On August 1, 2016 the Daily Graphic reported President Mahama was at the eight congregation of the University of Professional Studies (UPSA) in Accra, and charged graduates of tertiary institutions to think “outside the box” by exploring the many job creation and business opportunities in the country. He said in order to become innovative and productive, graduates should make effective use of the knowledge and skills they have acquired to become independent citizens. Moreover, he added that by becoming independent and productive through innovative thinking, the youth, especially graduates, would become less dependent on government for jobs.
Recently, I read about the projector-phone, a cell phone with a built-in projector called the Hawk which can be used to make calls, watch movies, television shows and do business presentations using the projector and the flash.
What fascinated me about this device was what the inventor, Aasim Saied, the Chief Executive Officer of Akyumen Technologies Corporation in the United States said in an interview. When asked about what inspired him to produce the device, he stated: “I came up with the idea when I was still in college (in 2004) in the United States. My college professor was tinkering with a big projector in the classroom. So I was thinking; how about putting a projector in a smartphone so you will be able to make presentations anywhere you are?”
In 2008, he realized his dream by making a projector-phone. Here is the conclusion to that interview mentioned above: “We decided that we can form a company based on this, and then we can literally go to the market with it.”
Indeed, there are reported stories of young people around the world who began businesses during their university days or right after school. These were brave young people who through innovative thinking developed ideas and followed them through to the end.
Microsoft and Dell computers are hugely successful billion-dollar businesses that have become household names. Microsoft, built by the world’s richest man, Bill Gates, and Dell Computers by Michael Dell. Dell and Gates both began these corporations from their youth as either graduates or as drop outs.
Graduating students from our institutions of higher learning each year outnumber the number of new jobs created. Moreover, the high rate of graduate unemployment keeps rising as statistics on graduate unemployment by the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana states that graduate unemployment will hit 271,000 this year. Currently, there are about 1.6 million students in the country’s tertiary institutions with employment opportunities for only 70,000 yearly. The World Bank has stated that Ghana’s economy needs about 300,000 new jobs yearly between now and 2020 if the country is to avoid increasing unemployment, as it is estimated that 48 percent of the youth between 15 and 24 years do not have jobs.
As a fact, there are only few avenues for government jobs. The only option left for graduates is for them to be innovative and entrepreneurial as well as creative in coming up with business ideas that can produce jobs. However, right here in Ghana, it is worrying to note that our educational system does not prepare students to a large extent to be entrepreneurs but to seek jobs and employment after school. Unsurprisingly, majority of our University and Polytechnic graduates seek for non-existent jobs after school.
This state of affairs must be a wake up call for our leaders and policymakers to sit up and re-evaluate our educational system. Our educational system has to be restructured from its current state where students study for grades to pass exams to focus more on practical training. This will give graduates the strategic skills they need to create their own jobs and employment. The restructured system will make students creative and imaginative in their thinking to develop business ideas. When this is done, students will begin to think outside the box on opportunities that will put money into their pockets and the pockets of others. This new system must encourage graduates to read wide outside the study outlines given in class, so they can generate ideas and become more creative. Policymakers must increase vocational and technical training which will produce graduates and youths with requisite skills to create and manage their own businesses and employ others.
Right from the primary to the senior high schools, our students must be exposed to the idea of entrepreneurship. Their individual talents and gifts must be tapped, nurtured and developed. They must be taught basic skills for running successful businesses and must be encouraged to set up small businesses and run them right in school. This preparation must also involve learning about successful entrepreneurs so as to inspire and motivate them.
One cardinal example is Paul, the Class 5 pupil I happen to know. Paul is a gifted artist and quite good at drawing human and cartoon figures. I regularly encourage him to draw and sell his art works to classmates and schoolmates to make some money for himself. Paul now draws for people and makes money for himself. With this ongoing lesson at entrepreneurship, he may soon grow to be an entrepreneur creating jobs.
When policymakers heed the call to restructure our educational system, that will be the dawning of a new day for our school system. Our graduates will leave school and be practically equipped and empowered to be at the frontline in invention and development of creative business ideas for job creation and employment.
As we wait for this restructuring of our educational system, our graduates must learn and be inspired by those who have created flourishing businesses. There are many young people in this country who are doing exceptionally great things with their lives who started in business and entrepreneurship in spite of challenges and limitations. Waiting for the government to give you a job might make you wait forever as it appears the government and the politicians to an extent have no solutions. Perhaps the solution now lies in your own hands. Young people must take responsibility for their lives and create a future for themselves and others.
Our graduates must become innovative and develop business ideas and translate them into products or services that will create value for society. It is only wise for people to create opportunities for themselves if they cannot find any.
The reality on the ground demands that Ghanaian graduates arise and defy the odds stacked against them, and make use of the knowledge and skills they have acquired. Aasim Saied and others have shown the way, and the rest should follow their example. Would the average Ghanaian graduate be bold enough to respond to this clarion call and rise up to his or her fullest potential and become a similar or better success story?