The former Minister of Education, Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang in the year 2015 called for the rebranding of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), to make it more relevant and attractive to the youth. The Minister’s call is important considering the negative perceptions that have been associated with TVET.

Most children are unwilling to pursue a career in TVET, and instead have dreams of becoming doctors, lawyers or accountants.

Often children’s choice of a future career is influenced by their parents’ ambitions for them rather than the abilities and preferences of the child. The afore-mentioned professions are considered to be prestigious and lucrative.

Just as a career in law or medicine is considered high-status, most technical and vocational trades are considered to be insignificant. Children who do not perform well in school, are either encouraged to enrol in technical institutions or take up apprenticeships in hair-dressing, auto mechanics, carpentry, or other trades. Over the years, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has come to be accepted as the preserve of those whom are either too poor to pursue a higher education, or those who do not have the intellectual ability to do so.

A majority of those who go through our educational system want jobs that require them to wear a shirt and tie even if it means they are underemployed, underpaid, under-resourced and unfulfilled.

It is time to critically re-examine this notion. As a nation that endlessly talks about development, it is time for us to closely consider our manpower needs. We need to be aware of the critical skills that we need, to help us achieve developed country status. It has been observed that the social and economic development of a country is determined by the skills of its workforce. Whiles the skills of the workforce are dependent on the effectiveness of the educational system.

For Ghana to develop as a country, we cannot focus all our attention on “grammar school” education. We need skilled workers in all sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, service, hospitality, maintenance, agriculture, mining, construction, transport, communication and the utilities.

In order to achieve this, there is the need to change the perception of the Ghanaian public about technical and vocational education and training. One way of doing this, is to begin a massive social marketing campaign to educate the public about the benefits of technical and vocational training, and its importance to development.

The guidance and counselling structures in our educational institutions should also be revitalized. Children in our schools should be introduced to the vast world of career opportunities out there, and be encouraged to enter into careers where they have the interest and the potential to excel. Some private initiatives are currently doing some remarkable work in this direction, including the Hold-a-hand initiative run by Social Activist Kodwo Brumpon, which takes professionals from various sectors into classrooms to inspire students.

We must also encourage citizens who have excelled in the technical and vocational sector to offer themselves as role models to the next generation.

However, media campaigns always have their limitations. The rebranding initiative must go hand in hand with efforts to improve the quality of TVET delivery.

It is important that government invests much more than it is currently doing in TVET. We need to see better qualified teachers in the classrooms, better equipped workshops and laboratories and better career opportunities, if we want to entice our brighter students to enter TVET. It is also essential that the linkages between training institutions and industry are strengthened, so that TVET graduates are seamlessly absorbed into industry. On the 30th of October 2013 the Express Tribune in Islamabad, reported that in an attempt to keep up with trends in industry, Technical and Vocational Education and Training policy makers in Pakistan were devising 117 new courses, whiles the curriculum of 170 other programs were being revised to bring them up to date. The day before, the Ghana News Agency reported that the Association of Principals of Technical Institutions (APTI) had met for a five-day conference on the theme “Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) As an Agent of Change for Ghana’s Industrial Development”. A recurring theme in their eight-point communique was the need for government to invest more in TVET.

We can encourage our children to pursue careers in TVET, but if the training is poor, and the facilities nonexistent in schools, then industry will continue to rely on expatriate workers who have the relevant skills set.

The message is clear, if we really intend to compete globally as far as TVET is concerned, then it’s time to walk the talk.

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