Reimagining technical and vocational training to equip and empower certified artisans across Africa.
Penelope Brooke Thompsonhas been working at the intersection of education, technology, and operations management throughout her career. Penelope holds a BA in Economics from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and an MBA in finance from Coventry University, where she graduated top of her class. At the start of her career, she taught at Ashesi University, a liberal arts and sciences university, the first of its kind in Ghana. She made the move from higher education to IT, managing large-scale projects for a broad mix of public and private sector clients including implementing a novel electronic billing and payment system for Ghana Water Company Ltd. and playing a lead role in the National Digital Property Addressing Project in Ghana. She has also run two Ghanaian tech companies as Chief Operating Officer and General Manager. Penelope has long had the dream to transform the field of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Africa. There is a huge bulge in Africa’s youth population and tens of millions of young people enter the labor market every year. At the same time, there is a large skills gap for professionally trained artisans and many companies turn to foreign labor for skilled trades such as welding or import manufactured goods such as furniture. Traditional pathways for TVET are inaccessible to many and there is a disconnect between institutions/apprenticeships and industry, resulting in a misalignment between curricula and the skills required in practice. In addition, most programs don’t cover areas such as occupational health and safety, financial management, marketing, or other soft skills. Insufficient training leads to poor performance, thus creating a general lack of trust and confidence among customers. The sector has also suffered from the misperception that only “less bright” students pursue this type of training.
Penelope’s goal is to build a premier technical and vocational training institute to provide viable employment opportunities for youth, build client trust in skilled professionals, and improve industrial and infrastructure development in Africa in key fields such as plumbing, electrical, construction, and other trades in demand. She has founded the African Centre for Technical Training (ACTT) to pursue this vision. The goal of ACTT is to go beyond just skills training and help create empowering livelihoods, by leveraging technology and a holistic educational approach to be the go-to polytechnic for certified artisans in Ghana.
Penelope wants to change the perception of TVET by fostering a mindset shift and building a pipeline of skilled artisans that will be in demand by major employers or become entrepreneurs themselves. She wants to create a marketplace for graduates to offer certified and reliable services to the public, including a digital platform that could enable those interested in gig work to offer services on-demand. The long-term goal is to replicate ACTT across the African continent.
UP funding will enable Penelope to further establish ACTT, including hiring key staff and setting up the necessary infrastructure to receive accreditation and pilot a program with an initial cohort of students.
Learn more about Penelope Brooke Thompson and ACTT here.