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4-H programs prepare youth for world of work|
By Natalie Ferry
| Todays youth face a world filled with uncertainties, one of which is: What career or occupation should they choose? As unclear as this choice may seem, youth who participate in 4-H programs and projects are finding they are not only having fun, but also are learning about career choices and skills that they can directly use in the workplace.|
Success in adapting to the work environment is a development task that all youth face, Dr. Natalie Ferry, Penn State Cooperative Extension coordinator of special program initiatives, said. The more experiences that a young person has in their home, at school and in youth activities, the more opportunities they have to master the basic personal skills and attitudes that are essential for workplace effectiveness.
Dr. Marilyn Corbin, assistant director of Cooperative Extension and state program leader for children, youth and families, agrees.
Finding the right occupation or career is a daunting challenge for young people, Corbin said. Thats why 4-H programs are designed to encourage young people to explore a wide range of careers. Programs offer hands-on work-related activities and opportunities to visit workplaces of all kinds. While participating in these programs, young people also are developing self-confidence and interpersonal skills. All of these activities will play a role in helping them choose their future path.
4-H Youth Development Programs strive to teach youth the skills that are the foundation of successful workplace attitudes, behaviors and ethics. Beginning in the elementary years through high school is when youth learn the basic personal skills to be reliable employees. Through participation in 4-H projects and activities, youth learn organization, goal setting and decision making. Participation also provides experiences in which youth learn skills of team working, communication, leadership and cooperation.
The foundation of 4-H is symbolized by the four leaves of the cloverHead, Heart, Hands and Health. The skills that each symbolizes are:
4-H provides youth with many and varied experiences from model rocketry to entomology. These hands-on learning opportunities provide them with experiences to test their interest in learning more about the topic and in considering a future career choice in the area.
4-H has helped me choose a career path and pointed me in a positive direction toward my goals, reported Kelsi Wilcox, Warren County 4-Her.
4-H teaches more than just subject matter. It gives youth experiences in using life skills that are the skills needed to succeed in the workplace.
Amber Hendrick, Lycoming County 4-Her, summarized how 4-H has impacted her, noting, In all the 4-H events and projects I participated in, I learned to associate better with others, write out detailed instructions and lead and follow people in activities. I learned that cooperation works better than confrontation. I had to overcome my shyness and the inability to stand up in front of a large group and give a presentation. I want to become a teacher after finishing college. I can employ the skills that I learned in 4-H to each of the students and develop classroom activities. The ability to cooperate with and lead others will help me to become a teacher.
The skills to function successfully in the workplace are integrated into 4-H projects and events. Participating youth learn these skills systematically by being involved in the 4-H program.
Employers comment on how well 4-Hers and former 4-Hers handle themselves in the workplace, Fred Rudy, Dauphin County Cooperative Extension 4-H agent, said. In interviews, they speak with poise and confidence and have well thought-out responses. This is why employers say they hire them.
Skills learned in 4-H provide a foundation for future work roles.
Carrie Bomgarder, a 4-Her in Wayne County from 1984 to 1994, reflects about the impact 4-H has had in her life, noting, My first taste of leadership came at the helm of a local 4-H club at the age of 12. As president of my club, I learned about the value of teamwork, the art of delegation by assigning club members to projects that best matched their talents and how to speak, with confidence, in front of groups. These skills learned in 4-H have served me well as I have led college clubs and marketed myself to prospective employers. I use all of these skills everyday in my current job as promotions director.
Nora Miller, a past Montgomery County 4-Her, credits 4-H with teaching her skills that have contributed to her success as a teacher. 4-H provided many opportunities to develop and enhance teamwork among others, which I feel I have carried with me to my teaching profession, where collaboration is ideal and necessary.
Not only do youth gain skills by participating in 4-H, but 4-H also teaches them how to market themselves to potential employers. Get Ready, Get Set, Get a Job is a 4-H project that teens find valuable in preparing them to write résumés, complete applications, compile references and interview.
The information I have learned during my 4-H project can help me all my life, Heidi Eppenbach, a Union County 4-Her, said. I have found out what a possible employer can and cannot ask you. I also learned if I really wanted to get employed by a certain company, I would make sure to dress appropriately and act as if anyone could be my interviewer. I really think that a project like Get Ready, Get Set, Get a Job is very appropriate to be taught to anyone who has or hasnt gone to a job interview. These valuable skills assist youth in becoming employed over a lifetime.
Learning workplace ethics is what Character at Work is all about. This 4-H program helps youth practice and develop ethical work-related decision making. Whether it is trustworthiness or respect, the program assists youth in learning about ethical behavior.
Debbie Dietrich, Berks County Cooperative Extension 4-H agent, noted, This curriculum encourages youth to look at character at work not just from the aspect of responsibility. It gives youth the tools to consider their entire character and how that impacts the workplace. I believe employers are looking for the character traits of trustworthiness, fairness, caring and respect in their employees, as well as responsibility.
Wild Over Work is a 4-H project that helps elementary youth learn that work begins in their home and community. The concepts that young people learn from this project assist in providing the foundation for future workplace skills that all adults need to be successful at work. Work is work, whether it is done at home, in school or in the workplace.
Lebanon County teachers have seen the impact the project has had on their students. Teachers have said, Wild Over Work brought in the vocational aspect of the world. It gave the children some close ups of different parts of the working world. It illustrated for our students the various jobs that are here in our community and what the community provides in employment opportunities.
Learning more about specific careers enables youth to make appropriate career choices. What to Do? A Youth Mentoring Career Curriculum assists youth in learning more about a specific career over a nine-month period. Hands-on experience provides young people with a reality-based perception of a career.
I believe 4-H provides hands-on learning opportunities, Allison Fisher, Cooperative Extension 4-H agent in Mifflin and Juniata counties, said. In particular, the career mentoring project provided at-risk youth in two counties with the opportunity to practice skills needed in the workplace environment, while learning about a specific occupational choice. It helped get youth involved in workplace preparation and showed adults the value they can have in helping youth make career choices.
A new food industry project, Exploring the Food Business, is being piloted by teachers in six school districts. This project provides youth with an opportunity to experience and think about the wide range of occupations the food industry provides.
Exploring the world of work through experiences or direct observation increases youths knowledge about specific occupations and their ultimate satisfaction with a career choice, Ferry said.
Many employers have expressed satisfaction with 4-Hers as employees, because of their ability to make decisions, follow through with commitments and act responsibly. Barbara Langhans, owner of two Subway franchises in the Harrisburg area, said, I find 4-Hers make better workers. I know they will do the work. 4-H gives them a strong work ethic and a committed outlook. They come to work to do the job, which many of todays teens do not.
Leeann Hamilton, Armstrong County 4-Her, summarized this attitude, noting, A skill that I learned as a result of 4-H was that if you work hard at a job, you can achieve it.
Youth participating in 4-H discover their 4-H experience and the life skills they learn assist them in exploring future occupations and in gaining the life skills that will make them successful in the workplace.