Graduate youth unemployment, a disturbing phenomenon in Ghana



Despite major investments by both public and private sectors, Ghana is reportedly faced with 12 percent youth unemployment and more than 50 percent general   underemployment. This challenge could worsen if deliberate efforts are not made to create the needed job opportunities. A 2020 World Bank report titled “Youth Employment Programs in Ghana: Options for Effective Policy Making and Implementation”, has identified agribusiness, entrepreneurship, apprenticeship, construction, tourism and sports as key sectors that can offer enormous employment opportunities for the Ghanaian youth. The report which has been described as another milestone towards addressing the unemployment challenge also calls for more investments in career guidance and counseling, work-based learning, coaching, and mentoring to equip young people with the needed skills for work. The report suggests that although these are not new areas, government could maximise the impact by scaling-up these priority areas in existing youth employment interventions and improve outreach to the youth.

At the end of their 2019 plenary meeting at Elmina in the Cape Coast Catholic Archdiocese, members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference expressed worry about the steep rise in youth unemployment in the country describing it as “a veritable national security threat which has to be addressed immediately and urgently with a well-articulated programme”. The call by the Bishops two years ago is still relevant as currently, the situation has not changed much especially when it comes to graduates from tertiary institutions.

Stakeholders comprising Government, Private Sector, Political Parties, Faith Based Organizations and Civil Society Organizations are therefore urged to treat the growing menace of joblessness among our youth as a national emergency so as to come up with practical and innovative solutions to relieve our young citizens of the lingering stress of persistent unemployment. Since about 70 percent of Ghana’s workforce is employed by the agricultural sector, it is only reasonable that agricultural education in Ghana is streamlined to adequately prepare the youth to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist. The youth must also take note of the changing times by being proactive and creative in exploring available opportunities to establish their own businesses to be self-employed.

We are in a new era where everything is changing therefore government should consider raising the daily minimum wage and put together more and better workforce training programmes for fresh graduates. Some organisations do not employ fresh graduates based on the perception that most of them do not perform well when they are engaged, therefore organisations lose lots of resources. If “Work Experience” thus becomes a basic requirement, it must be properly administered but the question is: who should train graduates to acquire the requisite experience to qualify them for the job and meet the needs of demanding managers or organizations? Even though some might have the qualification, they may lack skills and experience. Those who have the work experience may also not necessarily have the needed academic qualifications to do the job. The bottom line is if you are not employed after pursuing a professional course, how then do you get the experience for the job market?

Most organizations or employers are therefore deterring qualified graduates due to this “Work Experience” policy. This should be thought through again mainly because someone must be willing to offer job seekers the opportunity to learn on the job and gain the experience and skill. The onus also lies on students in our tertiary institutions to take their industrial attachments or internships seriously because it is a way of acquiring the experience being demanded by employers. The National Service Secretariat should be considering the background of students before placement. Students should be posted to institutions of their field to enable them to have a clear understanding of their area of study and get the requisite experience.

Again, organisations could invite applicants for interviews and do their selection based on specific requirements and merit. Some of these graduates may have fresh ideas that could boost the growth of organisations. Government must provide pragmatic measures that will stand the test of time because previous policies have not yielded results.

By Damian Avevor, a Freelance Journalist.

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