Build Your Future curriculum trainings show positive results

With declining labor force participation, how can today’s youth explore the world of work and acquire the critical occupational skills employers need?

Youth participation in the workforce has been steadily declining for 35 years. Back in 1980, 57 percent of youth aged 16-19 participated in the labor force, whereas in October 2015 only 33.6 percent were counted accordingly to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What does it mean to be participating in the workforce? People are considered participating in the labor force if they are employed or unemployed and looking for work and are between the ages of 16-64. Without real-world job experiences, how can today’s youth explore the world of work and acquire the critical occupational skills employers need?

With the use of the national 4-H curriculum “Build Your Future,” Michigan State University Extension is helping to do just that. Build Your Future curriculum helps teens investigate their interests and related careers, make important connections, develop employable skills and explore post-secondary education options and funding sources.

As a result of a 2014-15 grant provided by MSU Extension’s 4-H Youth Development, educators across the state provided five-hour trainings to 94 teachers, volunteers and other professionals on the full Build Your Future curriculum. These individuals received both the facilitator and student guide along with a curriculum kit packed with all the tools needed to implement the curriculum immediately. During this past year, over 200 additional individuals also received shorter Build Your Future trainings, face to face and via webinars, across Michigan and nationally.

Early follow-up results of the grant show promising results. Overall, respondents indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that youth participants met the following goals of the curriculum:

  • An increased awareness of career and job opportunities related to skills and interests.
  • A plan for achieving future career or job goals.
  • Basic knowledge of employability skills.
  • Ability to apply skills necessary for employment.

In addition, the curriculum was well-received by youth as they were given the opportunity to learn by action. They enjoyed the hands-on activities wherein they placed their knowledge to the test. The curriculum motivated youth to learn about the types of careers available to them, as well as helped them to narrow down their own interests and future career goals.

MSU Extension educators on the Career Exploration and Workforce Preparation work team plan to continue these trainings in the upcoming year. For those interested in learning more, please contact us at

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