Africa has the youngest population in the world and in Ghana, one out of every five people are within the ages 15-24. However, according to the 2015 Labour Force Report, only 8.5% of youth have had education beyond the Senior High School level and 34.7 % have had no formal education.
Based on the country’s youth demography, there is a major need to invest more resources in education and training for the youth. Education exists outside of the confines of the traditional classroom setting and industries such as the construction sector require technical and vocational skills training to meet the demands of the rapidly growing field.
The construction sector provides adequate opportunities for people with varying skills sets ranging from conceptual theory-based to practical artisanal backgrounds. Recent trends in the sector has made it imperative for workers and potential workers to acquire the relevant skills to enable them get decent employment in the sector.
For most of the youth, traditional apprenticeship, which accounts for 80-90% of basic skills training, provides a major alternative avenue for skills development. However, youth are only trained to the extent of his or her master’s competency in the traditional apprenticeship model, creating a yawning gap between rapidly evolving industry needs and ill-equipped human resources.
In line with this year’s International Youth Day and the theme of “Transforming Education”, Ghana should consider making education and skills training more inclusive for all Ghanaian youth.
Yet, there have been challenges with providing youth with adequate education, particularly in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). The proportion of the Education Budget allocated for TVET institutions has consistently amounted to less than 4% annually from 2004 to 2014. In tandem with lack of funds provided, there has been decline in youth enrollment in TVET institutions which hinders the growth of industries that rely on a skilled labour force. This requires a relook at the structures in place to support skills development for technical and vocational-based industries such as construction.
It is in response to this challenge and to create economic opportunities in Ghana’s construction sector for economically disadvantaged youth that the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative for Employment (YIEDIE) project was started.
YIEDIE is implemented by a consortium led by Global Communities in partnership with Mastercard Foundation.
The project applies an integrated, youth-led market-systems model to improve the capacity of youth, train young women and men in technical construction skills and help youth to grow and start small businesses. By the end of its implementation in 2020, YIEDIE will have directly reached at least 23,700 youth with training in technical, life and entrepreneurship skills leading to employment.
Based on the impact that YIEDIE has made in providing of skills-based training to the youth, there is still a need for the government to make more provisions for quality education and training for students, artisans and other trainees through TVET intuitions. While doing so, key challenges should be addressed: Firstly, many youth in industries such as construction lack the proper training to develop entrepreneurial abilities and the innovativeness required to make bold decisions, take calculated risks, and develop strategies for securing the resources and partnerships needed to do business in the construction sector. Secondly, many local certification regimes lack global accreditation, thus reducing their transferability to external environments.
Thirdly, there is a constrained development of effective technical support systems required for further training of employees of business units in the industry. Fourthly, the local education system has had challenges fully equipping young people with knowledge of the impacts of the work environment on their health and safety as well as the critical skills required to ensure good health and safety, especially in the construction sector. Finally, the education system has not been able to dispel the cultural biases and stigma attached to the uptake of vocational trades by females in male-dominated sectors such as construction. Overall, the confidence of the general populace in the ability of the educational system to cater for the training needs of the youth needs to be reevaluated.
Currently, the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Education is revamping the educational curriculum, especially in technical and vocational education. There is also undeniable evidence of numerous local conferences and stakeholder engagements, as well as emerging research on the aforementioned challenges faced by youth. While we appreciate these efforts by key stakeholders, we believe that much remains to be done since the challenges faced by youth continue to persist.
It is our firm belief that these challenges to the well-being of youth can be adequately addressed by truly transforming the local education system. To truly transform education in Ghana, we wish to make the following recommendations:
•Firstly, policymakers and implementers must make quality education accessible to all young people. There should be adequate investments for all levels of education especially TVET to make it attractive and inclusive.
•Secondly, education providers, teachers, youth advocates, and other stakeholders must make young people aware of the opportunities available through technical and vocational training. This can be done by designing and providing leads to apprenticeship programs, job adverts, profiling of young achievers in various sectors such as construction, and further training opportunities.
•Training programs should also provide entrepreneurial skills at all levels of education to teach youth how to make bold decisions and take responsibility for their actions. This can be achieved in part by giving young people realistic work tasks coupled with rewards and sanctions, encouraging youth learning groups, and giving young people a higher decision latitude in the development of training modules and youth education policies.
•Stakeholders need to overturn the deeply entrenched stereotypes and social norms that portray females as less competent technical and vocational workers by giving them more social support than they are currently receiving. This can be achieved by encouraging every Ghanaian, especially young children at the earliest stage of their education to view industries such as construction as a vital sector of the national economy which requires the input of women to grow effectively.
•Fourthly, the designers and regulators of technical and vocational education must make a conscious effort to incorporate current advancements in science and technology (e.g. artificial intelligence, precision manufacturing, etc.) into training programs. This will enable them to be innovative and globally competitive.