A total of 101 learners, who participated in a 10-week competency-based training in oil palm at the University College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies (UCAES) at Bunso in the Eastern region, have graduated.
The training, under the Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education Training (ATVET) initiative of Government, was organised by Solidaridad, an international civil society organization.
It sought to build the skills of the youth for employment and entrepreneurship in the oil palm sector.
The programme, described as the first of a kind in the country, is accredited by the Council for Technical and Vocational Education Training (COTVET).
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Accra, the Swiss Government, through its State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) are funding the training.
The beneficiary institutions include the University College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Kumasi Institute of Tropical Agriculture (KITA) in the Ashanti region, Asuansi Technical Institute in the Central region, Father Dogli Memorial Technical and Vocational Institute in the Oti region and Kpando Technical Institute in the Volta region.
The graduation ceremony is expected to be replicated in the remaining four institutions while the second batch of learners enrolled in April this year.
The over 500 learners from the five educational institutions accredited by COTVET were running the training to provide support in six modules of nursery establishment, land preparation and plantation establishment, harvesting, farm management, processing and quality assurance and agribusiness management.
Dr Charles Brempong-Yeboah, Acting Rector of UCAES, commended Solidaridad and its partners, the Dutch Government, GIZ and the Swiss Government for rolling out the programme that had its initial batch of learners, drawn from 146 oil palm-growing communities and oil palm enterprises in the Ashanti, Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Western, Western North, Oti and Volta regions.
He said the learners underwent both instruction time and internship training and appealed for more greenhouses to be constructed on the campuses to promote quality teaching and learning.
Mr Bossman Owusu, Head of Communications, Solidaridad West Africa, who read a speech on behalf of Mr Isaac Gyamfi, the Regional Director of Solidaridad, said the organisation developed the competency-based training (CBT) in partnership with the Ghana Skill Development Initiative (GSDI) under the implementation of the second phase of its Sustainable West Africa Palm Oil Programme (SWAPP II).
According to Mr Gyamfi, the competency-based training was in line with Solidaridad’s Theory of Change, which was based on the fact that efficiency in supply chains could only be achieved if the actors in the sector were business-minded and had the skill set to capitalise on opportunities.
He said it was for that reason that the right investment must be made to create agri-entrepreneurs to adopt technologies and create value-addition businesses that supported farm workers to develop entrepreneurial skills aside from their technical know-how.
That, he said, was crucial for the sustainability of Ghana’s oil palm sector and to improve productivity to match 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 the sustainable growth of the sector,” Mr Gyamfi added.
In commending the youth for embracing agriculture for sustenance, Mr Ron Strikker, the Dutch Ambassador, reiterated the importance of technical and vocational education to the development of any economy, adding that the Dutch Government was extremely delighted that a competency-based programme in oil palm, an idea conceived two years ago, had finally come to fruition.
He said the Dutch government had jointly supported the development of the oil palm sector in Ghana with the Swiss government through the SWAPP II being implemented by Solidaridad because it recognised 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.
Mr Philpp Stalder, Swiss Ambassador to Ghana, congratulated the learners for successful training and commended the government of Ghana for investing in vocational and technical education.
He said the Swiss Embassy was looking forward to supporting other areas of collaboration with Ghana to realise the greater impact in competency-based training in the 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.
Mr Detlev Axel Jahn, Head of Programme for Sustainable Economic Development (PSED) at GIZ Ghana, said that through the establishment of the GSDI Project, the German Development Cooperation through GIZ Ghana sought to introduce competency-based training standards and collaborative training models, which combined both workplace-based and school-based training modules to selected TVET providing institutions in Ghana.
That, he explained, was expected to provide demand-driven training to job-seeking youth, apprentices and trade persons, which would, in turn, build a confident and job-ready workforce that would be attractive and sought-after by the industry as either employees or entrepreneurs.
In 2019, Solidaridad, under the SWAPP, supported the partner institutions with COTVET accreditation, as well as tools and equipment to run the training programme as part of its gender and youth inclusion agenda.
It also provided technical upskilling training to lecturers and tutors from the five partner educational institutions on the oil palm ATVET curriculum in 2020.