Skills development in Ghana: What next after Kazan expo?

The Executive Director of COTVET, Dr. Fred Kyei Asamoah together with the Board Chairman of COTVET and some skill experts in a group picture with the Vice-President of WorldSkills International

WorldSkills Kazan Expo 2019 may never be witnessed again. However, the fond memories the expo exposed the Ghanaian delegation which I was a member too, will forever remain with us.

Ghana did not compete in the skills competition. However, the delegation participated in the event to observe and learn skills/trades being competed in and related activities for future National and WorldSkills competitions.

The Team was also mandated to learn the set-up and infrastructural requirements for skills competitions as well as ascertain the human resource requirements (facilitators, organizing team members, planning committee members, competitors and other auxiliary staff for National and WorldSkills Competitions).

The objective of WorldSkills competitions is to raise global professional standards through supporting young specialists and to encourage interest in advanced technologies in various industries.

At the Kazan Expo, competitors demonstrated the level of their vocational education and training in 56 skill areas that were grouped into six sectors namely; Construction and Building Technology, Creative Arts and Fashion, Information and Communication Technology, Manufacturing and Engineering Technology, Social and Personal Services and Transportation and Logistics.

Among the skills area member countries competed in were Architectural Stonemasonry, Bricklaying, Carpentry, Concrete Construction Work, Electrical Installations, Plumbing and Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, Wall and Floor Tiling, 3D Digital Game Art, Fashion Technology, Graphic Design Technology, Jewellery and Cloud Computing.

Others were Cyber Security, Print Media Technology, IT Software Solutions for Business, Construction Metal Work, Mobile Robotics, Chemical Laboratory Technology, Welding, Polymechanics Automation, Mechanical Engineering CAD and Industrial Mechanic Millwright.

The rest were Bakery, Beauty Therapy, Cooking, Hairdressing, Health and Social Care, Hotel Reception, Patisserie and Confectionery, Restaurant Service, Aircraft Maintenance, Autobody Repair, Automobile Technology, Car Painting, Freight Forwarding, and Heavy Vehicle Technology.

One of the Ghanaian Skills Expert sharing his observations made at the WorldSkills Kazan Expo with some of his colleagues

As a journalist brought on board to cover this historic event and to also share my views on the ongoing TVET reforms in Ghana, I can only conclude my thoughts in one sentence; we have a very long way to go.

But the future promises to be great and the delegation made up of experts from different skill areas have vowed to make a change in the Ghanaian skills sector.

I salute these selfless individuals; Benjamin Tetteh, Pastry and Confectionery, Accra Technical University, Emmanuel Kweku Donkor, Auto Body Repair Workshop Manager, Office of the President, David Amedegbe-Doe, Bricklaying, Department of Building Technology, Accra Technical University and Dr Peter Kessels Dadzie, Expert, Carpentry, Kumasi Technical University.

Others are Prof. Amevi Acakpovi, Electrical Installations, Accra Technical University, Eunice Antiaye, Fashion Technology, Accra Technical University, Dr. Kofi Korsah, Mechatronics, Korsika Energy Research and Services Limited (KERSL), Agnes Amissah, Expert Cooking, Koforidua Technical University and Dr. Steve Kquofi, Graphic Design Technology, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi.

The rest are Charles K. Nartey, TransAfrica Technologies International and SNAS, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Irene Quartey, Hairdressing, Quarene Beauty Clinic, Dr. Timothy Crentsil, Fashion Design Technology, Kumasi Technical University, Grace Amey-Obeng, Beauty Therapy, FC Beauty Group Limited, and Gilbert Osei-Dadzie, ICT Software for Business, Regional Maritime University/SAES.

These experts from the very day that our paths crossed, have demonstrated their willingness and commitment to helping Ghana succeed in its Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) drive.

A day before the opening ceremony of WorldSkills Kazan Expo, Ghana was born into the WorldSkills family, becoming the 81st Member country. Poland and Uganda were also inaugurated into the family as 80th and 82nd Member countries respectively.

It was an icing on the cake of a long journey that was started in Abu Dhabi in 2017 where Ghana first witnessed skills competition organized by WorldSkills International.

Ghana reasoning with the objectives and benefits of the skills competition on return started initiatives towards reforming its TVET sector. A five-year strategic plan, has thus, been developed from these initiatives beginning from 2018 to 2022.

In this plan are the establishment of sector skills bodies, realignment of all TVET institutions to the Ministry of Education, operationalization of the proposed TVET Service, establishment of an apex Training institution to train TVET staff for both the public and the private sector, addition of Departments of Education to Technical Universities, strengthening Agricultural Training in TVET, and strengthening the capacity of the Council for Technical Vocation Education and Training (COTVET) which all fall under Governance and Management of TVET policy objective.

Issues of equitable access and the promotion of gender mainstreaming in TVET also play a key role in this strategic plan. This involves the conduct of skills gap analysis and or audit, profiling and needs assessment of all TVET institutions, implementation of recognition of prior learning, the establishment of 20 new states of the art institutions as well as marketing and promotion of TVET to stakeholders.

Further to that, improving quality in the TVET systems has also been captured in the five-year strategic plan. This also involves effective implementation of the Competency-Based Training Policy, progressive adoption of a modified dual TVET system and strengthening the capacity of the Qualification and Awarding Body (Assessment and Certification).

The establishment of a Skills Development Fund to support TVET financing and the integration of greening philosophies into the TVET curricula, workplace practices and communities are all featured in the five-year strategic plan.

However, this wonderful strategic plan could only be achieved on one purpose: Change of attitude and Industrial support.

Mr Charles Korkpah Nartey, TransAfrica Technologies International and SNAS, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), summarizes the attitudinal change in this way: “Some Ghanaians see people in TVET as those who are not intelligent. It’s very clear at Kazan that it’s rather the opposite. Look at the marvellous investment some countries have put into this particular competition. Information I got was that some countries even sent their contestants and experts to other countries for weeks for preparation. But I believe Ghana, with the man of the moment, ED [referring to the Executive Director of COTVET] we are going to move strongly”.

I couldn’t have agreed with Mr Korkpah Nartey more than the way he has put it. It was evidently clear in the Kazan Expo that skills development is a very serious business for intelligent people. It involves a lot of critical thinking to analyze and execute a given task.

Skills acquisition is not for the weak mind as witnessed in Kazan. If your mathematics is weak, don’t venture. The expo has really shaped my mind.

I was absolutely astonished to see the President of Indonesia leading his team to the competition. Russia was also led by its President, Putin. Competitors from other countries were also led by Ministers and some other top government officials.

The presence of these huge personalities tells you where the investments of the countries they represent are going.

What marvelled me most at the event was the mentor and career counselling section which was created to mentor and counsel children to make skills acquisition their topmost priority in life.

Another key factor which astonished many including the Ghanaian delegation was the massive industrial support for member countries and their respective competitors.

Top manufacturing firms like FESTO, Samsung, DeWalt, Toyota, Saint-Gobain, Rostatom, Fanuc, DMG MORI, DHL, and a host of other brands have strong footings in the organization of the event and to a larger extent, as the main sponsor of competitors of some member countries.

If Ghana’s reforms in its TVET sector will succeed, much burden will be on industrial support. It, therefore, behoves on all players in the TVET system, especially the government, to ensure that it creates a conducive environment that will attract industries to support its TVET reforms agenda.

I am very confident that when the Ghanaian delegation which was sponsored by GIZ, EU and SECO arrives in Ghana, the story of TVET systems will never be the same.

Skills change life and it is the only hope towards sustaining the Ghanaian economy.

Source: Stephen Odoi-Larbi, Kazan, Russia

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