Certificates and matters arising from Jobcamp related conversations

Ato Ulzen-Appiah
5 min readAug 21, 2018


In May 2018, the GhanaThink Foundation (of which I lead) organized 10 forums on solving unemployment in Ghana, one in each regional capital. May 1st is May Day and we have since crowned May as the workers’ month. These events were called Jobcamps and were funded by STAR-Ghana. We had several great discussions about unemployment, underemployment, gainful employment and entrepreneurship in Accra, Koforidua, HoCity, Kumasi, Sunyani, Wa, Tamale, Bolgatanga, Cape Coast and Takoradi. A lot of the discussions were on certificates. Such discussions have also occurred in Whatsapp groups, which have become extremely popular in Ghana and in Africa — and where I think Google & Facebook groups should get to so far as discussions. I share some of my major thoughts below.

Various mentors mentoring at Barcamp Kumasi 2017 — #bcksi

We at GhanaThink have had several instances where Ghanaian youth have told us they would not come to our Barcamps because we would not be giving certificates. We would never give out certificates for one-day free networking forums. It is similar to how we would also require Barcampers to register for our events online before the Barcamps, so they get exposed to using more digital tools and taking digital literacy seriously. That is a post for another day :-)

These are non-degree, diploma, certification etc certificates. I’m talking about events that are less than a week with no proper training, or test to ensure the people know what they were trained in. Many youth (especially in Ghana) only participate in these programs only because they would get a certificate. This is such a terrible attitude, driven by unserious people, with a warped sense of thinking.

If you’re not going for programs, or workshops because there are no certs, you need to review your opinions. It’s more important to gain learning, than collecting certificates. Most jobs asking for certificates are looking for those from actual training and school that take periods of at least three months. Even then, they should be focusing on people’s results and achievements and not that they have certificates. If any organizations are hiring people based on number of certificates, they are thinking through the hire process wrongly and I wouldn’t advise job seekers to work with them.

If your expectations are not met, or you didn’t learn anything at an event, workshop, seminar or short training, why are you getting a certificate to just say you participated? Shouldn’t you help that event improve instead of taking certificates that don’t prove anything for you? It is also unfortunate that events are selling certificates to participants. If event organizers need to defray costs, they should do by charging for the events and charging for certificates to be printed to attendees who are not taking learning seriously.

Ato Ulzen-Appiah (#MightyAfrican) helping train 2 #GYSEC2017 trainees

GhanaThink gave certificates for those who participated in the Ghana Youth Social Entrepreneurship Competition — #GYSEC2017. They had hands-on, practical, & online training in design thinking & social entrepreneurship in a course for 6 weeks. Even there, it’s what they achieved at the end, moving their idea to a business in 6 weeks that was most important and why they got certificates. The trainees we alongside Digital Opportunity Trust have trained as part of the Ghana Youth Social Entrepreneurship Program in 2017 and 2018 are awesome young Ghanaians and they are not your average Ghanaian. They understand it is important to learn and copy best practices as well.

There are several issues around education in Ghana, and one paramount issue is how students pass through the education system. You have several students (12, 15 and 18 year olds) copying during exams at various important levels. The Chew, Pour, Pass, Forget syndrome in Ghana is persisting even as different schools and educators implement better modes of teaching and learning. At the university level, there are several students who pay other students to do their homework and assignments for them, when they are not copying. The money is great for these more hardworking and smarter students but they are not doing the others ‘good favours’.

A breakout session at #Jobcamp #WaWeDey led by Karima Seidu — a GhanaThink member, working on Barcamp Wa (#bcwa)

If graduates come out of second and third-cycle educational institutions with such attitudes and experiences, they would not be very valuable to many institutions in Ghana and the world. It belittles the value of the certificate because they were not educated well and have shallow accomplishments so far as problem solving, building products and services, selling products and services and working amongst others. Many recruiters in Ghana do not consider first class honours for Ghanaian tertiary degrees highly due to some of the issues raised. This is because some graduates get these first class honours to simply follow lecturer instructions, doing favours to lecturers for high marks, etc. Some graduates who second class honours because they learn things outside the classroom, challenge what they study and explore more. Those are the kinds of graduates and job seekers we need in Ghana.

We have to start prioritizing the content of our learning, what we’re learning and not the certificates we hold. The experiences we have (which also come from #volunteeringh), what the training entails, what we learn from those, how we succeed, what we learn from succeeding and failing should be the main focus, especially for young job seekers and youth in general. We need to learn, unlearn and relearn where necessary.

You can learn a lot more from the Jobcamp hashtag. You can also go through the #Jobcamp Accra, #Jobcamp Koforidua, #Jobcamp #Hocity, #Jobcamp #Kumasi, #Jobcamp #Sunyani, #Jobcamp #WaWeDey, #Jobcamp #Tamale, #Jobcamp #Bolgatanga, #Jobcamp #CapeCoast, #Jobcamp #Takoradi hashtags.

If someone is not doing the right thing, they must be told and guided. Or else their dream wont end up well. It’s up to the person who is dreaming to get better information and work smarter, copy best practices, etc. This is important information via mightyafrican.blogspot.com. It’s really sad how people are making the same mistakes others did 5 years ago. Good information must spread. #GIMS. #mightyafrican



Ato Ulzen-Appiah

I’m part of @GhanaThink which runs @barcampghana @JuniorCampGhana @volunteeringh, etc & @Museke. Read #mightyafrican blogs & @Abocco’s @ #GhanaConscious.