An apprentice is an individual who is engaged in an apprenticeship programme. Apprenticeship programme is a programme of training in a designated trade under which an apprentice receives formal instruction and on the job training. Informal Apprenticeship Training (IAT) is responsible for some 80-90% of all basic skills training in Ghana, as compared to 5-10% from public training institutions and 10-15% from NGO for-profit and non-profit providers.
The national Vocational Training Institute (NVTI) set up in 1970, has been responsible for the nationwide coordination of all aspects of vocational training including apprenticeship. However, NVTI's main programmes under its Department of Apprenticeship have been targeted at training "formal" apprentices. The National Coordinating Committee on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NACVET) was set up to coordinate a national skills development within the formal and informal systems across ministries but failed to secure a national policy for skills development and continues to suffer from capacity problems and on-going tensions leading to its replacement in 2006/7 by the Council for TVET.
In 1998, a children's Act outlined the legislative framework for IAT which specified the minimum age of informal apprenticeship to be 15 years or after completion of basic education. The Act set out trainers'/masters' responsibilities towards their apprentices' regarding training, the apprenticeship agreement, duties and release of apprentice. Informal Skills Associations (ISAs) represent one of the strongest elements of the current institutional framework for IAT and are actively involved in the supervision of skills training.
However, ISAs are not necessarily either strong, effective or always representative of their members. ISAs are set up as intermediaries between member enterprises and the government and other agencies. The establishment of many ISAs, however missed the point about self-help of its members. An evaluation team from the World Bank which funded a vocational studies project (VSP) concluded that, most of the associations identified by the study team only exist in name and are not functioning as mobilizers of the local artisan corps.
Youth that are trained at the IATs currently have two certification options: An ISA awarded certificates and an NVTI proficiency certificates which is a non-written competency-based skill test. Many informal apprentices do not register for this NVTI examination. The establishment of the Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (COTVET) to coordinate and oversee all aspects of TVET across ministries and the broad spectrum of formal, informal and non-formal education and training has implied that, COTVET includes an informal sector affairs division which will develop policies and programmes for strengthening IAT.
The skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) was a government of Ghana supported programme intended to reduce poverty by providing employable skills and other assistance including micro-finance to the unemployed enabling them to join the informal economy became a direct response to policy and political concerns regarding unemployment. Major components of the STEP included skills training delivered through vocational training providers and skills enhancement for master-craftsmen and skills training delivered through apprenticeship placements.
Skills enhancement for master-craftsmen (MC) and skills training delivered through apprenticeship placements entailed MCs undertaking a few days pedagogical skills enhancement with the Ghana Regional Appropriate Technology Industrial Service (GRATIS) to make them more effective trainers. Skill training was then delivered by attaching up to 10 trainees to an MC to undertake a workshop-based apprenticeship for up to 12 months. Apprenticeship training organized by GRATIS either took place in their own facilities where adequate equipment and machinery existed for the training or in informal enterprises with MCs identified by GRATIS.