Our Work

Workforce and Higher Access to Markets

Activities And Approaches

The Activity strengthened high-growth, exporting, and export-ready small and medium enterprises with targeted interventions that add capacity and remove binding constraints to their competitiveness. It centered on a grants program that requires cost-share from grantees, typically SMEs and public and private technical and educational institutions. Targeted interventions included support on workforce development, market access, and organizational capacity. Grants fell under the following categories:

Grants to recruit or retrain the labor force with adequate skills, for example, support to secondary schools to acquire proper equipment for manufacturing training. These include:

  • Workforce training grants that serve immediate, specific training needs with capacity building packages for training centers in public and private technical and vocational institutions.
  • Educational centers of excellence grants that help develop and showcase cutting edge workforce training and re-training learning centers in targeted sectors. The excellence grants aim to capitalize on launching new or improved centers of excellence in existing universities, vocational and technical schools, and secondary schools.

Support to companies in the target sectors to identify and access new customers and markets, for example, through grants to prepare for and attend major regional and international trade fairs.

Support to SMEs to introduce quality management systems, make technology upgrades, and receive necessary certifications required by target markets.

During years 4 and 5, WHAM focused exclusively on grants aimed at improving the BiH workforce.


Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is home to a growing number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are adopting international standards to supply sophisticated European Union (EU) customers, yet the economy is not generating enough jobs. Originally a three-year program, USAID’s Workforce and Higher Access to Markets (WHAM) Activity received a two-year extension to continue stimulating job creation by advancing BiH’s trade integration with and expansion into the EU and regional markets. The Activity focused on accelerating employment for SMEs in the metal processing, wood processing, textile/apparel, and information and communications technology (ICT) sectors.


The WHAM Activity met and exceeded program targets. Through 83 grants and in close cooperation with 335 companies and 67 municipalities, WHAM helped SMEs achieve 293 transactions with foreign customers, supported 54 companies to attain 94 new certifications, and supported 60 SMEs to obtain new or upgraded technologies. WHAM-supported SMEs reported an 18.2% increase in sales and an 13.6% increase in exports. WHAM also supported the training of 2,657 workers and jobseekers, and the creation of 2,333 new full-time jobs, 33% for women and 60% for young people.

Funder: USAID
Project Duration: 2017-2022
Award: $6.5 million

For more information, please visit the WHAM Activity website: https://www.en.whambih.org/


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