By Samuel Gyedu-Brefo

25 February 2021 - 16:09

Man holding a microphone speaking to a room of people
‘I love what I do because my work contributes directly to Ghanaian people’s lives.’ ©

Samuel Gyedu-Brefo, used with permission.

Project manager Samuel Gyedu-Brefo tells us how he helped to create the first national apprenticeship policy for Ghana – and why it’s important for policymaking to be inclusive.

I  helped to create the first national apprenticeship policy for Ghana. It feels great to say that.  

The national policy will coordinate Ghana’s apprenticeship sector, bringing together several separate schemes under one common standard. This will make it easier for apprentices in Ghana to access skills training in areas ranging from carpentry to dressmaking.

Apprentices will have more opportunities to gain certifications to show evidence of their skills too. 

I used to think that policy work is reserved for the elite

I love what I do because my work contributes directly to Ghanaian people’s lives.  

Earlier in life, I thought that men in central government with influential connections got things done. In Ghana we call this the ‘whom you know syndrome’.   

But I’m not from a privileged background; I work in the policy field on merit. It was a big milestone for my family when I completed university and secured my first job.   

I joined the British Council in an entry-level role to complete my national service, where graduates spend a year in an organisation to serve Ghana. Now as a project manager I directly contribute to the creation of policy at a national level.  

Technical and vocational training is for everyone 

Anyone can be an apprentice. For example, although I have an office job, I am an apprentice myself. Outside of my day job I am learning how to sew. I love fashion and in the future I want to launch my own range of clothes.  

I work with a local tailor who lives in my area. He’s happy for me to learn from him. I have the design ideas; he has the technical skills. I particularly like traditional Ghanaian styles with a twist. He shows me how to cut and sew the cloth to create the designs I like.   

My goal is to take a sewing course in the formal sector and to gain a certification. It’s nice to know that I may benefit from the national apprenticeship policy that I helped to create.  

A national apprenticeship policy for Ghana will improve the training experience for many  

In Ghana there’s a huge informal apprenticeship sector where an apprentice pays a master craftsperson for training in a trade. 

Unfortunately, the lack of standardisation in training in the informal sector means that apprentices can be vulnerable to poor training and unfair practices by a master craftsperson. In place of quality training, a master may issue menial tasks to the apprentice. 

As an example, an apprentice learning dress-making could spend 3-5 years learning the trade, something that could be learned within 1-2 years. The first year could be spent running errands such as going to the market and cooking for the master.  

Addressing unfair practices like this is one of the main reasons that I feel so strongly about my work. As part of the draft national policy, there are guidelines to improve the relationship between master craft persons and their apprentices.   

Managing relationships and brokering support is an important part of policy work  

Government relationships is particularly important to achieve support for the policy. 

My line manager gave me an initial introduction with the director at the Council for Technical and Vocational Training (COTVET). I took things from there, developing contacts and relationships to gain endorsement for our work.  

To get wider support for the policy, I led on the planning and organisation of consultation workshops involving policymakers and technical and vocational education training (TVET) sector. 

Consultation workshops are crucial to bring people and groups from the apprenticeship and training sector together to gather ideas and perspectives.  

A validation workshop invites a wider group of people to review and comment on the draft policy. The workshop in Accra linked our team, the policy writers and government partners with workshop participants representing the sector. Validation workshops are important as they test the content and principles of the policy to make sure that it meets people’s needs.  

On a personal level, family support for my work has been crucial  

Work been stressful at times, and the project team and I have given up evenings and weekends to create the draft policy. 

Fortunately, my wife has been very supportive. We married and had a baby while I was working on this project – yet she continues to encourage me professionally.

Getting the policy document approved by the Council for Technical and Vocational Training was a big moment for the team and me. We’re waiting for final approval from central government. We’re excited that policy will soon come to fruition.  

I am proud that I’m playing my part in helping to improve the training experience and lives of future apprentices in years to come.   

Samuel Gyedu-Brefo is a Project Manager at the British Council and worked on the I-WORK Project in Ghana. I-WORK was funded by the UK Government to support developments in apprenticeship systems across the Commonwealth.   

Follow Samuel on Linked in.

Read more about the British Council’s work to improve access to better work for learners from all backgrounds through Technical and Vocational Education policy