One hundred and one (101) learners have graduated from the University College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies (UCAES) at Bunso in the Eastern Region, after a 10-week competency-based training in oil palm.
The training was organized by Solidaridad, an international civil society organization that falls under the Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education Training (ATVET) initiative of the Government.
This first batch of learners were drawn from 146 oil palm-growing communities and enterprises in the Ashanti, Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Western, Western North, Oti and Volta regions.
Being the first of its kind in the country, the programme sought to build the skills of the youth for employment and entrepreneurship in the oil palm sector, and had been accredited by the Council for Technical, Vocational Education and Training (COTVET).
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Swiss Government, through its State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), and the German Development Agency (GIZ) are funding the training.
The beneficiary institutions include the University College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Asuansi Technical Institute in the Central Region, Father Dogli Memorial Technical and Vocational Institute in the Oti Region and Kpando Technical Institute, Volta Region.
The five educational institutions accredited by COTVET are running the training to provide support in six modules: Nursery Establishment, Land Preparation and Plantation Establishment, Harvesting, Farm Management, Processing and Quality Assurance, and Agribusiness Management.
The Acting Rector of UCAES, Dr Charles Brempong-Yeboah commended Solidaridad and its funding partners for rolling out the programme and said the learners were taken through instruction and internship training during their study.
He, however, appealed for the installation of more greenhouses on the campuses to aid the teaching and learning for the next batch of students.
The Regional Director of Solidaridad, Mr Isaac Gyamfi in a speech read for him, said the organization developed the competency-based training in partnership with the Ghana Skills Development Initiative, under the Sustainable West Africa Palm Oil Programme (SWAPP II), second phase implementation.
He said it fitted with Solidaridad’s Theory of Change, based on the fact that efficiency in supply chains could only be achieved if the actors were business-minded and had the skillset to capitalize on opportunities.
Mr Gyamfi said it was for that reason the right investment had to be made to create agri-entrepreneurs and value-addition businesses to support farm workers to develop their skills aside their technical know-how.
That was crucial for the sustainability and improvement in Ghana’s oil palm sector to increase productivity and compete with leading producers like Malaysia and Indonesia.
“Solidaridad’s work does not end when the learners receive their certificates. This is because the end game for us is to enable the learners to find jobs in the oil palm sector as workers or entrepreneurs and contribute to their sustainable growth,” Mr Gyamfi said.
The Dutch Ambassador, Mr Ron Strikker commended the youth for embracing agriculture for sustenance and reiterated the importance of technical and vocational education to the development of the economy.
He said the Dutch Government was extremely delighted that the programme, an idea conceived two years ago, had finally come to fruition.
He said the Dutch and Swiss governments had jointly supported Ghana’s oil palm development through the SWAPP II, being implemented by Solidaridad, because they recognized the value of vocational and technical education.
“For us, we see opportunities to continue supporting the government of Ghana in its development agenda,” Mr Strikker said.
The Swiss Ambassador, Mr Philipp Stalder congratulated the learners for a successful training and commended the Government of Ghana for investing in vocational and technical education.
He said the Swiss Embassy was looking forward to collaborating with Ghana in other areas to realize greater impact in competency-based training in oil palm, cashew and other agriculture sub-sectors as it had done in the last three years.
“Ghana remains a focal country for us and developing skills for employment and entrepreneurship will continue to be on our agenda for the next four years,” he added.
The Head of Programme for Sustainable Economic Development at GIZ Ghana, Mr Detlev Axel Jahn said through the establishment of the Ghana Skills Development Initiative, the German Development Cooperation sought to introduce competency-based training standards and collaborative training models, which combined workplace and school based training modules to selected TVET institutions in Ghana.
That was expected to provide demand-driven training to job-seeking youth, apprentices and trade persons to build a confident and job-ready workforce to be attractive to the job market, he said.
In 2019 Solidaridad, under the SWAPP, supported the partner institutions with COTVET accreditation, as well as tools and equipment to run the training as part of its gender and youth inclusion agenda.
It also provided technical upskilling to lecturers and tutors from the five partner educational institutions on the oil palm ATVET curriculum in 2020.