Skills Supply and Skills Demand in the Ghanaian Economy
With more than half of Ghana’s workers experiencing an education mismatch with their roles, and traditional educational institutions struggling to provide the skills needed in the modern business world, the workforce is looking to alternative solutions to level up their skills.
If you had to ask the average person not native to Africa just what it is that puts Ghana on the map from a socio and economic perspective, they would more often than not look at you quizzically. This is a crying shame, as Ghana is yet another of Africa’s best-kept secrets and a jewel in the continent’s crown.
Known for its history, glorious beaches and dense forests, and a thriving movie industry that has Nigeria’s Nollywood looking over its shoulder, Ghana is widely regarded as the gateway to Africa.
Bursting with talent and potential, there is no reason why the country shouldn’t be a hotbed for top talent both available to local and international companies operating across industries such as agriculture, financial services, construction, crude oil, renewable energy, mining, tourism, e-Commerce, education, and entertainment.
In 2020, the value added by the agricultural sector to Ghana’s GDP increased to approximately $11.9 billion. A significant increase compared to the value registered in 2013.
As of the third quarter of 2021, finance and insurance activities in Ghana contributed roughly $499.4 million to the country’s GDP.
The construction sector contributes approximately $552 million and has accounted for more than 15% of Ghana’s annual GDP in recent years.
In 2021 the oil and gas sector added around $1.83 billion to the GDP in Ghana.
According to data from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind farms contribute around $222 million every year to Ghana’s GDP.
As of the second quarter of 2021, the mining and quarrying sector in Ghana contributed around $809.4 million to the country’s GDP.
The Digital Commerce segment in Ghana is projected to grow by 10.87% (2022-2027) resulting in a contribution to the GDP of $1.26bn.
The arts, entertainment and recreation industry in Ghana employs over 11 thousand people. The home entertainment segment alone contributed nearly US$3.25 million in 2022 toward the country’s GDP.
A shortage of skilled labor is a key factor that is consistently affecting businesses across these sectors in their endeavors to support Ghana’s economic growth. Currently the country’s economy is populated by semi-skilled and unskilled employees, creating bottlenecks for organizations looking to recruit skilled workers across these industries and more.
Higher education in Ghana has the potential to make a difference to both students and the economy. From a worker’s perspective, knowing which skills to develop is key in future-proofing their career. Businesses also benefit as the supply of skilled workers is boosted, creating more opportunities for firms to advance their growth through innovative business processes.
The Changing Demand for Skills in Ghana
Over the years, Ghana has had a reputation for producing cocoa and gold. However, the launch of oil production in the last 15 years has also been crucial in sustaining the country’s rapid economic growth.
A massive positive for economic growth, but the downside is that the country’s long-term economic growth is challenged by many factors, such as low access to credit, high corruption levels, and low agricultural productivity. Another major factor slowing Ghana’s growth is the low skill level and quality of human resources.
These negative factors must be addressed and soon as there is a definite need for structural economic transformation in the nation since industries everywhere are being shaped by global competition. This transformation though is only achievable through the presence of an innovative and skilled workforce. Such a workforce is central to Ghana’s economic growth as complex production processes become a key feature in all sectors.
In recent times, the poor performances of sectors such as agriculture have caused workers to relocate to the services sector. The services sector has thus been recording small productivity gains due to the influx of low-skilled workers. Currently, the weak labor force in the nation fails to provide the platform necessary to rocket Ghana into the next phase of its economic growth.
Current global trends are making it extremely difficult for low-skilled and semi-skilled workers to succeed in today’s business environment. More than ever before, targeted upskilling through higher education is becoming a necessity for employees who want to future proof their careers and protect themselves against the upcoming global recession.
Types of Skills
The changing nature of work is such that currently, many workers in Ghana are facing challenges when it comes to contributing towards economic growth. There is now an increasing demand for newer skills, such as:
- Technical skills –These are skills where expertise and acquired knowledge are necessary and involve performing various functions such as mastery of new technologies and tools.
