“To know how to suggest is the art of teaching.”

Henri-Frederic Amiel

Citation

In recent years there have been calls for the rebranding of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), to make it more relevant and attractive to the youth. These calls from policy makers, industry and the general public are important considering the negative perceptions that have been associated with TVET.

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

Often students’ 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, hence the high demand for them.

Just as a career in law or medicine is considered high-status, most technical and vocational trades are considered to be insignificant. students who do not perform well in school, are either encouraged to enroll 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. 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. To achieve this, the role of the teacher at the basic school level is key. For many children their teachers are their first role-models and the advice given by teachers is respected by both students and parents. Teachers are in the unique position to identify the talents and abilities of the children under their supervision. Much of the task of changing youth perceptions of TVET therefore rest with teachers. As mentors, teachers serve as a source of inspiration, information and experience from which the mentee can select qualities most likely to help him or her achieve success. They have the opportunity to guide their charges to explore TVET as a career option. It is also important that bright students are seen to be encouraged in this direction.

This mentorship role of the teacher is especially important in our current dispensation where tens of thousands of students graduate from our universities each year with degrees in marketing, administration, human resource management and other disciplines. Many of them have high hopes of well-paid jobs in the corporate world. The reality however is that such jobs are nonexistent and a majority of them end up unemployed and frustrated. This state of affairs can be avoided if more students opt to pursue technical courses which are in demand by industry, or which can lead to self employment.

All countries that have succeeded in industrializing and developing have paid the necessary attention to TVET. The time is right for Ghana to do same. A concerted effort involving all stakeholders including government, educational institutions, the youth, and the general public is needed to put TVET at the very top of the national policy agenda, and make it attractive to the next generation.

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