Ghana1000 Program: First cohort urged to harness skills gained to develop Ghana and Africa

The inaugural graduation ceremony of the ‘Ghana1000 Program’ – an initiative by Industry Immersion Africa (iiAfrica) – was on Friday, November 17, 2023, held in a virtual ceremony to celebrate the over 750 students who had journeyed through the intensive 6-week program. The training arrangement was designed to equip up to 1,000 young science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates to transition from academia into industry. Creating a bridge to help students move from the former to the latter has painstakingly become relevant, particularly in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

"The Managing Director for iiAfrica, Dr David Attipoe, highlighted this in his welcome address saying, “As we’re trying to move into the 4th Industrial Revolution, we’re hoping that most of our students will be at the forefront of this change to help Ghana and Africa to receive the 4th Industrial Revolution talents and to move into the digital economy that we are all hoping we can get into”.

A total of 1,928 applications were received and 1,030 offer letters were sent out to qualified applicants. Of this number, 794 students confirmed their participation in the program, birthing the first cohort of the maiden edition of the Ghana1000 Program in Ghana, which kicked off on October 9, 2023. The 6-week intensive training arrangement was designed to equip participants with a fine blend of soft, business, digital and data skills at zero cost to participants. The Ghana1000 initiative forms part of iiAfrica’s ambitious drive to help up to 1 million STEM graduates find meaningful employment by 2030 – a vision curated to contribute to reducing the startling unemployment rate in Africa. In his address, Special Advisor at iiAfrica, Mark Heerden, stressed the need for industry to enthusiastically join the life-altering journey that will transform Ghana, Africa and the rest of the world. “Inasmuch as iiAfrica has prepared these students for participation and employment in industry, for this to be truly successful as a national program, we need industry to be ready to receive these talents into the workplace. … It means that companies must be ready to accept what might be quite a new service; quite a new and difficult talent which falls outside of the usual boundaries of how companies operate. However, companies need to understand the nature of the skills these interns are bringing through their national service program. They need to understand what projects are suitable to give to these talents so that they can develop business intelligence, which will then help them in their businesses.

"The great thing about the talents that are coming through the Ghana1000 Program is that they are bringing new skills into the workplace. They are not replacing skills; they are not replacing accounting skills or marketing skills… they are taking the information generated in accounting, marketing, in the field or from the CEO’s office and they are converting that into business intelligence. … I’m sure you are all well aware that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has overcome the world as we know it. Change in the workplace, in employment and in markets is accelerating and from all the research that is being provided by the big consultancy firms, this change is only going to accelerate over the next decade. So for businesses to survive and for industry to remain relevant in their markets, they have to harness this change, and this change is very much a case of data science being brought into the workplace.”

President and CEO of MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) , Dorothy Nyambi, in her remarks, commended iiAfrica for an excellently curated program with advantageous outcomes. “Today we are gathered not only to commemorate the completion of a significant phase in the lives of our graduates but to also celebrate the beginning of their national service program. This is a pivotal moment as they step into the roles that contribute to the development and progress of Ghana. At MEDA, we believe we need the best and the brightest because inclusive sustainable economic development and the creation of decent jobs is still the most impactful way to reduce poverty in Ghana and globally. Creating and sustaining jobs through viable small businesses and working for others still drives the programmes we do today at MEDA and it is the heartbeat of what we believe is going to help and contribute to moving people out of poverty in a sustainable way. At MEDA, we are accelerating towards our ‘decent jobs’ goal with a huge focus on women and youth and the Ghana1000 Program represents for us what it should look like and what it would take for us to achieve that goal.” The Managing Director of insendi – the online platform which collaborated with iiAfrica as the official technology partner for the Ghana1000 initiative and hosted all the courseware for the program – James Connor, expressed profound elation at the fruits of the partnership. He further congratulated the graduating students and the entire iiAfrica team on their joint achievements, in his brief remarks. A lecturer with the University of Victoria in Canada and a representative of Academics Without Borders (AWB), Professor David Dunne, who also taught the participants a vital business skills course, Design Thinking, also had this to say to the graduates as the guest speaker for the occasion.

"Whether you are working on a social innovation or a corporate innovation, it takes funding and persistence. Funding agencies and organisations are understandably cautious and they’ll demand that you prove your idea before they commit money to it. ... whatever you do, you will need resistance and you will need courage and persistence to carry you through"

Students’ Experience

“It was a fantastic opportunity given to students to expand their knowledge and connect with business-minded people,” one student mentioned. “The Ghana1000 Program was fully online. You just had to do anything and everything from the comfort of your home, office or wherever you felt would be comfortable for you,” another added. “The most valuable aspect of this program for me was having access to world-class professionals and lecturers to guide me along my journey. Thanks to this program, I have become a better team player. I can use Power BI and I have built a solid foundation to transition from academia into industry,” one other student shared. “I’ve seen how good the values I’ve received are. From the beginning, I knew how much it was going to impart to me. For example, data analysis is used in almost every field [of industry] and as a software developer, I know it is going to help me so much,” a fourth student shared. “I’m happy and sad at the same time because it has been a very wonderful program. I will miss my Tutor, I will miss the friends I’ve made, I will miss having to wake up by 9 am GMT to join a class [online],” yet another student expressed.

Tutors’ Experience

“The vision of iiAfrica to enhance STEM graduates’ employability had me hooked from the start. The adventure in tutoring has not just added lines to my CV, but chapters to my personal and professional growth story. A massive thank you to the iiAfrica Team as well as the partners of the program. Your commitment to bridging the academia-industry gap is shaping not just Ghana’s future, but ensuring a brighter, more equitable and innovative Africa,” one of the tutors opined. “Before becoming a part of the Ghana1000 Program, I had no knowledge when it came to analysing data using data analytic tools. Now, I am able to use Power BI and Advanced Excel to help me in making very good, meaningful and right decisions. This program is an eye-opener and must continue so thank you so much iiAfrica,” another tutor shared.

The Ghana1000 Program was a fully virtual arrangement and sourced a total of 34 tutors, all Ghanaians, to assist the lecturers from partner universities across the world in training the students. The students were grouped under 5 schools, each bearing the name of a main partner on the initiative; i.e. Academics Without Borders (AWB) , ESMT Berlin , MTN Ghana , Dr Jost Henkel Stiftung, and SOS-Kinderdorf e.V. . They were further divided into classes of 20-25 students under each of the schools, with each class being led by a tutor. All live lectures were conducted via an expertly designed virtual campus which was built in partnership with communications technology company, Zoom , and which can safely be described as the first-ever virtual campus on the African continent so far