- Cognitive skills – These are skills that ensure individuals can comprehend complex information and effectively assess and adapt to unique situations. Higher education plays a key role in the development of foundational literacy and problem-solving, which are essential in cognitive skills.
- Emotional Intelligence – This is a state whereby individuals can manage interpersonal relations effectively by understanding their emotions and those of their co-workers. Emotional intelligence is a highly valued ability that is lacking in many low-skilled workers.
- Digital skills – Intersecting with all the above skill sets are digital or technological skills. These are skills whereby workers can access, integrate, decipher, and evaluate information securely.
The Highest In-Demand Skills in Ghana
In Ghana, traditional sectors such as mining, agriculture, and oil and gas production have remained dominant, with most employees pursuing careers in these sectors. However, there is a host of other rapidly growing sectors in Ghana. Students need to understand these sectors as they decide on the field to pursue.
The information and technology sector plays a key role in Ghana’s economy and ranks as one of the most in-demand job niches. There are many career paths related to ICT, such as network administrators, system programmers and analysts, and software engineers. The sector is currently valued at $1 billion, and experts estimate that it will reach $5 billion within the next ten years.
The growth of the ICT sector has led to the digitization of public services, and the business environment has been transitioning to online platforms. There is still a demand for skilled individuals in the sector.
The financial sector is another key sector in Ghana, with many growth opportunities related to insurance, banking, and financial technology. The sector has seen good growth, despite the pandemic, and the government’s recent decision to pilot digital cash, in the form of the e-Cedi, is increasing the demand for employees with strong financial and technological skills.
Medicine is a sector with one of the most in-demand jobs in Ghana. The country’s shortage of doctors and physicians makes the sector a crucial concern for the government. In Ghana, life expectancy is increasing, along with the demand for healthcare services.
The diminishing relevance of traditional medicine has seen more people seek professional help from hospitals. The government’s prioritization of the healthcare system makes it one of the most advanced in Africa.
Ghana’s construction industry was worth $13.2 billion in 2021, and is forecast to grow at an annual rate of more than 4% through to 2026. Capable students would do well to pursue engineering courses that allow them to apply practical concepts in the real world.
While fields such as mechanical and electrical engineering have remained at an all-time high in demand, there are still other career choices available for students. For instance, environmental engineering is a field that has a high demand while the supply remains low, with both private institutions and the government in need of skilled individuals.
The demand for project managers is at an all-time high in Ghana, due to the increasing number of projects in the country. Project managers are tasked with ensuring a balance in the project’s schedule, cost, and scope, leading each project to successful completion.
Challenges Affecting Ghana's Supply of Skilled Workers
Research into Ghana’s job market has revealed a widening skills gap, as organizations are struggling to fill vacancies due to an inadequate supply of skilled labor. This skills gap is a common theme in Africa, with countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria sharing the same developing context. Despite the obvious demand for change in workforce skills, most developing countries continue to struggle to commit to the promise of skills development.
Ghana’s training and apprenticeship programs have long struggled to prepare students for challenges in real-world practical contexts adequately. One key challenge is a training mismatch, such that most employees do not use their skills at work. This reveals a low level of coordination between the education institutions and the industry in the country.
Do Ghanaian graduates have the necessary work skills?
Skills development in Ghana encompasses foundational skills (literacy, numeracy), transferable and soft skills, and technical and vocational skills. These skills are acquired throughout life through formal education, training, and higher education; on the job through work experience and professional training; through family and community; and via the media.
Focusing on the education aspect of the above, the question has of whether universities are doing enough to continue to provide the necessary skills to ensure that people are firstly employable and secondly able to do their jobs in accordance with meeting the skills demands of organizations that take them on.
While the data in developing nations is sparse, research by the World Bank indicates that more than 52% of Ghanaian workers are either under- or over-educated for their roles. A failure to match recruitment candidates to the education level needed for the role not only leads to a mismatch in earnings, but may also obstruct the path to economic growth.
