Feature Article of Sunday, 25 November 2012

Columnist: Wondoh, John

Career Choices and National Development

Ghana as a developing country experiences development at a much slower pace compared to developed countries. This may be as a result of the fact that developed countries are more equipped with first class facilities, equipment and infrastructure which facilitates the rapid developments that we see and admire. If these were the only prerequisites for effective growth and development, then the slow rate of development in Ghana should not alarm us at all. However, the most important factor that affects national development is the nation’s human resources.

Human resource is very crucial when it comes to national growth and it can make a very big difference provided people work effectively and satisfactorily. Development of a nation is largely dependents on this singular factor which is the greatest resource any country or organisation can ever have. We possess both the ability to build and the power to destroy, and these powers, if properly harnessed can catapult a nation to a realm of immense development and growth.

True development is measured based on individual development; that is, the development of each individual in a nation sums up to determine the total development of the whole nation (Human Development Index – HDI). Ghana ranks 135 out of 178 countries on human development index. It is therefore not shocking at all that Ghana remains an underdeveloped country with many people still living in poverty even though Ghana is seen as a stable, peaceful country with great potential. Each person in this country, regardless of his or her social class has a great influence on the development of the nation; therefore more resources should be focused on making the ordinary person more productive.

A critical observation of Ghanaian workers would reveal that most people are reluctant in bringing out the best in them. What could possibly be the cause of this lackadaisical attitude that some workers exhibit at their workplaces? This might be as a result of meagre monthly salaries, lack of incentives to encourage workers to work harder or the long hours of work without breaks, among others. All these, however, would be of minimal effect if the real causes of low productivity were identified and dealt with at an early stage. The main issue is that, most people are currently in careers they do not love or have interest in; therefore, it affects their output negatively. This problem can easily be corrected by guiding the youth in making the right career choices.

High school is a very crucial point in the life of every person. It is at this point people assess themselves to see which programme would be most suitable for them at the tertiary level. This decision sets the course for the person’s life and therefore great care must be taken to ensure that the right choices are made.

Unfortunately, the Ghanaian system does not incorporate effective measures to help guide students into the right course of life. “A word to the wise is enough”, but when there is no “word” for the wise to assimilate, how would it be “enough”? The degree of ignorance among most senior high school leavers concerning the next step to take is very high. It is often said that if you do not know where you are going, any road would take you there. However, we cannot afford to walk on the street of nonchalence, because then we would end up in the city of regret. This is the situation most Senior High School leavers find themselves in; they are unable to properly select the programme that would be most appropriate and suitable for them.

Before proceeding, let us first of all ask ourselves this question; when do we say a career is suitable or appropriate for a particular person? To measure the suitability or appropriateness of a career for a person, some factors must be considered. To begin with, a career should be something you love and find pleasure in doing; that is, it should not be stressful or boring to do. It should be something you can effectively use your skill set to make a difference. You should be able to cause a positive impact in your career with your inbuilt talents and skills acquired through education and training. Another way to ascertain the suitability of a career path of a particular person is to determine if the career reflects his or her passion and interest. If it does, then the career would most probably be appropriate for that person.

A student’s inability to make an appropriate programme choice at the tertiary level is likely to lead him or her into a wrong career path. Although, according to the popular saying “no matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, turn back”, some journeys are journeys of no return.

How many Ghanaians are currently dissatisfied with their career and would wish they had never taken that path, and how many are content and comfortable in their current field of work? Obviously the former exceeds the later. Most people are not satisfied with their current state because they made wrong choices. Let us not forget that an unhappy person or a person with so much regret produces less output compared to a contented person. For the growth and development of a nation or an organisation, an efficient and a personally driven person is the obvious preferred choice to a bitter and an unhappy person. Thus the disadvantages of making a wrong career choice may not be permanent but compound as time goes by.

The main contributing factors that affect the student’s choice include his or her parents, teachers, and the society. Each of these has the propensity to positively or negatively affect the student’s choice; therefore, these core factors must be tackled first.

Parents have immense influence on the decisions their wards make in life. This important role of parents in the life of youngsters should be used to help young people make right career choices. They should spend quality time with their children so that they know and understand the interests, passions, strengths and skills of their wards. This would enable them guide efficiently.

Societal influences also contribute to an individual’s career choice greatly. There are so many misconceptions in our society with regard to career choices. For example, some programmes are better and for that matter more important that other programmes. One might therefore end up in such occupations without having any enthusiasm for the job. Society should therefore encourage people to choose programmes they would enjoy doing.

The role of the teacher in guiding students to make the right choices is very critical. Much emphasis must be placed in ensuring that high school leavers are well equipped with the necessary knowledge to help them make choices that would both benefit them and the nation as a whole. In order to achieve this, teachers should help remove erroneous impressions that the student might have gathered and replace them with facts that would encourage students to make right choices.

The question that might be lingering in the minds of most Ghanaians is this; should I do what I love and then end up starving? Most often than not, the programmes most SHS leavers go in for are determine by the job opportunities available after studying the programme and the income associated with the jobs. I would like to applaud government on the good job done by implementing the Single Spine Salary Structure. Now anyone who could not venture into some carriers because of the low income associated with such carriers can now do so without fear. The police, teachers, nurses and other professionals whose professions where unattractive because of the meagre salaries they earned are now lucrative occupations. More avenues should be created so that every single person would be able to apply his or her skill sets for the betterment and advancement of this nation.

Career choices have a great bearing on our development as a nation and for some time now, we have suffered for not paying much attention to this fact. Ghana needs all the available human resources it has to be highly efficient and productive if we hope to experience rapid developments in our nation. Guiding students to make right choices in life, especially at the high school level is therefore paramount to our nation’s development. A formidable workforce, enthusiastic in performing duties and patriotic to its nation is what Ghana needs to be transformed. The time to move forward is now.