The Zulus in South Africa say, a deaf ear is followed by death, and an ear that listens is followed by blessings. It is the deaf ears of our politicians that has stopped them from listening to those who are able to analyse our development challenges and identify what should be done. It does not pay if all you want to do in life is to listen to those who sing your praises or tell you what you want to hear.
That is why, someone at the Ministry of Labour should have listened to the President of the Accra Institute of Technology, Clement Dzidonu, when he said last year that the growing huge number of unemployed graduates in the country was not due to the fact that the country was producing more graduates but because there was no manpower planning to feed the various sectors of the economy. This is not an indictment but the truth, because former NDC Minister of Labour, E.T. Mensah, had admitted this to me earlier.
The fact is, if what we have been doing all along was to simply churn out graduates from the universities, without any planning as to the number of workers required by each sector, we should not be surprised that some graduates are not getting any employment. In other countries, at every point in time, they know how many skilled workers they would require over a period of time and put in place measures to train these people. Unfortunately, what we have been doing, is simply to put people through training and then throw them out into the world of work. If they do not get employed, we accuse them of not trying to create jobs for themselves. How do fresh graduates create jobs if they have not been given entrepreneurial skills and the sectors that they have been trained for are choked? Has this truth ever hit our politicians?
That is why, Professor Dzidonu said, in “Ghana, unlike other countries, we do not plan higher education,” as a consequence, “there is the lack of data on the manpower requirements and demand of the various sectors of the economy, to drive the determination of the supply of graduate outputs to meet these demands.” I wonder how much it would take to either train or employ people with manpower planning skills to work at the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations to put things right. Or is it that we do not think this is necessary?
Professor Dzidonu said the country has not been able to strike the right balance between the demand and supply of graduates across various skills. This means he said that it was necessary for the country to carry out a planning process within the higher education sector as part of the national development effort. This will assist with the proper analysis to help in determining graduate output requirement planning to serve as a basis for the government to set quotas for graduate output in key fields and professions.
“We cannot, as a nation, continue to produce some types of graduates that the economy does not need and fail to produce enough of those that the economy demands,” he added.
Dzodonu said, on the demand and supply issue of graduate figure, it could not be accurate that the country was over producing graduates. “Records at the National Accreditation Board (NAB) show that we now have 70 private and 16 public tertiary institutions making a total of 86 tertiary institutions for a population of 25 million; this translates into a university per capita rate of around 3.5 compared to the global average of 18.6,” he said.
The Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) for tertiary education in Ghana, Dzidonu said showed that the country was now registering 10 per cent compared to the global average of 27 per cent, and based on this, he said, “one is inclined to conclude that on the ‘demand-side,’ Ghana neither has enough universities for its growing population nor enough university places for its growing university going age group.”
“In other words we need more university places to meet growing demand for higher education by qualified applicants,” Dzidonu said, adding that “on the ‘supply-side’ of the equation, as it relates to the output of graduates from these institutions, one would expect that since less than expected are enrolled in the universities, then the graduate outputs from these institutions will be less than what is expected for meeting the demands of the economy.”
Against this background, he said, “we are not producing enough graduates for the economy,” but rather, what is being done is that, “we are enrolling less than required and hence producing less than expected.”
In his view, Dzidonu said, the phenomenon of graduate unemployment in the country should not happen because Ghana rather needed more universities, given the relatively low 3.5 universities per capita rate which is way below the world average of 18.6 and the relatively low GER rate of 10 per cent compared to the world average of 27 per cent.
He argued that they could be facing a situation of oversupply of graduates in some fields and under-supply in others, given the demands and the absorption capacity of our economy, adding that, “either the universities are producing graduates, not needed by the economy, hence creating a phenomenon of unemployed-unemployables, or the economy does not have the absorption capacity to employ, the employable graduates.”
He said the country has certainly made progress in the area of addressing regulatory issues with respect to quality and standards pertaining to higher education delivery, but little has been done in the area of planning higher education to meet national developmental goals and aspirations.
“Unless these higher education planning issues are addressed including those relating to the funding of higher education and taking on board issues relating to the relevancy of the products of tertiary institutions to the development of a modern economy in the information and knowledge age, we will continue to indulge in an act of groping in thick darkness, without making any serious impact in meeting the nation’s manpower needs and as such the nation’s development
Another person who should know, Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), Etienne Ehile, has also added another dimension to the debate to say that higher education institutions across the African continent must improve on their quality assurance efforts in order to produce graduates that are fit for work instead of turning out products that cannot be employed because they lack the requisite skills, Ehile said “many African tertiary institutions produce half-baked graduates that are not fit for the world of work mainly because of the way they are taught and absence of curricula reviews that should respond to the calls of industry’s contemporary needs.”
He said, a country’s global competitiveness relies on the effectiveness of its institutions in preparing prospective graduates for industry and the world of work, adding that, “no nation can sustainably progress without a contribution from its higher education sector which provides research, knowledge and skills that are needed to sustain socio-economic development in a country and the African continent at large.
So, it is now clear that our graduates are not getting employed because we are not planning our manpower requirements and then, those that we are churning out of the universities, are half-baked. Is it any wonder why we are where we are? And would anyone listen to these experts to help change things?
…With Francis Kokutse