It is widely accepted that Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), has the great potential of accelerating any country’s drive towards development.

Unlike the so called “Grammar school” education, TVET is designed to prepare trainees for a specific profession. This increases the chances of trainees gaining employment quickly, or setting up their own businesses after training.

Typically, there are two pathways for an individual to take, in pursuing a career in TVET. One is to gain admission to a Technical or Vocational Institution or to undertake an apprenticeship with a master craftsperson in ones chosen field. An overwhelming percentage of people who end up in trades like hairdressing, auto mechanics, plumbing, and electronics are taught in the informal sector by masters who learnt the same way. This makes the traditional apprenticeship system very important.

As Ghana aspires to join the ranks of the developed nations, there is an increased need for a skilled workforce. As the saying goes, a nation without skills cannot develop. We look forward to living in a society with an efficient public transport system, affordable but safe housing, reliable energy supply, and all the trappings that go with development. To achieve this we will need the requisite manpower to make this possible. We need a skilled workforce to maintain our roads, bridges, and railways. Competent engineers and mechanics to service our industries, and skilled garment makers, jewelers and shoe makers to compete globally.

Countries like Malaysia, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore collectively known as the Asian Tigers have successfully adopted sound policies in the technical and vocational training sector, which have resulted in the emergence of a highly skilled workforce.

A good technical or vocational education, benefits the individual by giving him or heron opportunity to earn a decent wage, and live a dignified life. It also benefits the family by raising its status in society, and ultimately benefits the nation by reducing unemployment and increasing the tax base.

Challenges

For technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to take its rightful place in Ghana, several challenges must be overcome. The Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET), as the regulator of the sector, is responsible for finding solutions to most of these challenges.

One of the greatest challenges facing TVET in Ghana currently is the low prestige it enjoys from the public. Most parents and guardians have dreams of their charges becoming Doctors, lawyers, or accountants. Trades like auto mechanics, hairdressing, and carpentry are considered to be the preserve of children who do not have the mental ability to pursue a University education. These trades are also thought to be better suited for those coming from the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

TVET in Ghana, needs rebranding, for people to understand how important it is to our national development. It is now commonplace for university graduates to spend 2-5 years after their education, looking for non-existent employment. The fact is that our universities are producing more Human Resource practitioners, marketers and administrators than can be absorbed by the job market. Meanwhile there is a real demand for skilled workers in many of our industries which is not being met. In the emerging oil and gas industry alone, there are so many specialized jobs which have to be filled by expatriate workers, since the Ghanaian expertise is nonexistent. One of the strategies which have been identified by COTVET, to reignite interest in TVET, is to revive Guidance and Counselling units in our schools, to educate children at a young age, about the opportunities available in TVET.

There are also some significant challenges, as far as training is concerned, both in the formal and informal sectors. Our training institutions have to navigate a minefield of obstacles in their quest to train the Ghanaian youth.

As we noted earlier, TVET is supposed to prepare the trainee for a specific vocation. This means that, training has to be practical in nature. It also suggests that during training, the trainee should have access to the tools and equipment that is used in industry. Unfortunately many of our training institutions are ill equipped, and are therefore forced to rely heavily on theoretical methods of teaching. Even though some institutions are better equipped than others, the general situation is less than satisfactory. Asawansi Technical Institute in the Central Region still relies on equipment from the mid-1940s to train its students. For TVET to become relevant we need to find the financing to adequately equip our institutions.

The importance of TVET notwithstanding, stakeholders are yet to come up with a sustainable financing structure. The Ministry of Education, which finances and oversees the majority of TVET institutions in Ghana, has consistently allocated less than 2% of its budget to the TVET sector. Industries, who are the direct beneficiaries of the skills that graduates acquire, should also be encouraged to invest in the training institutions.

Furthermore it is imperative that the trainers we have in our classrooms, workshops, and laboratories are constantly abreast with trends in industry. This is one sure way of bridging the gap which currently exists between training institutions and industry. Trainers should either be industry practitioners, or have access to regular career enhancement courses.

The informal sector, which trains a vast majority of TVET practitioners, must also be modernized, and encouraged to adopt more scientific methods of training.

There must also be clear routes of qualification progression from initial TVET, through to continuing TVET leading to career progression. Such a qualification framework should make it possible that there is opportunity for progression not only within TVET but also in higher education. This is what the National TVET Qualifications Framework being implemented by COTVET, seeks to achieve.

Above all, there is the need for all stakeholders, including prospective trainees, training providers, industry, parents, and the State, to shed the outmoded perceptions of TVET and channel our energies into building a strong and attractive TVET super-structure, to spearhead our development efforts.

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