continuous learning, the SEE region can pave the way for a prosperous future in the food and beverage sector.

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