Overcoming unemployment conundrum

BY: Daily Graphic

The country is battling with a bulgy youth unemployment situation that requires urgent and strategic solutions to address.

The World Bank, in a report last year, said Ghana was faced with 12 per cent youth unemployment and more than 50 per cent under-employment. It further said both figures were higher than the overall unemployment rates in sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, making Ghana a special case in the area of joblessness for young people in the sub-region.

An unenviable record, Ghana's case calls for urgent national attention to ensure it does not compound and degenerate into a national security threat.

It is in this regard that relevant, appropriate and quality technical education is paramount if Ghana wants to equip its youth with the required technical and vocational skills that will enable them to become employable and also start their own businesses.

Fortunately, these values remain the vision of the Technical and Vocational Education Division of the Ministry of Education (MoE) to “provide relevant and quality technical and vocational education and training skills to meet Ghana’s socio-economic development”.

At the 13th annual product exhibition for final-year students last month, the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Technology (FAST) of the Tamale Technical University (TaTU), Dr Adiza Sadik, advised the government to invest in the Catering, Tourism and Hospitality departments of the various technical institutions across the country, so that they would provide students with hands-on practical skills to become self-employed and create jobs.

Dr Sadik’s advice is well intended, but not new; she is really reinforcing what is already known and needs to be urgently done.

Technical education is costly in terms of funding. The set-up to teach skills development is a costly business. For this reason, we need innovative ideas to fully fund technical education and make it meaningful in the development plan of the country.

Fortunately, best practices abound. Germany’s high standards in the manufacture of electrical appliances and technological gadgets are known globally, a feat that has been attained through the provision of technical education and skills acquisition in that country.

Many functional jobs in that country hinge on technical education.

In Ghana, the government has shown its commitment to technical education and skills development by investing more than GH¢3 billion in technical institutions last year for the provision of laboratories and also devoting $60 million (about GH¢349 million) as seed funding for the re-packaging of the Skills Development Fund (SDF) into what will be known as the Ghana Skills Development Fund (GSDF).

The fund, which became operational this year, will give competitive grants to enterprises for expanded employment and skills development.

We need to keep pushing even more to institutionalise skills development in the country for sustained job creation. We also need the government to enhance annual budgetary allocations to skills development.

This is very important, because as hundreds of thousands of young people file out of the universities and other tertiary institutions into the open arms of joblessness, majority of them will become resentful and frustrated with life in their own country, a situation that will push them into unconscionable acts in their attempt to earn a living and survive.

As the World Bank said in the September 2020 report on youth unemployment, in spite of major investments by both the government and the private sector, the joblessness challenge among young folks would intensify if job opportunities remained limited.

Interestingly, however, a major part of the solution lies in young people’s own hands. That is, as more young people are encouraged to see themselves as job creators, rather than job seekers, more job opportunities will emerge, leading to the closing of the unemployment gap.

The Daily Graphic is of the view that with the commitment to institutionalise skills development for the teeming unemployed youth and retooling institutions, what is needed now is increased funding for technical institutions and skills development.

We know the national kitty is overstretched; therefore, policy makers must constructively think through funding options to pool more resources for the effort.

It is in our collective interest to urgently provide the logistics, funding and direction for skills development in the country.

It will do us a lot of good to overcome the unemployment conundrum.