Employers' Perception of Graduates with Entry-level Technical Skills from the Construction Industry Programs in Ghana and Nigeria

Open Access
Acheampong, Philip
Graduate Program:
Workforce Education and Development
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 06, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Ladislaus M Semali, Dissertation Advisor
  • Edgar I Farmer Sr., Committee Chair
  • Michael Adebola Adewumi, Committee Chair
  • Richard Allen Walter, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • Building construction industry programs
  • Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
  • Employers' perception of graduates with entry-level technical sk
  • Skills
  • Skills gap
  • Technical skills
ABSTRACT The purpose of this comparative study was to identify the technical skills and abilities needed by prospective employees of construction industries in Ghana and Nigeria. Potential employees were defined here as recent graduates of construction industry programs with entry-level technical skills. The continuous growth in and expansion of these two countries’ construction industries have led to exponential growth in positions that require certain technical skills—finding workers with the requisite skills remains a major challenge for employers in Ghana and Nigeria. Employers have expressed concerns about the lack of adequately trained graduates and feel that educational institutions are not producing graduates with skills that match these industries’ needs. Three research questions were developed based on employers’ statements about needs, expectations and experiences. This information was utilized in examining employers’ perceptions of recent applicants for positions in the construction industries in Ghana and Nigeria. The methodological design for this study was quantitative in nature and based on a survey instrument developed and used to collect data; a literature review provided secondary information. The target population included human resource and related administrators at construction industries, and professionals in construction industry programs. The sites for this study included Ghana and Nigeria. The survey was administered to 112 participants, 58 of whom were from Ghana and 54 from Nigeria. Findings revealed differences with broad implications for skills training. Most companies were located in urban areas; fewer were in rural communities. More construction companies had been established before 2000 compared to companies established in later years. With regard to employers’ needs (to address research question one), employers were asked to cite the desired technical skills and abilities considered necessary for employment of recent graduates. Most respondents indicated a need for all technical occupations listed in the study, although the needs varied between employers in Ghana and Nigeria (carpentry, plumbing, masonry, electrical, drafting, welding, and HVAC systems). When participants were asked to describe their perceptions of the skills shortage, most indicated that a lack of appropriate technical skills was contributing to the skills shortage. With regard to opinions on skills shortages and the belief that employers’ elevated requirements are contributing to these shortages, most participants indicated that high requirements were not contributing to skills shortages although few respondents disagreed with the statement. With respect to demands of the global market, most indicated that these demands were also not contributing to skills shortages—few respondents disagreed. Looking next at technical skills, most participants indicated that technical skills have contributed to skills shortages. While most respondents indicated that production methods were not causing skills shortage, there were significant differences in opinion on this topic between Ghana and Nigeria. An ANOVA analysis of the importance attached to various employee attributes pointed to the importance of being able to work under stressful conditions with a p-value (<.001), and to maintain a positive work attitude with a p-value of .029. Variables found to be insignificant included: the ability to work independently; ability to respond to constructive criticism; ability to collaborate in teams; additional skills and responsibilities; and ability to supervise others. These variables were greater than (>.05), so there were no statistically significant differences between Ghana and Nigeria with respect to the indicated variables. With regard to policy on technical skills training, industry involvement in curricular planning was significant and very different between Ghana and Nigeria. There were no significant differences in curricular responsiveness to national needs, and a strong relationship between education and the industry and other domains. Most participants indicated keeping records of graduates’ technical skills in order to better match them with potential employers. Looking at hiring trends, most respondents from Ghana and Nigeria indicated that the rate of hiring was increasing—few indicated that the hiring trend had remained the same or was decreasing. With regard to criteria used to evaluate graduates, there was a significant difference between Ghana and Nigeria with respect to amount of time spent to accomplish a task. The remaining domains—types of work performed by entry-level graduates and productivity and quality of work—were not significant. Looking next at employers’ perceptions of graduates’ work experiences, most respondents agreed that graduates did not have business and industry knowledge. The majority of respondents also agreed that graduates do not have the appropriate technical skills. With regard to workplace values, intelligence, and mindset, most agreed that graduates do not have the requisite degrees of each. There were no differences between Ghana and Nigeria concerning graduate internship experiences, cooperative experiences and work experiences. Study findings have broad implications for practice, research, and training. Further research should be conducted in areas of significant difference identified in this qualitative study. Where no such differences exist, a support structure—including, e.g., training programs that can sustain the industry’s workforce—is essential.