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Opinions of Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Columnist: Collins Agyemang

Are we getting obsessed with certificates?

Most Ghanaian organizations are missing the point by solely and largely putting so much weight on “certificates” as a predominant pathway to employment engagement and/or promotion.

As a university instructor and mentor, I am beginning to worry about most students’ rationale for pursuing higher education especially in the area of Master of Business Administration (MBA). With over seventy Universities in Ghana thus far, it is not out of place to ask the real and practical motive for the recent insurgence of most workers and many young undergraduates’ craving to acquire more ‘paper qualifications’.

While it may not be wrong to pursue desired master-based programmes for the primary purpose of deepening competency and sharpening managerial skills, the over emphasis on “master to be engaged or promoted” by many human resource decision makers in most Ghanaian based organizations is worrying and subsequently shaping mind-sets of current employees and wanna-be employees toward “schooling to be engaged and/or promoted”.

The erroneous emphasis placed on paper qualification by most Ghanaian organizations if not reversed will be cancerous and detrimental to quality human capital development strength of Ghana. The mere acquisition of a certificate is not and cannot be synonymous to competency. Having gone through higher learning (with MBA in most cases in Ghana) does not in itself automatically make one productive. We must appreciate the essence of certificates- a document which certifies that an individual has gone through and completed a course.

The misplaced emphasis in my view, is partly due the wanton and undue emphasis of who has what certificate and from which institution by most quasi-human resource practitioners in organizations. Attaining further heights in education should be geared toward harnessing skills in any endeavour and not just a one-way-lane to fatten pockets and bank accounts.

Consultancy lens-competency versus paper qualification

As a researcher-practitioner, I have developed love for the recruitment policies and patterns of some foreign and multinational organizations. Some multinational companies, NGOs and especially embassies and consulates in Ghana focus attention on core competencies, experiences, and achievements. The human resource decision units in such organisations revolves on the wheel counts of the highly esteemed recruitment processes.

The use of multiple compensatory approaches to selection appears to be their hallmark. It is not uncommon to see an HND qualified applicant with the right Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and Other relevant characteristics (KSAOs) fill a somewhat “master-based qualification category” vacancy in such organisations. Most of these multinational organizations prioritises training, re-training, exposure, and continue to bestow confidence on the newly employed.

The trend in most multinational companies particularly the embassies in Ghana is however different from human resource decision making in most Ghanaian-based organizations. Their emphasis has been on what “certificate” you have as against one’s ‘experience, competency, and achievement”. Training and Development budgets are increasingly being sacrificed for fat payment of those with paper qualifications. There is the need for paradigm shift from certificate throng recruitment in Ghana.

Rippling effects

If students pay sums of money only to fill their brains with “finish and be engaged or promoted” without igniting their fire of acquired knowledge into practicable enterprising growth and productivity, the shroud of incompetency and perfunctory certificates will continue. The erroneous emphasis on certificates, if not addressed, will continue to be linked to people’s thirst of having fake certificates, certificates from unaccredited institutions, and the do-or-die attempts to acquire certificates.

The psychology of titling individuals solely to get promoted or decorate one’s name in the case of some civil servants and politicians should be discouraged. The quest for many employees to alternate between working and schooling with the wrong motives may lead to employee stress, fatigue, and lack of concentration.

The way forward

It is plausible to argue that human resource personnel in most organizations are overwhelmed with multiple tasks preventing them from adequately shouldering their roles. This notwithstanding, the seeming unreasonable thirst and lust for certificates in the Ghanaian market need to be averted to avoid having countless applicants with increasingly superior educational qualifications with little rigour and competence.

It is relevant we underscore quality of educational training measurable through competence. Paradigm shift from over emphasis on paper qualification will induce our tertiary institutions to churning out well intended and competency-spirited mastered graduates. We urge employers to tactfully interweave engagement decisions and progression with largely experienced hands, tenured with commitment, loyalty, and productivity.

Merely decorating boardrooms and managerial/non-managerial cohorts with shining academic certificates may not in itself reflect the productive outlook expected.

Our failure to act against certificate obsession will rather fatten the wallets of tertiary institutions only to flood our job markets with employees with limited skill and competency sets