Beyond economic well-being: what do informal apprentices in ghana value being and doing?

Alla-Mensah, Joyceline (2019). 'Beyond economic well-being: what do informal apprentices in Ghana value being and doing?' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA 2019, London, UK.


Skills training in the informal sector, known as informal apprenticeship, is the main institution for skills training for marginalised youth in many parts of the Global South. In Ghana, it is the oldest skills training institution, responsible for about 80-90 per cent of training (Palmer, 2009). The ‘discovery’ of the informal sector by Hart in 1973 led to a recognition of the sector and informal apprenticeship was turned to for answers to demand-driven training, poverty reduction and economic growth. Underpinned by the human capital theory, training is valued for its contribution to productivity and economic growth. Vocational Education and Training's situatedness in this economic view of development has been critiqued as narrow and arguments have been made for a human-centred approach, which reflects better, what it means to be human (McGrath, 2012). Informal apprentices, for instance, seek well-being in many ways which include but not reducible to income generation.  

The capability approach has been applied to non-formal, and formal general and vocational education (Powell, 2014; Lopez-Foguez, 2012; Dejaeghere and Baxter, 2014). However, it is yet to be applied to education and training in the informal sector. My doctoral study uses the capability approach and strong structuration theory to understand what informal apprentices in Ghana would like to be and to do and the structures that enable and or constrain these. This poster will present findings from my study, in which seven dimensions of capabilities of informal apprentices in Ghana were identified. It will show how interconnected the dimensions of capabilities are, in that freedoms of one kind are linked to the enhancement of other freedoms. The findings open up new ways of conceptualising the capabilities of informal apprentices that may inform and challenge strategies that seek to enhance only, or first, those freedoms that are perceived to contribute to productivity and economic growth.

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