The Centre for Coastal Management of the Cape Coast University has engaged stakeholders in the fisheries and coastal industry on the development of a curriculum that will help its graduates to be entrepreneurial.
The initiative which is part of the World Bank support project- Africa Centre of Excellence in Coastal Resilience (ACECoR) is also being carried out in partnership with the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Small Enterprise Development (CESED) also of the University of Cape Coast.
The Entrepreneurship Curriculum Needs Assessment held in Accra, attracted stakeholders from civil society organisations (CSOs), non governmental organisations, regulators, entrepreneurs working on coastal issues, people from fishing communities and academics from various institutions who brainstormed on the existing gaps and challenges in the industry relevant for the development of a sector-focused curriculum that drives entrepreneurship among graduates.
CCM acts as a focal point for collaborative research on coastal zone issues in Ghana and offers a masters programme for students from Ghana and other African countries.
The Centre also engages in research of policy relevance, linked to fisheries management and governance issues within coastal communities.
During the brainstorming session the stakeholders discussed the shortcomings in university academic curriculum, touching on course structures and how students approach these structures with regard to coastal and fisheries studies.
Some of the problems they highlighted ranged from misplaced priorities on the side of students, mindset about fisheries, lack of adaptability to the existing curriculum on the side of students, limited adaptation of innovation in teaching and research, difficulty in modifying key educational policies and resource availability on the side of the university system.
They also mentioned why entrepreneurs shy away from businesses related to coastal ecosystems and fisheries as well as what they would have wished to be taught to make graduates develop entrepreneurial competencies.
Other challenges identified included the difficulties in acquiring canoes and outboard motors, the durability of canoes after the acquisition, lack of standardization in fish processing, high fuel cost, low fish catch, access to credit facilities.
They suggested that graduates are paired with experienced mentors in their chosen fields of entrepreneurship, with access to information and the proper orientation into the fisheries sector.
The Director of CCM, Professor Denis Aheto said developing an entrepreneurship curriculum would enable the Centre to develop the capacities of students and staff to be able to venture into entrepreneurship as a problem-solving tool.
"The issue is that the coastal and marine sectors are being degraded and we need professionally trained individuals who would be in a position to transform the blue economy," he said.
The curriculum needs assessment, Prof Ahetor said, would also help identify what exactly to teach so that students who complete school will be able to think outside the box to establish their own businesses within the fishing industry.
He said there were a number of opportunities in the industry which covered tourism, mining, oil and gas and shipping and maritime transport, pharmaceutical business opportunities, salt production, marine culture fishing and algae production among others.
"These are all things that graduates can think about and pursue business in such areas. With the new curriculum we can train graduates who at the end of the day can think outside the box in terms of what they have to do. It will help to provide students with 21st century skills, entrepreneurship education," he said.
He said the Vice-Chancellor of UCC, Professor Johnson Nyarko Boampong was very keen in making sure that the University's educational curriculum was well positioned to train the next generation of graduates who will not rely on existing jobs but create employment.
"They must be able to establish their own businesses and come up with projects, initiatives and enterprises for the support of the economy. This Centre is not only for Ghanaians because we currently have students from about ten countries in Africa. We are happy that through this platform we are able to provide additional support."
He encouraged students to think entrepreneurially, "in this era where job opportunities are not readily available and limited. It is high time universities position themselves to train students who can think in a way that can be beneficial to themselves after graduation and their countries as well."
He also admitted that creating jobs requires enough money in one's bank account to be able to justify to the banks that you are in a position to be given a loan "but there must be some special dispensation for people with creative ideas."
He therefore urged the banks to also support initiatives by young people with ideas and acumen to help establish business for the blue economy.
The Director of Center for Entrepreneurship and Small Enterprise Development (CESED) at the University of Cape Coast, Dr Edward Amarteifio recognised that there was a disconnect between the students and industry and it was to bridge the gap and ensure students were trained to fit into the industry.
He said the engagement with the stakeholders would help inculcate industry ready activities into the curriculum of the masters and PHD programmes run by CCM.
"I see the youth of today to be relaxed. Looking for huge amounts of money before they start something. There is funding support in the system but the issue is if you are given one million Ghana cedis and you do not know how to manage it you can waste it in a day."
He said graduates need to start with no or little money, gain the needed experience required to help them manage business and "with that when they get funds they will know how to manage it."