How OpenLabs Ghana adapted to shifting tech education priorities

By Sujith Jayaprakash (OpenLabs Ghana) and Ramiro Rejas & Jared Adema (60 Decibels)

Technology is reaching every corner of the world, and companies are increasingly looking for employees with the skills needed to support their evolving needs. Africa in particular is home to rapidly growing innovation hubs across Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, and several other countries. OpenLabs Ghana is a higher education institution leading the tech upskilling of students to meet these growing needs.  

OpenLabs trains young students in emerging technologies to meet the market demand and boost the employability of today’s youth. Formerly NIIT Ghana, OpenLabs has played a pivotal role in Ghana’s technology transformation over the last 20 years. With support from their investor, Investisseurs & Partenaires, OpenLabs wanted to better understand their alumni’s experience and measure the impact of OpenLabs education and training on their lives. 

In June and July of 2022, 60 Decibels’ research assistants completed 251 phone interviews with alumni from both certificate & diploma programs. Upon receiving the results, Dr. Sujith Jayaprakash, Director of OpenLabs Ghana, said the research was “especially eye-opening – seeing our NPS real-time showed both the strengths and weaknesses of our brand.” 

[the research was] “especially eye-opening— seeing our NPS real-time showed both the strengths and weaknesses of our brand.” 

-Dr. Sujith Jayaprakash, Director of OpenLabs Ghana

On the impact side, 4 in 5 OpenLabs alumni reported improved quality of life with 2 in 5 reporting significant improvements – this is one of 60dB’s core sector-agnostic impact outcome metrics. These positive results place OpenLabs along the middle quintile of 60 Decibels’ Education Benchmark, which reflects the voices of 21,000+ respondents across 54 organizations around the world.

The data also highlighted two key areas of improvement. First, a need to reach and better the local, rural population that is socio-economically very diverse. This is core to OpenLab’s goal of making quality tech education accessible to all, especially women and low-income students. Second, adapting program offerings to fit an emerging student population: those looking to gain a specific skill or certification, as opposed to a full degree. 

In rural areas, the student demographic did not match the surrounding population. Even though the district is largely low-income, the student population came from a more middle-upper class background. Local students often reported finding the cost of tuition prohibitive. To remedy this gap, Dr. Jayaprakash and his team are actively prioritizing rural campuses in their future plans. “We are developing scholarship programs for rural students to ensure our programs are affordable for everyone,” says Dr. Jayaprakash. 

To address the increasing demand for certification instead of full degrees, Dr. Jayaprakash’s team is adapting the curriculum to current needs. “There has been a major shift in Ghana over the past two years,” says Dr. Jayaprakash.  “Ghanaians have started to think that a diploma or degree doesn’t matter, but rather skills do. Students as young as 10 years old are now learning Python. With this appetite for certificates and classes confirmed in 60 Decibels’ research, OpenLabs Ghana is adapting to be on the forefront of this shifting mindset.” 

Listening to their alumni is helping OpenLabs be more inclusive and grow their impact. In fact, we already have a follow-up study for Summer of 2023 on the books to measure the results of these actions. How can we help you listen better? 

Dr. Sujith Jayaprakash is the Director at OpenLabs Ghana based in Accra

Ramiro Rejas is a Manager based in London, Jared Adema is an Associate based in Nairobi, and Caroline Kinuthi & Sinclare Oyollah, both based in Nairobi, supported the research on this Lean Data study.

Want to learn about 60 Decibel’s workforce development work? Read more insights here.

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