The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Environment and Sustainable Development, (UESD), Prof. Eric Nyarko-Sampson has stressed the importance of career guidance and counselling at all levels in the country. He has therefore called for a national policy on career guidance embedded in educational institutions public employment services and workplaces.
These are part of the recommendations Prof. Nyarko-Sampson delivered in his professorial inaugural lecture at the School of Medical Sciences (SMS) auditorium at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) on Wednesday, 12th April, 2023. An inaugural lecture is a public ceremony that allows newly appointed professors to inform colleagues, the community and the general public of the work they have done up to date. Prof. Nyarko-Sampson was supposed to deliver his lecture soon after the professorial rank was conferred on him in 2018, but he was unable to do so due to unforeseen circumstances.
The lecture was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of UCC, Prof. Johnson Nyarko Boampong and attended by members of academia, the Pro. Vice-Chancellors, Registrars and Council Chairmen of both UESD & UCC, former Vice-Chancellors of UCC, provosts, members of convocation, staff and students, the clergy and traditional rulers from both Somanya & Cape Coast, his family, friends, old school associations and well-wishers. Also present was the former Minister of Education, Dr. Mathew Opoku-Prempeh now the Minister of Energy.
Prof. Nyarko-Sampson is on secondment to the UESD at Somanya as the Foundation Vice-Chancellor of the University. He is the first professor in guidance and counselling to deliver his inaugural lecture. He presented on the topic: Through all the Changing Scenes of Life: Finding a Fit in the World of Work which he explained stems from his deep conviction of the Methodist faith taken from the first stanza of MHB 427.He raised issues related to career decision-making in his life and by extension to young people in Ghana and the world over.
His education & interest in counselling
In his inaugural lecture, Prof. Nyarko-Sampson, who was the Foundation Dean, Faculty of Educational Foundations, College of Education Studies, UCC walked the audience through the period of his basic education through to the secondary to the tertiary level to his current state. He told the audience that he got the inspiration to pursue guidance and counselling from his Psychology Lecturer level 100, Mrs. Acheamfour Yeboah. He then continued to pursue an MPhil in guidance and counselling and at the same time, he obtained a diploma in personnel management. At a stage, he was at a crossroads and unstable as he found himself pursuing other programmes including M.A. in Human Resources and a radio presentation on campus.
It was at this stage the question of, where did I think I fit, where did I want to fit, where did I find fit, where did I fit, came in.After some prompts from his advisers, the Professional Counsellor said, he finally settled on teaching, ‘in all the changing scenes of his life, at the university (which initial training he had received from a college of education and having taught at a Junior High School earlier), which has brought him to the pinnacle of his area of specialization; guidance and counselling,’’ he stated.
Prof. Nyarko-Sampson indicated that young people between 18-25 often find themselves in similar situations, having to make definite career decisions, and find where they appropriately fit.
‘’At the crossroads in life, most youth experience periods of career indecision, career indecisiveness, and re-career undecided, if not for life.
‘At this stage, the youth are full of potential for exploration and exploitation of any country’s resources; human and material, towards national development. When these young people are put in areas they do not fit in, it could adversely affect their lives by developing mental challenges which tend to affect their future or lessen their self-esteem, therefore finding a fit in the world of work is different from finding a place at work,’’ he stressed.
School Counselling: Prof. Nyarko-Sampson touched on the importance of school counselling as an integral part of guidance and Counselling. Sadly, he said, guidance and counselling in schools have not been effective due to insufficient professionals, inadequate funding, lack of public awareness about the need for guidance and counselling services and the absence of motivation for guidance and counselling providers. He said, while many schools do not have guidance and counselling personnel, the few are overburdened with classroom teaching resulting in them being ineffective. He said, teachers matter because he got inspired by a teacher.
Career Aspirations: Another area that requires serious attention is career aspirations, which emerge from what an individual wants. The individual should know their abilities, capabilities and even their limitations. All come together to make one fit appropriately for a specific task.
He said, people resort to self-knowledge when they do not understand themselves. Therefore, individuals must turn to their career theories (professionals) for guidance. He quoted a statement from the Sub-Saharan Africa World Economic Report which indicated that jobs are transiting and emerging stills will be in: analytical thinking & innovation, creativity, emotional intelligence, stress tolerance and flexibility among other things. Conscientious efforts should be made to guide young people to make subject or programme choices that would lead to building careers to compete in the international world of work in the future. He concludes that, ‘career is planned, well planned to bring out the best in the individual, and must not be treated in a hit-or-miss way, or water-will-find from the individuals taking into consideration their abilities, and characteristics, and not imposed on them.’
The professional counsellor commended tertiary institutions for setting up guidance and counselling units/sections but expressed concern about the inadequate tools for working.
He expressed appreciation to his teachers, supervisors, colleagues, friends and family friends and the role they have played in his career.
Prof. Nyarko-Sampson said, many young people today need guidance to make far-reaching decisions. These include identifying their personal traits and individual characteristics and attaching them to the skills and mindset the industry requires. Among his recommendations, Prof. Nyarko-Sampson made a case for a shift by stakeholders in guidance and counselling not to view it as a one-stop shop, but a lifelong process, government should clarify the role of career guidance in rational development by adopting a sectional approach to establish a career guidance policy framework, professionalise career guidance by highlighting basic professional competence needed in career guidance practice, schools in Ghana, Africa and the world over should undertake various types of research that would inform future education and practice in career guidance, also, the government, through the of Education and the Ghana Education Service should endeavour to recruit professionally trained band well-qualified counsellors to practice full-time. This is because counselling as an occupation deserves total commitment and dedication.
To his fellow counsellors, the astute professor urged them to focus on the acquisition of skills that will be encompassing and also sharpen their skills by partaking in workshops, seminars and conferences.
In his remarks, the chairman for the lecture, Prof. Johnson Nyarko Boampong commended Prof Nyarko Sampson for his great presentation of his career path describing it as inspiring.
He explained that an inaugural lecture is held by a university to recognize the appointment or promotion of senior members who have risen to the rank of full Professorship. These Lectures form a part of the traditions of the University of Cape Coast and this offers the speaker the opportunity to engage with the University Community on their issues of interest and perspectives.
Prof. Nyarko Boampong held that Prof Nyarko Sampson’s inaugural lecture has come a long way since his promotion in 2018 and his lecture will synthesise his scholarship in addition to knowledge in the field of guidance and counselling on the topic.
The climax of the programme was the induction of Prof. Nyarko-Sampson into the UCC College of Professors Club where he was robbed in the Club’s ceremonial navy blue gown. The Club is for members who have attained full Professorial rank, held their inaugural lecture, and are subsequently admitted.