Interviewer: Kindly describe yourself and your current role in DTI.
Mr. Ayivor: My name is Philippe Ayivor. I am a retired executive of The Coca-Cola Company and currently the board chairman for Design & Technology Institute.
Interviewer: What is the motivating factor behind your association with DTI?
Mr. Ayivor: Well, it is very simple. Across West Africa, we have a lot of young people at risk. Youth that are either well educated or partially educated looking for opportunities for employment. What our youth are lacking are vocational skills. DTI’s goal is to help the youth, starting with Ghana and then across West Africa, attain skills that will allow them to take up vocational professions which is what is done everywhere around the world. Then these youth, can either be self-employed or go into industry and assist with the development of our countries across West Africa.
Interviewer: What are your short term and long term goals for DTI?
Mr. Ayivor: Our short-term goal in DTI is to start a temporary campus where we can train the youth starting off with hundred students mostly from Ghana but also from West Africa beginning in January 2019. Our long-term goal between 3-5 years, is to build our own campus somewhere in the Aburi Hills where we will train over 100,000 young adults and give them vocational skills that they can actually go out there and use to make a living.
Interviewer: That is impressive. What is DTI’s role in shaping the next generation of skilled labor in Ghana and beyond?
Mr. Ayivor: Very simple as I said before, in most parts of the world especially in the developed countries, people with vocational skills whether as a plumber, electrician, mechanic, a welder and so forth, these individuals actually command a high level of income. DTI’s role is to be able to do the same thing here. With the kind of situation, a country like Ghana is facing, where less than thirty percent (30%) of those who start Junior High School (JHS) actually go on to complete the JHS program and get the Basic Education Certificate; Where every year, over a million fifteen-year-olds do not graduate JHS, you need a strong vocational training program.
Where will all these individuals go? What will they do? How will they make a living? A program like this offers an opportunity for these individuals to actually attain some skills they can use to gainfully get employed and contribute to the development of their countries. We are talking not only about Ghana, but about West Africa as a whole. This is just one segment of the youth population that needs to be employed so just think about those who are not able to complete Senior High School (SHS), those who go on to the polytechnics and what we call now Technical universities, all of these individuals need a place to further develop their skills to be able to get apprenticeships, to be able to get funding so they can go out and start businesses or work for industry.
DTI is going to offer all these individuals an opportunity to succeed in gaining employment by offering a place where they can be trained; where they can be based to do apprenticeships, be mentored or offering a place where they can come to and solicit funding so they can start their businesses. In this context, you can begin to see the impact DTI will have on society and that is why it is so exciting.
Interviewer: That’s really great. Do you think Ghana and Africa for that matter, need something of this nature to scale up its economy and development?
Mr. Ayivor: Well, in most industries, you need basic technical skills; you need strong vocational skills whether it is going to be on an assembly line, whether it is fixing the roof for a person’s house or building a balustrade for a house, all these things are critical for the development of the African continent. DTI aims to provide those kinds of skills to the youth. It is going to be critical to the development of our country. People talk about Germany and the fact that, when you look at precision technology, Germans are known for having those kinds of professional vocational skills. To achieve this, they have apprenticeship programs. They have strong vocational schools where people become master craftsmen. What this program seeks to do is something very similar; where we develop our youth with strong technical skills where they can go out there and make an impact on society.
Interviewer: We live in a society where parents usually feel certain kinds of careers are for certain kinds of people. What’s your advice to parents/individuals/society who stigmatize young people with skills in TVET?
Mr. Ayivor: Well, I think once those individuals gain the skills and the parents start seeing the kind of income that they are bringing in, they will quickly begin to change their minds. The fact of the matter is that today, we don’t have a critical mass of people that are trained as professionals; that are master technicians/master craftsmen who actually go out there and do well and make the kind of income that sometimes exceeds the income of people that come out of the universities with degrees. Once this begins to change, the mindset will begin to change. We just have to advice the parents to watch, put their kids into the program, see how well they do and look at their future earnings. The overall societal impact is when people are employed, they start businesses, they give charitable contributions to bring those that are less unfortunate up. People will begin to see the impact these individuals have on society.
Interviewer: What are the current challenges and the expectations for the next years ahead?
Mr. Ayivor: The current challenge has to do with fundraising. We have to be able to generate enough funds to build our temporary campus so that we can demonstrate the proof of concept so we can attract enough funding to build a permanent campus that we have planned. The immediate challenge is finding the funds to start the school.
The expectation for the next few years is to bring in a hundred students at the start of January 2019 and gradually increase the number every year so that by 2030, we would be training over two thousand students a year and cumulatively, we would have a hundred thousand plus graduates from our program who will go out there and make an impact on society.
Interviewer: Any closing remarks/advice to readers.
Mr. Ayivor: If you are an unemployed young man or woman, , this is a great opportunity to gain skills that will allow you to become a master craftsman. It will allow you to work not just in Ghana or West Africa but around the world. . It will be an excellent investment in your future. If you are a parent and you have young adults around and you are searching for an opportunity for them, DTI offers an excellent opportunity for them to gain skills and make a living. If you are an investor, philanthropist or somebody who really cares about our youth, this is an opportunity for you to look at a program like this and invest. Invest along with us, put a little money into this program for the development of our youth and for the future of our economy.
Interviewer: Thank you so much for your time.