Are technical universities in position to forfend youth unemployment in Ghana?

Currently, there are indications of high poverty levels in Ghana, pointing to high unemployment among graduates of which permanent solutions are far from existence. Curbing issues with regards to graduate unemployment require accelerated industrial growth.  Accelerated industrial growth is deemed one of the topmost priorities to enhancing the wellbeing as well as attaining socio-economic and sustainable development of citizens. This has been at the forefront of contemporary issues such as the introduction of the one-district-one-factory policy of the current Government which seeks to employ citizens be it graduates or non-graduates.

Tackling the issue of graduate employment, it can be asserted that over the years, Ghana has attracted appreciable levels of donor supports to boost accelerated socio-economic development, but minimal donor supports are available in terms of impact on the wellbeing of the graduate citizenry. As industrial transformation is seen as a hallmark to providing graduate employment, Ghana sees slick development in its industrial sector. However, various studies have revealed that the rapid change and growth of the newly industrializing countries such as Singapore, China, Brazil, and India, among others are attributed to useful university-industry links.

However, is graduate unemployment the most pertinent issue or graduates after completing their university education attains little or no skill relevant for the job market. As I seek to discuss graduate unemployment, not in this issue, this issue will entirely hinge on the misalliances between technical education and skills required by the industrial sector of Ghana. Technical education and training for productive employment is a pre-condition for socio-economic and sustainable development, and it is expected that pursuing these reforms in tertiary education in Ghana will boost skills development for industry and expand tax regime for the government. Arguably, technical education in Ghana over the decades have produced managers with varying degrees of successes in their endeavour, however, they have almost failed in creating the relevant entrepreneurs needed to transform the economy. Against the backdrop of creating relevant entrepreneurs, the Government in 2013 thought it wise to convert polytechnics in Ghana into Technical Universities. This legislation was enacted to further enrich the training of high-level technical skills in the areas of Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET). Based on this initiative, the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE), the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP); The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI); the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) have in various national documents suggested the need to build effective and robust linkages between technical education and industry.

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The central ideology behind setting up technical education (polytechnics) was to bridge the gap between industry and the skills required to operate in an industry, thus to ensure that education finds fulfilment in community development. The mandate for the Polytechnics in Ghana was, therefore, to equip students with the technical skills required by industries in Ghana. However, the gap between technical education and industry is far from reach. In bridging this gap, it is worth noting some significances of technical education to economic development in Ghana. First, technical education helps reduce the rate of unemployment in the economy considerably through technical training. Also, it contributes positively to national revenue mobilization through expanded tax net through technical training, as more graduates are trained and absorbed into the job market, the number of employees eligible for tax payment increases. Furthermore, effective technical education makes workforce available through an effective technical training system. Additionally, technical education helps build self-confident in graduates to change their mindset from “GETTING” to “DOING”. Finally, it also helps encourage entrepreneurship-oriented and problem-solving mindset among graduates.

Irrespective of the numerous advantages of technical education to Ghana’s economic development, presently, the triggering issues taking the centre stage of technical education in Ghana which have to be tackled to ensure that the Technical Universities achieve set objectives in the future is the already acquired skill required by students to bridge the gap between technical education and the industry. Technical education should be geared towards providing a comprehensive plan for Problem-Based Learning Approach. Such a methodological approach is key to linking technical education graduates and the industrial sector of Ghana. Most importantly, with the free SHS policy in Ghana, there will be a corresponding rise in technical education. Such a surge in technical education must be accompanied by quality training and skills development. As one-district-one-factory policy initiative looms, technical education would be vital to driving such an initiative. By so doing, I end by providing recommendations that if adopted and implemented, technical education will contribute its significant quota to the Ghanaian economy.

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Recommendations

Given the triggering challenges militating against the successful and meaningful contribution of Technical Universities to the Ghanaian economy, the following suggestions are proffered by the writer.

Real advocacy for the existence of Technical Universities must include but not limited to;

  1. Standards for Technical Universities must be uniquely set by the Technical Universities themselves.
  2. Entrepreneurship skills should be made an integral certificate part of the Technical University training to change the mindset of graduates from “GETTING” to “DOING”, this will be within the president’s industrialization vision and one-district-one-factory agenda.
  3. The governing councils of Technical Universities must be made to have 50% industry representation.
  4. Formalize stronger linkages with industry/business groups to ease the current frustration of students looking for placement for attachment.
  5. A pragmatic approach to teaching methods from lecturing to industry focus (problem-based learning approach).
  6. Technical Universities need to build capacity in selected critical areas about staffing (Comprehensive staff development plan be developed).
  7. The government must go through the actual process and steps of transforming the institutional set-up and governance systems to reflect the attributes of the envisaged Technical Universities.
  8. Technical Universities need to build capacity in selected critical areas about physical facilities.

BRIEF PROFILE

Rev. Lord Lucas Vodzi is the programs director for Africa Center for Strategic Business and Entrepreneurship Development (ACSBED), Ghana. He holds a master degree in Governance and Sustainable Development and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Integrated Development Studies from UCC and UDS respectively in Ghana. He has expertise and experience in professional backgrounds including socio-economic, organization and entrepreneurship development. Rev. Vodzi has over 18 years’ experience within Ghana’s decentralization domain and entrepreneurship development capacity building for an effective multi-stakeholders engagement at the national, regional and sub-national levels. He also works extensively on business advocacy projects sponsored by the USAID, EU, DANIDA, DFID, the World Bank and GIZ across Ghana aimed at promoting sustainable development through private sector development and entrepreneurship. He has distinguished himself in participatory methodologies such as CEFE, OD tools, SEED Eco-Inclusive Enterprise development, and other Participatory Learning Approaches within the perspective of sustainable development.

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