Guest blog by Afua Gyekyewaa
The Youth Employment Agency (YEA) of Ghana was created specifically to address the issue of youth unemployment. In 2006 when the Agency was created, the unemployment rate especially among the youth was very high. Facing this challenge, the government set up the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), now YEA, to find a solution to the problem, albeit as a stop-gap measure. The jobs that were created had two- year duration and not permanent solutions. With a new government came a new management. This new management’s vision is to find permanent solutions to the youth unemployment problem in the country. The Agency wants to do this by creating more sustainable jobs for the youth and moving away from the two-year temporary jobs. Now the challenge is, creating sustainable jobs is alien to the Agency. There are no laid down structures and processes neither are there any concepts to follow.
The distribution of the youth population and youth labour indicators as derived from the Labour Force Report (2014) indicates that the youth constitutes a little more than one-third of the population (34.1%) out of a total of 26,347,424. Functional Success could be measured in lower youth unemployment rates.
The newly formulated policy was thus to create sustainable jobs in artisanry and agriculture. The idea is to provide training programs in artisanry and agriculture as well as some sessions on entrepreneurship. Successful trainees will be grouped in cooperatives and provided a start-up capital to set up their businesses or start their farms. The Agency’s Monitoring and Evaluation staff across the country will monitor their progress and provide support.
With these foreseeable challenges ahead as well other unforeseeable ones, I enrolled in the Implementable Public Policy Course to equip myself with tools to implement the new policies. I quickly learnt that my policy could be categorized as mostly complicated with some aspects being complex. The course taught me to Apply PDIA to solve complex challenges: The Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA).
A New Way of Work
The PDIA approach enables learning and facilitates the emergence of solutions. By identifying some key challenges and addressing them, solutions for a lot more problems are found. The PDIA approach furthermore encourages taking small incremental steps and setting small targets. The smaller steps reduce the risk of making monumental mistakes with far reaching consequences. At the same time, the success from the small action steps empowers the team and builds support from Authorizers.
The toughest part of implementing a new policy was getting the approval of authorizers to use new approaches. However, the team quickly booked success and this empowered the members as well as gave authorizers confidence in the process. A major lesson was that a lot of government and private sector organization work in silos and could achieve more success for society if these parties open up for more partnerships.
Through Problem Deconstruction and Construction, the problem was redefined to look beyond my scope. I asked harder questions which led to critically assessing the problem of unemployment. Issues like structural employment was identified as well the problem of skill gap in the labour market. On the other hand, the promotion of more partnerships between government agencies was identified as a means of addressing and reducing unemployment.
With these findings, new iterative steps were developed and part of the steps was to initiate meetings with two government institutions to explore and initiate partnership agreements. One of such organization was the One District, One Factory Secretariat. A new arm of government which seeks to provide support to entrepreneurs who would like to set up businesses. The initial meetings quickly led us to a new garment making company which was in need of labour force. An Agreement was signed after a few meetings to iron out the roles and responsibilities of both parties. YEA, My Agency would be responsible for recruitment and the payment of a stipend during the six months of training whilst the private company would bear the cost of training as well as provide a permanent employment to successful trainees after completion of the training period.
Though this may seem small, PDIA approach of addressing problems led the team to address the problem by deconstructing it, drawing out a Fishbone and identifying the need to address unemployment by pursuing more collaborations with other institutions as well as addressing the issue of skill gap in the job market. Addressing these two components of the fishbone led to the partnership and the creation of permanent employment of 2500 young people as industrial garment factory workers.
The cherry on the cake was the presence of the President of Ghana and several of his ministers at the Opening of the 2,500-capacity training centre and garment factory In September 2020.
Key Learnings and Insights
The following are some of the key learnings I picked up from this course and I would be applying in my future projects.
Teamwork- One important learning is ability to be a team player and the results that it brings. A collective effort is able to give results with little faults than an individual work where there is no peer or supervisory review and critique. Teamwork also helps with efficiency and self improvement as individuals learn from each other.
Taking critique of work seriously- Another key point taken is when critique of a work done is taken on board to help in doing future work and improving on previous work to avoid mistakes or get help where one is not too strong. This is also the case for a teamwork because there’s always room for improvement.
Responsible Leadership- One critical point is the quality of leadership that is provided in every setting and at every point in time. When the leader has an effective way of communicating with the rest of the team and takes responsibility when it is needed, it affects positively the way work is done because it has an impact on the work environment
The Four Ps are also interesting and insightful to repeat here.
A. Perception- However intangible it may be, it gives you an idea of how some people may see things and affords you the opportunity to plan towards it, be it reinforcing it or changing it altogether.
B. Projection- This is based on how people see the workings of a particular entity in the future or for a particular period. People may in their line of duty have a look of some available data and facts and based on that, make an informed prediction.
C. People here is a very critical and the most important part of the assessment of the leadership qualities- Without people, there is no leader. This is because the leader’s primary duty to is lead and provide direction for the people he/she is leading. How he/she treats the people says a lot about his/her leadership style. A leader must make an impact on the people they lead, and if they do not treat people as important, then they have no business being a leader.
D. Process is a non-negotiable of a leadership quality especially in a working environment. This entails how plans are executed as well as the choices and decisions taken to operationalize the affairs of an entity to achieve the set goals or meet the set targets.
Review, Reflection and Improvements- are key aspects of growth especially those in pursuit of excellence.
Director, Technical Services
Youth Employment Agency
This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.