Feature Article of Wednesday, 18 June 2003
Columnist: Folson, Ako
After reading the article “KNUST Introducing Aerospace Engineering”, I was greatly saddened.
Ghana’s economy is really undergoing serious problems, especially unemployment, which is contributed to by people not having the relevant skills needed for the economy. This means some have irrelevant higher education, trained and paid for by government, only to become unemployed or seek to migrate for the betterment of their lives. However, the top Science University in the country finds it worthy to spend resources on Aeronautic engineering.
This is a senseless opportunity and regardless of sponsorship, the indirect result of this course will be a Ghanaian university, utilizing Ghana’s funds and that of the sponsor, to ‘miseducate’ Ghanaian students, in the interest of the western labor market pool, and at the expense of our local economy. There is no question in my mind that this will be the end result.
Of course this position will be argued from different angles but the only way this program can be viable or relevant for Ghana, will be when it has the qualities to attract foreign students from the sub region or elsewhere, thus earning foreign exchange. Also the opportunity locally for direct work related to internships for students, and local opportunities for students upon graduation may make the difference in its relevance to our current economic needs.
Irrespective of this, as we seek to heal an ailing economy in the short term, the focus of manpower development should be in training technicians, and as such this program could have been of more relevance to our economy if it was geared towards training technicians, as opposed to a degree course, thus extending it to the Polytechnic level if possible.
Unlike the west, we do not see Ghanaian industry or government for that matter actually defining the needs of the economy in terms of manpower needs and for that matter, which academic disciplines will contribute the most to our economy in 10 yrs, 20 yrs, or 30 years. For this reason, we have universities just producing graduates, with no direction in terms of meeting needs of our society, which is a big waste and what one may term capital resource misallocation, as it leads to an over capacity of some degree disciplines, and a deficit where we need it the most. This I know Ghana cannot continue to afford and eventually something will have to give.
Based on the current needs of our economy, the University degree is not in shortage right now as compared to the need for skilled technicians and artisans, and as such It would be important that in addition to the what the polytechnics offer, advanced certificate programs must be offered by these Universities in order to produce what the nation needs in terms of skilled technical workers, who can contribute to economic growth and create employment opportunities for themselves.
The university must not have its own agenda. It is an institution that must serve the interest of the nation and as such must be tied in to all development plans and economic projections, so as to enable it respond appropriately to meet those objectives with the right amount and relevant skill base needed to meet that broad economic goal.
For example, Ghana would be better served if we had several programs that trained mechanics in using today’s diagnostic tools to fix sophisticated cars of today. This would help the economy in many ways including the following:
? We would have qualified mechanics with skills that can create self-employment.
? We would have cars fixed properly thus reducing the monies going into purchasing cars and/or parts as frequently as we do, sine these are imported.
? We would have safer roads and save lives as there would be less road worthy cars on the road.
? Foreign exchange saved on car repairs and parts could be invested in other areas.
These are some few reasons why more technical programs are needed, but there are several. We will need hoteliers, professional drivers, professional tour guides, chefs, artists, and many more, as the nation speaks of making tourism a key foreign exchange earner. In a case like this, the universities must plan curriculums that coincide with the demands of these objectives and continue to formulate their strategy around the basic tenant of providing needed manpower for our local economy. If government sticks to this goal, it will mean increased employment in these tourism related careers, which will need to be met.
To have people working on planes when we do not serve as an airline hub for any major airline is ridiculous. I do not see the economic relevance with this position of introducing aerospace engineering and this in my opinion is nothing to brag about. The so-called university folks responsible for this should run away from this as soon as it was presented. It is an embarrassment in terms of how it reflects on the leadership of the university.
We also have a failing local airline company which would have been a great place to intern. However, we now have to be concerned of redundancy in that company in the future as their operational/performance indicators suggest overcapacity in terms of human capital needed to run the airline. The world outlook for the industry itself is no better.
It is amazing how major institutions in our society are failing us, from education to banking to government companies, and it is really becoming evident that there are several high positioned individuals who are not thinking. I am sorry, but KNUST should not be proud of this announcement, as it is sad that Ghana will use its meager funds to train Ghanaians for the western economy. This will be the long and short of the program and it is for only this reason that there is the interest of those sponsors mentioned. Why have we not seen sponsors come up to supplement the short fall in the health services sector where the west has contributed greatly to the poor state of the sector by way of recruiting staff. The sponsors can actually put in money towards the training of nurses as they siphon over half of what we train.
Boeing does not have to sponsor Ghana only in that capacity of the aeronautics. They can help a poor country like Ghana where we need it the most, which could be everywhere except in the aeronautical sector. Our leaders are failing us and there is no question about this. Over and over again we read and hear about poor judgment and thinking from those “leaders” whom we should be counting on the most. It is evident that it is a combination of bad attitude, lack of accountability and really a lack of knowledge with respect to the “New World Economy”. Please can we find leaders? We are begging to be led by the right minds.
The Ghanaian public to an extent also has themselves to blame. It is along standing fact that there is a relationship between capital expenditure per worker and productivity. This equation also includes wages, which for the most part, if we are to attract high caliber people and hold them accountable, we need to pay them not necessarily in exact western wage levels but wages which in our economy provide the same lifestyle that a person performing a similar job elsewhere could get. South Africa is the closest example I can share. They are a country in Africa but look at productivity and lifestyles. Yes, they have whites but if you believe that it makes all the difference then I can sell you an island.
They go about seeking qualified and competent people using international standards. Holding them accountable at each step of the way. Setting the standards to be met and constantly using the best out there, in terms of technology and processes, as benchmarks to create an environment of continued process improvements and efficiencies.
This approach can be applied in Ghana and within all institutions regardless of product or service. It is simply a matter of understanding what one wants and how to get it. The government is asking for a lot but do they really know how to get it? Do we have the right folks in the right places or are we making things up as we go along?
To get to my main point, universities contribute immensely to the future of nations and as such in Ghana they must be tied into the economy in the closest sense. This will inspire relevant learning, research and most importantly develop the right manpower to support the vision and road maps of government. They also must be used as a tool in meeting almost all our developmental plans. This will allow us as a country, to really have a handle on a good part of impacting our own economy. KNUST, reconsider this decision of Introducing Aerospace Engineering.