By Sebastian Deh, Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, Ghana.
Rebranding Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to make it attractive to the youth is a topical, though not new, issue in Ghana. This is necessary because of the role technical and vocational skills is expected to play in reducing the increasing rate of unemployment and under-employment among the youth, especially among secondary and tertiary university graduates. For example, the latest Ghana Living Standards Survey (2014) shows that the youth labour underutilization rate for 15-35 year olds in Ghana is 42.6%.
The reasons for this vary, but a key factor is the lack of employable skills of most graduates as our educational system is more academic than vocation skills oriented and does not provide the skills required for Ghana’s industrial growth. Sadly, TVET is widely perceived as a preserve for dropouts or under-performing students. In fact, less than 5% of secondary and post-secondary students enrol in to TVET.
Results from the on-going Skills Development Fund suggest that equipping youth with employable skills encourages the creation of employment and prosperity: Skills that are essential prerequisites of the growing economy; skills that are highly marketable; skills that enhance productivity and lead to economic prosperity.
Part of government’s response to combat youth unemployment is an effort to rebrand TVET -thereby making it an attractive option for the youth. The lack of attraction of today’s youth into TVET is due largely to the outdated curriculum, ineffective mode of delivery and accompanying low incomes. However, the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET), through the Ghana Skills and Technology Development Project has been supporting training institutions like Ghana Technology University College and ZEPTO (a local television manufacturer), just to mention a few, to develop competency-based training modules in innovative TVET disciplines like the repair and maintenance of LED TVs, iPads, Laptops and other sophisticated gadgets which have the potential of fetching a minimum of Ghana Cedis (GHC) 100 per service compared to previous gadgets which fetched as low as GHC 20 per service. The development of such modules has facilitated training of thousands of youth in hardware, software and networking required in fixing these gadgets. Training takes between three to six months.
Similar examples exist in the renewable energy sector where COTVET has supported the development of an innovative training module that equips the youth with skills relevant for the servicing, installation and maintenance of solar PV panels in just a month. Over 1,000 individuals have so far been trained across the country. Such short-term skills oriented marketable training is attractive to the youth, as they readily engage with the market due to the demand-driven nature of the skills. This development is against the backdrop of Ghana’s current energy crisis which has led many households and businesses to adopt alternative energy sources, especially solar.
The experiences from trainees of the aforementioned innovative skills development interventions with potential of immediate income can be seen as one way of attracting the youth into TVET for the purpose of employment, wealth creation and prosperity.
It is innovative and responsive in the sense that it equips one with skills that hitherto would have taken two to three years to acquire or skills that were not available for instruction in any training institute in Ghana. This novelty has been driven by the policy initiative being championed by COTVET to align all TVET and skills development with the concept of Competency-Based Training. This case amplifies how developing short term competency-based, innovative and market-led training modules can help change the perception and patronage of TVET among the youth, thereby increasing potential for job, wealth creation and prosperity.
This notwithstanding, the need to scale up such modules in all training institutions nationally, provide relevant instructional equipment, train trainers, improve and adopt competency-based assessments and integrate such innovative modules onto the National TVET qualification framework remain challenging hurdles to clear.
 Labour underutilization is a broad concept that encompasses unemployment and forms of mal-employment namely, insufficiency of the volume of work (labour slack), low remuneration (low earnings) and incompatibility of education and occupation (skill mismatch) (see ILO).
Sebastian Deh is the Executive Director of the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET), Ghana. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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