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Rising youth unemployment: Is TVET solution?

BY: Edem Latsu Nukafu
TVET students in class
TVET students in class

Isaac Kwame Addae, the graduate who took to appealing for a job with a placard on the streets of Accra, whose video went viral broke my heart.

He is among many unemployed graduates in Ghana who are desperately prospecting for employment opportunities in the corporate world after national service, but who cannot find one.

Recruitment programmes and job fairs are usually characterised by the massive attendance of the youth prospecting for jobs.

While some schools of thought blame the country's education system for churning out half-baked graduates yearly, some also point accusing fingers at the mindset of parents, who usually choose courses, programmes and professions for their wards that do not result in productive youths.

Isaac Kwame Addae carrying a placard asking for employment

The integration of young people into gainful employment in Ghana, who represent 57 per cent of the population, after school can be an essential driver of growth and sustained development. But how can this be achieved amid lack of vacancies in the formal sector?

Youth unemployment is a canker gradually eating into society's fabric. A ticking time bomb, if not curtailed. Globally, the number of young people has been expanding, with the world's population aged 15-24 years estimated to have reached over 1.2 billion, which is 16 per cent of the global population in 2019.

At the same time, the youth unemployment rate has also been increasing. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that young people are now three times more likely than adults to be unemployed.

Quality

The solution is quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) the purpose of which is to equip young people with the necessary technical and professional skills needed for the socioeconomic and industrial development of a country.

The emphasis is on training young people for self-employment. Technical and vocational skills training is widely recognised as having an essential role to play in minimising youth unemployment.

TVET's orientation toward the world of work coupled with the acquisition of employability skills implies that it is well placed to deal with issues such as skills mismatch, which have impeded smooth school to work transition for many people, with the myopic conclusion that technical and vocational education is for the less privileged in society.

Applicants at a Ghana Armed Forces recruitment exercise

This unfounded perception has forced many people to opt for secondary education with no viable employment options.

Successive governments over the past decades have initiated policies and programmes aimed at strengthening TVET as a vehicle for quelling youth unemployment, developing the technical and skilled human resource base that the nation needs urgently as a key strategy for development.

The next initiatives to look at are apprenticeship programmes and business support packages. A laudable commencing point is the turning of some Polytechnics into fully fledged technical universities.

Teeming youth in long queues for employment

Further, the introduction of Competency-Based Training (CBT) in TVET, especially at the Polytechnic level, seeks to improve the quality and relevance of technical and vocational education with the utmost motive of assisting to meet the needs of the industry.

COTVET

The Council for Technical and Vocational Education Training (COTVET) has also recently developed a blueprint, that is, the National Apprenticeship Policy.

It aims at making apprenticeship a compulsory requirement for all students, particularly those within Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) institutions.

Programmes such as the National Entrepreneurship Innovation Programme (NEIP) have been rolled out to boost the private sector and entrepreneurship development, especially in MSMEs in the country. The programme has provided training for about 12,000 start-ups, and small businesses to build capacity to enable them to compete locally and globally.

Despite these options, more needs to be done to provide adequate skills for Ghana to position itself well to take advantage of its youthful population. A recent innovation is the YouStart Programme, which seeks to give financial support to young business start-ups to employ themselves as well as their peers.

There is a commitment to reform technical and vocational education in the country. It is crucial for the private sector to participate in designing and delivering TVETs that will respond to the skills shortage in Ghana's priority sectors.

Vocational skills training

This involves the practical acquisition of skills and knowledge specific to a particular trade or sector. Be it catering, basket-weaving, pottery, kente-weaving etc.

However, on-the-job training forms an integral part of vocational training. COTVET promotes, coordinates and oversees all aspects of technical vocational education and training.

The council together with other stakeholders, such as, the National Youth Authority (NYA), and Youth Employment Agency (YEA) promotes skills development in technical and vocational education across the broad spectrum of Pre-Tertiary, Tertiary education, formal, informal and non-formal sectors.

Moreover, an improved TVET system is anticipated to promote manufacturing, construction, technology, Agro-based and the commerce sectors.

Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship combines vocational education with work-based learning for an intermediate occupational skill. An apprenticeship can take place in both formal and informal sectors.

The National Vocational Training Institute (NVTI) under the Ministry of Manpower, Youth and Employment usually provides formal apprenticeship in Ghana and has introduced the National Apprenticeship Programme (NAP) intended to train workers to feed various economic sectors.

The NAP promotes apprenticeship training to harness the knowledge and experience of firms and entrepreneurs to deliver market-relevant skills to the youth in a scalable and potentially cost-effective manner.

Business support

Businesses and start-up incubators guide early-stage firms through to larger companies, by assisting young determined entrepreneurs and the private sector to start their firms to employ themselves and others.

These businesses and start-up incubators can assist in quelling the burden of youth unemployment in Ghana. A quintessential programme being birthed is the YouStart by the government to provide nurturing assistance and funds allocation for young enterprises to help mitigate youth joblessness confronting the nation.

Among other govt-sponsored programmes to aid businesses in Ghana is the NEIP, the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC) and the 'Presidential Pitch', which seeks to assist entrepreneurs to translate business ideas into reality.

We must all think out of the box and be creative. Let's rise and build the nation. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what can you do for your country, in these times of difficulties.

The writer is with the Public Relations office, NYA. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.