What any number of Ghanaians could tell you is that there is a great disconnect between academia and industry; in terms of what products the schools are churning out and the manpower needs of industry, especially in the burgeoning extractive sub-sectors of oil and gas, and it is critical to elevate the issue to the forefront of the political discussion this election year to find ways to address this fundamental and growing problem.
The issue of education was on the front burner during the last election year; some water has passed under the bridge since then with some effort made at addressing the myriad challenges confronting the country.
But progress has, so far, been wishy-washy
It would seem managers of the country's educational system are shifting some significant attention to the current technical vocational education skills training system in the country relating to key industrial trades including welding, mechanical, electrical, and instrumentation within the extractive sectors of mining, oil and gas.
While there has been some upgrading of infrastructure for primary education, there has also been a noticeable emphasis on secondary and tertiary education moving more away from academic to technical and vocational training (even if only rhetorical) so as to meet the human capital needs of industry, an essential ingredient to sustain growth from a lower middle-income economy to a higher one. This has been a long-held dream.
By an act of Parliament (ACT 718)2006, the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET) was set up to formulate national policies on skills development across pre-tertiary and tertiary education in both the formal and non-formal sectors of the economy.
COTVET is also to co-ordinate and harmonize the activities of private and public providers of technical vocational education skills training (TVET) including apprenticeship.
The regulator has since been pursuing a ten-point agenda:
- Conduct Needs Assessment (involving the identification of employers in an area and determining their status of employment needs)
- Establish Industry/Occupational Needs (Occupational Standards Generation).
- Translate Industry/Occupational Needs into Education and Training Programmes.
- Develop Learning Material.
- Design and Develop Assessment Framework
- Develop Capacity of Facilitators and Assessors
- Induct Staff and Learners (purposely to offer insight to students and College staff in the implementation of CBT and the advantages of offering it)
- Design and Develop Quality Assurance and Evaluation Instruments.
- Establish and Develop Capacity of Internal and External Verifiers (basically to establish and train Internal Verifiers in Internal Verification Procedures and to establish and train External Verifiers in External Verification Procedures)
- Establish and Develop Capacity of Systems Verifiers and Evaluators (to provide guidance and advice to centres on the development of internal quality assurance system among others)
It is against this backdrop that we juxtapose a very recent assessment of TVET in the country by a Canadian training company, CPI Training Ltd.
The study's preliminary conclusions were that major deficiencies existed in the technical and vocational training institutions, including a lack of current curriculum and an absence of consumables which are compounded by instructors' lack of practical experience and a lack of government coordinated effort.
Recently there have been donations for equipment and infrastructure but these are inadequate given the myriad challenges with consumables for effective training, an updated curriculum and instructor competencies being the areas of greatest need. CPI Ltd notes that equipment and infrastructure investment in pre-tertiary schools may not be best use of capital to support Industry.
Of the 10 technical and vocational institutions surveyed across country, only one privately-run school had consumables and in all cases, Instructors generally lack practical hands-on experience and most lack industry experience.
Schools tend to rely on industry attachments to deliver practical training component and, while apprenticeship programmes exist, they are ineffective for industry.
From the position of industry, it has little confidence in the TVET system and has no appetite for funding an apprenticeship programme under current conditions; however, it is willing to provide in kind contributions to schools in the form of industry experts, donation of materials, and possible seed money.
That being the case, industry is highly supportive of technical training programmes delivered in Ghana that meet their needs.
The need for a “Made in Ghana” solution is recognized by all key stakeholders but government appears unable or unwilling to initiate plans and actions in that regard. Obviously a paradigm shift in government funding priorities is needed to ensure the long-term TVET system's sustainability.