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Opinions of Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Columnist: Alex Frimpong

Job creation through the National Service Scheme

The National Service Scheme (NSS) was introduced in the early 1970s when Ghana experienced a mass exodus of professionals to other countries for greener pastures. This created a human resource gap that needed to be bridged. The establishment of the National Service Scheme in 1973 (NRCD, 208), amended by an act of Parliament (Act 426) in 1982, served as the government’s response to bridge this human resource gap.

The Act mandates that all able-bodied Ghanaians between the ages of 18 and 40 years should perform national service.

Objectives of the NSS
The core objectives of Ghana’s National Service Scheme are to:
• Encourage the spirit of national service among all segments of the Ghanaian society in the effort of nation-building through active participation,
• Undertake projects designed to combat hunger, illiteracy, disease and unemployment in Ghana,
• Help provide essential services and amenities particularly in towns and villages of the rural areas of Ghana,
• Develop skilled manpower through practical training,
• Promote national unity and strengthen the bonds of common citizenship among Ghanaians.

The scheme, as currently constituted, provides newly qualified graduates with the opportunity to have practical exposure on jobs, both in the public and private sectors, as part of their civic responsibility to the State. It also provides user agencies the opportunity to satisfy their manpower needs.
The NSS currently deploys between 40,000 and 50,000 mandatory service personnel and 20,000 volunteers annually.

A 2007 audit of the scheme revealed that posting to the private sector is increasing steadily. The 2003/4 Country Report states that only five per cent of service personnel were posted to the private sector and this increased to 10 per cent in 2005/6. Thus, posting to private sector organisations increased by 100 per cent within two years. Officials of the scheme attributed the steady increase in posting to the private sector to the increasing attention to the sector by government as well as the scheme’s eagerness to generate substantial revenue from the 20 per cent of individual allowances paid to it as user fee.

Ghana’s employment challenges
Historical evidence indicates that youth unemployment in Ghana is due to the more than three-fold increase in the youthful population over the past 40 years, and the failure of the economy to generate sufficient employment opportunities.

Analysts believe the causes of youth unemployment in Ghana include the following:
• the introduction of the junior secondary school and senior secondary school system without adequate planning for integration into trade/vocation and job placement;
• education and training have no link to the needs of the important sectors of the economy;
• the near collapse of Ghana’s industrial base due to ineffective management of the divestiture process which resulted in the closure of many factories without a structural transformation of the economy to generate alternative jobs for people;
• the shrinking of public sector employment opportunities coupled with a relatively slow growth of the private sector; and the lack of a coherent national employment policy and comprehensive strategy to deal with the employment problem.

Indeed, the continued implementation of the policy of net hiring freeze in the public sector has compounded the unemployment situation in Ghana.
NSS, entrepreneurship and job creation.

As stated earlier, one of the primary objectives of the NSS is to develop skilled manpower through practical training. National service therefore serves as a period which can be used to identify young entrepreneurs and inculcate in them the culture of entrepreneurship in order to reduce the demand for non-existent jobs by the nation’s graduates.

A 2006 International Labour Organisation (ILO) Working Paper classifies entrepreneurship into four categories: Economic and social entrepreneurship; Public entrepreneurship; Intrapreneurship; and Co-operatives.

Economic entrepreneurs focus on wealth creation and profit maximisation through the provision of products and services whereas social entrepreneurs are more focused on addressing social problems and achieving the public good. Public entrepreneurs do not have as their core objective and motivations financial gain, but rather act as intrapreneurs in the public organisations and within established large corporations and institutions. Public entrepreneurs help public organisations to become more responsive to their customers, clients and communities.

The period of national service rather than just being mandatory and monotonous could be used to spot/identify intrapreneurs who can, for instance, turn our public sector around. Intrapreneurs function in the public organisations and within established large corporations and institutions by developing simpler and better ways of accomplishing tasks.

Social entrepreneurs can also be identified during national service by identifying national service personnel who offer extraordinary service to the remote communities they are posted to and bend over backwards to serve the communities even under trying and difficult times.

Experts sum up a number of reasons for the importance of promoting youth entrepreneurship and these include:
• Youth entrepreneurship creates employment opportunities for self-employed youth as well as the other young people they employ;
• It helps address some of the socio-psychological problems and delinquency that arise from joblessness;
• Helps young people develop new skills and experiences that can then be applied to other challenges in life;
• Promotes innovation and resilience in youth;
• Promotes the revitalisation of the local community by providing valuable goods and services;
• Capitalises on the fact that young entrepreneurs may be particularly responsive to new economic opportunities and trends.

Business incubation centres

The former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has said: “Governments at national and local levels need to encourage a broad and dynamic concept of entrepreneurship to stimulate both personal initiative and initiative in a broad variety of organisations which include, but reach beyond, the private sector: small and large enterprises, social entrepreneurs, co-operatives, the public sector, the trade union movement and youth organisations,” and the National Service Scheme can be used in Ghana to identify and encourage entrepreneurship to create jobs and promote economic development.

The National Service secretariat can therefore create business incubation centres where the identified entrepreneurs can be helped to nurture and grow their businesses.