Skills development, the enabling environment and informal micro-enterprise in Ghana
Unemployment and underemployment, particularly among the youth, are serious concerns to governments across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Fifteen years on from the World Conference on Education For All (EFA) in Jomtien, EFA policies have started to result in some of the largest cohorts of primary school leavers ever witnessed in many parts of SSA. This is occurring at a time when SSA’s formal sector is unable to generate sufficient formal employment and income opportunities. The great majority of all school leavers, therefore, are obliged to enter the informal, micro-enterprise economy, urban and rural, and receive informal training in traditional apprenticeships and/or through other on-the-job means. However the links between education, training and enterprise are still poorly understood. This study presents an investigation into how young people construct and are able to navigate these pathways to informal self-employment in rural Ghana by acquiring skills and schooling from multiple sources, and through seeking assistance from informal networks. It makes a contribution not only to understanding the transition from training to self-employment, but also to the nature of the rural informal sector in Ghana. This study examines three types of skills training provision; on-the-job apprenticeship training, short-term modular training and longer-term pre-employment training, examining both the delivery context of these different training modalities, as well as the graduates’ labour market outcomes. The analysis is based on 12 months fieldwork in rural Ghana in 2004 and 2005 during which time multiple approaches were used to uncover these skill-to-work pathways; tracer studies with 162 vocational training graduates, semi-structured interviews with 160 apprentices and a household survey capturing data on 147 youth. Furthermore, retrospective interviews with 114 enterprise owners were conducted to better understand pathways to informal self-employment and the multiple occupational realities, or occupational pluralism, of many of those in this rural African economy. This data suggests that the school-skill-enterprise relationship is highly dependent on the delivery context of training as well as the type of enabling or disabling environments within which the training is translated into employment outcomes. This study also includes an analysis of the long history of Ghana’s skills development policies and practice - up to 2006. This is integrated with a discussion on the wider environment within which skills are delivered, particularly the labour market, and how this impacts on the employment opportunities of technical and vocational education and training graduates in Ghana.