The current state of unemployment among the youth in Ghana is still high despite efforts to curb the situation through youth programs championed by the government and some civil society organizations (CSO’s). Volume 3E of Ghana Statistical Service general report on Ghana 2021 Population and Housing Census shows that the “unemployment rate among the population 15 years and older is 13.4%. Among the population 15-35 years, the unemployment rate is 19.7%, and is even much higher for young adults 15-24 years (32.8%)”. The need to train more Ghanaians in professional trades in TVET areas should be the hallmark to usher the youth into sustainable employable careers.
In recent times, it's been observed that few persons go into TVET trade fields like welding. It could be suggested that the lack of interest to pursue a career in welding is due to the high training cost. The cost of consumables (e.g. metals, electrodes, grinding discs, cutting discs, etc.) for welding training takes about 60-70% of the entire training cost. On the other hand, most training institutions in Ghana, both private and public, are unable to fulfil all the training modules to train individuals to acquire the needed qualifications and expertise. Thus, the employability of such trainees in major industries domestically and internationally fall short.
Advanced technologies have made it possible to digitize and digitalize welding for training and manufacturing purposes at a lesser cost. The processes and systems used for welding have been digitized to the extent that weld and seam data can be collected, measured, and analyzed at each milli-second. The commonly known digital technology for welding skills training is the welding simulator. Welding simulators are embedded with state-of-the-art algorithms and toolkits which transfers all welding parameters to virtual/augmented reality, therefore, providing a close simulation of real-time welding experience. Empirical data shows that utilizing a welding simulator enhances welder training and 34% more welders can be certified than using the traditional method. In addition, welding simulators help to reduce laboratory cost and environmental impact by 68%, reduce learning time by 56% and avoid accidents in the workshop by 84%.
In addition, trainees can develop manual skills and muscle memory transferable to real-world welding and prepare them for welder qualification and certification tests. Welder trainees are then able to bridge the gap with industry where they master to perform multi-joint welding in different industry applications. Productivity of welder trainees gets improved in real welding operations on the field, thus reducing weld defect rates. In the same vein, welding instructors are exposed to all the tools needed to monitor and manage trainees individually via an e-learning embedded platform. The system is also designed to fit the course contents following the International Welder (IW) guidelines from the International Institute of Welding (IIW). The system again allows welding instructors to upload their training programs or create new content by easily uploading Welding Procedure Specifications while configuring the system to perform as required. The cost for retraining of welders is significantly reduced as they can build upon the existing portfolio from their previous welding training experience. Welding simulators, therefore, complement the traditional way of training welders and other welding personnel but not replace it.
Efforts being made by GYASON Technoengineering Limited to spearhead the introduction of welding simulators in Ghana tie in with the country's digitalization agenda to revolutionize the Ghanaian welding industry. This is because utilizing welding simulator systems like Dig In Vision or Soldamatic makes it easier for welders’ performance to be easily accessed and analyzed according to their welding skills. Also, welders are easily identified and selected from the e-platform database for immediate employment. Most welding manufacturing companies utilize such data for decision-making for product manufacturing, production, quality control and assurance.
The use of digital technology such as welding simulators is well established in developed countries. It is time for Ghana to embrace and utilize welding simulators in welding training to attract a new generation of young people to the world of welding. It is imperative to train thousands of Ghanaians in welding to pick up existing and yet to be created jobs in industry or to be self-employed. Government agencies such as the Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, Ghana TVET Service, Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (CTVET) and other key stakeholders have a crucial role to play. Thus, to encourage public and private welding training institutions to utilize welding simulators. If the government or any other stakeholder considers procuring welding simulators to be utilized in welding training institutions, there should be a clear implementation plan or measures put in place to adapt to existing implementation templates.
In this era of industry 4.0, there is no other innovative way to train welders better, faster, safer and at a reduced cost while elevating them to a qualification and certification level than to use welding simulators. Therefore, we need to build our human capital in key TVET areas like welding to safeguard Ghana’s economic fortunes. Ghana stands to lose in business, especially on the African Continental free trade area (AfCFTA) agreement if we fail to position the youth to take advantage of manufacturing activities in major industrial sectors.
Dr Gyasi is a Mechanical / International Welding Engineer, TVET facilitator, and Social Entrepreneur. He is also a Senior Lecturer at Kumasi Technical University, Mechanical Engineering Department.