CAMFED and COTVET collaborate to promote TVET in Ghana
Choosing a career path is one of the most important decisions for young people to make. Students often have difficulty choosing their preferred course of study, particularly after completing their basic education. This stems, in part, from the absence of guidance and counselling tailored towards supporting these students to make an informed decision.
Choosing a particular course of study at secondary level has implications, in some cases, for the careers people pursue later in life. The choice of a career depends, amongst others, on job prospects in the chosen field, as well as a student’s passion for the subject. In Ghana, many students have tended to prefer courses in science, business and arts at the secondary level which in their estimation will prepare them for ‘lucrative’ careers in medicine, law, pharmacy, engineering, finance and management. This situation results in part from the focus, over the years, of our secondary education on grammar-type education.
For many parents, the mere thought of their child pursuing technical and vocational education, whether in a formal environment such as a technical or vocational school, or in the informal sector to learn a trade, sends shivers down their spine. The child must go to a secondary school, attend university to pursue an academic course and come out with a degree, with little or no industry- ready skills. The fact that the child may add to the number of unemployed graduates in the not too distant future is not a deterrent.
However, with dwindling employment opportunities for the youth who pursue mainstream courses in science, business and arts, the time has come for all, particularly stakeholders in education and industry, to take a holistic view of the structure of our educational system and promote options which do not only guarantee young people jobs upon completing their education, but position them to be able to contribute meaningfully to the development of the nation.
Focus on Technical, Vocational Education and Training
Over the past few years, many experts in education and industry have emphasized the need for a paradigm shift towards Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as an important step for enhancing job prospects for young people and positioning them to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Amongst others, TVET has the potential to promote the productive participation of many young people in the labour market by equipping them with the critical skills for employment or entrepreneurship.
The TVET sector remains the most practical avenue for acquiring readily-employable skills for the world of work. People with qualifications in TVET can be productively engaged in the building and construction industry, power and energy, sanitation systems, agro-processing, hospitality, clothing and textiles, as well as metal work and fabrication fields.
In spite of the huge potential to contribute to job creation and socio-economic development, many students in Ghana are less-likely to enroll in TVET because of a negative perception of the sector. More critical, is the low number of women participating in the sector, particularly in historically male-dominated fields. Successive governments have implemented strategies to promote TVET in order for the nation to benefit from a work force with a practical skills base, but these efforts have achieved marginal results. Any effort, therefore, to promote TVET in Ghana, will have to begin with a comprehensive approach to address the low image and negative perception which together conspire to make the sector unattractive for students, particularly females.
In addition to the image and perception challenge, there is also the issue of fragmented coordination and oversight of the TVET sector. For instance there are over 288 public pre-tertiary and tertiary TVET institutions spread under 19 ministries, and another 180 TVET institutions in the private sector. This affects effective coordination and governance of the sector.
CAMFED-COTVET Collaborate on ‘My TVET Campaign’
In spite of the bottlenecks, a major initiative designed to promote TVET in Ghana is the ‘My TVET Campaign’ initiated by COTVET, the body mandated to formulate national policies for skills development across the broad spectrum of pre-tertiary and tertiary education in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy. The ‘My TVET Campaign’ is being implemented to change the negative perceptions among Ghanaians of TVET, increase enrolment in TVET institutions, and produce highly-skilled and talented young people for Ghana’s industrial development.
The goal is to inspire world-class excellence in skills development and to introduce the youth to a variety of skilled careers under five components comprising: skills competition; career guidance and counselling; TVET ambassadors’ program/role modelling; formation of TVET clubs in junior high schools; and promotion of TVET and TVET materials through communications.
Under the aegis of an existing partnership between CAMFED and COTVET, the two organizations will work to promote TVET in Ghana through joint efforts under the ‘My TVET Campaign’. The commitment to support TVET aligns with CAMFED’s partnership with the Mastercard Foundation for the implementation of the Young Africa Works strategy in Ghana. CAMFED will, over the next three years, equip 210,000 young people (girls and boys) with work-readiness skills, and directly enable 120,000 young people to secure dignified and fulfilling employment.
The anticipation is that 70 percent of jobs will be for women and over 65 percent will be newly-created through young women’s entrepreneurship, adding to the pool of employment opportunities for Ghanaian youth. Component 3 of CAMFED’s six-component program will focus on the TVET sector with a reach target of 3,250 young women to be supported to start and grow businesses in the TVET space.
Germany presents an example of a country that has benefitted from long-term investment in TVET over the years. There, technical education is taken seriously and the educational system affords learners the opportunity to pursue TVET courses to the highest educational levels through specialized technical institutions and universities set up for that purpose.
Skills education and training represent the way forward as the world struggles to cope with increasing youth unemployment. If Ghana is to pursue aggressive industrialization as successive governments have sought to do, we must recognize that technical skills will be key in driving that agenda. We must position TVET at the centre of our industrial policy to put the country on a sound footing for industrial take-off. In this vein, the approval of the strategic plan for the development of TVET in Ghana and the re-alignment of all public TVET institutions under the Ministry of Education to ensure proper coordination is welcome news.
CAMFED and COTVET will work together to ensure that TVET takes its right of place in Ghana’s educational system. We will pursue joint initiatives that will present TVET as a viable and attractive pathway for students as part of the strategy to create, in the long term, a skilled workforce ready to contribute to national development efforts. We use this medium to call on like-minded organizations to support the advocacy for a transformation of TVET in Ghana.