Globally, the pandemic of graduate unemployment is rising. According to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report cited in the 2013 edition of the Economist, 75 million young people were looking for jobs.
International Labour Organisation data indicates that the unemployment rate in Ghana was 13.7 per cent in 2018. Studies suggest that unemployment is higher among the educated youth than the uneducated.
The question is, how are universities contributing to producing an educated workforce who are competitive, market-driven and industry-relevant? Efforts by universities to fill the critical gap between academia and industry, theory and practice with professionally competent workforce are, therefore, commendable.
The University of Professional Studies Accra (UPSA), in keeping faith with its parliamentary mandate as the only public university in Ghana accredited to run professional diploma, degree and postgraduate programmes, has been producing industry-relevant graduates with competitive edge and competencies sought for by both the local and international job markets.
According to the Deputy Director of the Institute of Professional Studies (IPS) , Dr Frederick Doe, a unit of the University of Professional Studies Accra (UPSA), exercised this mandate by integrating professional courses into the mainstream degree programmes to ensure that students were equipped with the skills, competencies, knowledge and practical know-how to function effectively in industry.
In recognition of the robust professional training given to UPSA students, Dr Frederick Doe disclosed that when students enrolled for professional courses, they were exempted from levels one and two of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) programme, enabling them to leapfrog in their professional development.
"Most of our lecturers also have qualifications in the professional programmes, while others are fellows with expertise in Corporate Governance and Chartered Accountancy. This enables them to effectively integrate practical applications to theoretical concepts taught in the classroom" added Dr Doe.
A lecturer at the Department of Management Studies, Dr Augustine Peprah, added that the university had demonstrated its commitment to enhancing students’ professional growth by offering them free tuition in the professional courses.
The expert mix of theoretical, professional and practical training given students is attested to by the inspiring story of 23- year-old graduate, Josephine Akua Simpri, who graduates with a first-class honours in Bachelor of Business Administration in the 2018/2019 academic year and has simultaneously completed her Chartered Accountancy programme earning her an associate membership position with the Institute of Chartered Accountancy, Ghana (ICAG).
According to Ms Josephine Simpri, the quest to pursue ICAG courses together with the degree programme expanded her cognitive skills, empowering her to take on more challenging roles.
"Pursuit of professional courses together with UPSA's Business Administration programme gives you more competitive advantage as it builds your knowledge base.
With barely a couple of weeks to graduation, l have already secured a job with an oil marketing company as an accountant," Ms Simpri said.
She aspires to be a finance manager of a reputable company in the future as well as an entrepreneur. She intends to pursue courses in taxation, as well as a Master of Business Administration degree programme.
Another graduate with a second class upper division who has also completed the ICAG programme, Mr Daniel Quoffie, said lecturers mentored students to bring out the best in them.
"I am where I am now because of the coaching and help my lecturers gave me. This inspires me to also want to be a lecturer in the future," Mr Quoffie added.
Mandatory professional programmes
In consolidating the professional dividends of the UPSA programme mix, the Ag.Director of Public Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Gle, disclosed that the UPSA intended to make it mandatory for all students to pursue professional courses in conjunction with the degree programmes.
Consequently, the IPS Unit intends to expand its programme repertoire for students and the public to include the following: Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), Institute of Public Relations (IPR) for Communication students, Strategies of Taxation, Strategies of Human Resource Management Practice, as well as CISCO certified programmes for those with background in Information Technology.
These courses will add to the existing ones in accountancy, banking, marketing, transport and lrun by the IPS Unit. Additionally, the unit also organises seminars, workshops, SME success story programmes and entrepreneurship modules, all delivered by industry pace-setters.
Ultimately, they serve to strengthen the effectiveness of the mandatory internships and ‘Masterclass’ sessions organised by all academic departments of the university for their students.
The writer is a Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication Studies, UPSA.