In this environment, higher education plays a fundamental role in supporting the supply of skilled employees to industries. Ghanaian higher education and vocational training institutions are tasked with improving employment and productivity to reduce the skills gap in the country.
However, education in Ghana is expensive, and is a major contributor to the multidimensional poverty that affects two out of five Ghanaians across the country. At the same time, the curricula at Ghana’s technical and vocational institutions are outdated and fail to provide the skills needed by modern businesses. Together, these factors make pursuing higher education in-country a difficult choice to justify. Affordable tuition from a next-generation 100% online university such as Nexford can help open the door to a world-class higher learning education for many Ghanaians and not just the privileged few.
Are Ghanaian universities doing enough to skill students to get jobs?
Ghana is a country with one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, but the imbalance between the supply and demand of skills threatens the economy with stagnation. Therefore, vocational, and technical institutions are tasked with providing programs that suit the changing nature of global trends.
But according to a study commissioned by University World News, local universities are failing in their remit of equipping learners with the skill sets required to land high productivity jobs in both the public and private sectors.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Institute for Statistics, too few graduates in Sub-Saharan Africa are gaining skills that would enable them to find work in the high productivity private sector.
Organizations are looking for a skilled workforce, and pursuing higher education is a key way for students to gain the necessary skills needed in the modern business environment. Skill-based curricula hold the potential to transform Ghana’s workforce into one that supports increased economic growth.
It would appear that online learning such as that offered at Nexford University is also gaining increased popularity.
In a study by the Journal of education Curriculum and Teaching Studies where a sample of 675 students from various Ghanaian higher education institutions were surveyed, 90% of the students responded positively to online learning, according to the study’s findings.
The majority of them knew about e-learning and platforms like Google Classroom and Alison. For online learning, laptops and cell phones were utilized. The only downside was the high cost of data bundles that learners had to wrestle with, something that Nexford’s learning platform, Canvas is helping its learners overcome. Canvas is intuitive, used by learners at all Ivy League colleges, is light on data bundles and helps students to plan their time more efficiently, allowing them to learn on the move.
Answers to the Challenges Facing Ghana’s Workforce
There exist plenty of solutions to reduce the skills gap in Ghana. These include solutions such as the upgrading of the curricula offered in higher education institutions, an increase in financial investments in education, and the establishment of more institutions.
However, none of these suggestions offers a quick solution to address the skills deficiency affecting most of Ghana’s workforce. One key concern is that lack of action will lead to a decline in Ghana’s economy, making it increasingly difficult to bridge the skills gap in the country.
Finding a technical or vocational institution that prepares workers for the needs of today’s workplace is becoming a key challenge. The growing recognition of the importance of skill-based curricula in the current business environment creates a demand for online learning. Universities such as Nexford University are gaining popularity nationwide, as students seek competency-based curriculum that allows them to transition seamlessly into the workplace.
One example of a student who has benefited from Nexford University is Sheila Akomeah a learner who has transformed her career. The online curriculum allows employees to gain the necessary skills to succeed in the business environment and adjust to potential organizational changes.
The flexibility provided by online universities and their sensitivity to global changes has led to a growing number of Ghanaian applicants considering the opportunity to escape their education mismatch by upskilling. In addition to learning from the programs offered, students can network with individuals from different parts of the world and gain new perspectives. This offers an advantage over traditional universities, which tend to have a localized view that can limit students’ adaptability and resilience.
To break the skills gap, Ghana’s workforce needs access to education that is both high quality and relevant in the current business environment. High rates of return and short study times help Nexford provide a quick-acting, long-term solution to transform Ghana’s workplace.
In closing, online learning may have some impediments when it comes to internet access in some areas in Ghana or the cost of data but as Philip Regier, VP and Dean of ASU online will say there may be challenges associated with online learning, however, online education has come to stay and will certainly thrive.
About the Author
Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.