Building an inclusive workforce

MSU Extension uses a variety of resources and curriculum to help develop and foster employability skills in individuals preparing for the world of work.

Man sitting at a computer talking to someone.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The website reported that according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, “nearly all young people—98.6%—hold at least one job between the ages of 18 and 25.” Based on the Current Population Survey, in 2021, 24.3% of 16 to 19 year-old individuals in the labor force were youth with disabilities. Of the 62 million children in the United States who are under age 15, almost 10 percent have a disability, and will become our future leaders.

Some of the programming of Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H includes teaching young people employability skills, providing career exploration opportunities, including entrepreneurship; and fostering workforce development. Young people need to know not only how to find job and employment opportunities, but also how to keep their employment. They should also recognize their skills and abilities while knowing how to express and explain their limitations or needs.

Michigan 4-H provides curriculum, news articles, online lessons and videos to help with these tasks on the 4-H Careers and Entrepreneurship site. Most materials are free for anyone to access and use. The content is broken down into four areas:

  • Identifying your skill set
  • Networking and the job search
  • Resumes and portfolios
  • Interviews

Within the U.S. Department of Labor, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) houses a variety of data, statistics and resources related to the youth workforce. One of those resources is the Skills to Pay the Bills – Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success curriculum. Designed for youth development professionals, it focuses on basic workforce readiness skills and is perfect for a variety of in-school and out-of-school programs. Each lesson includes hands-on and reflective content while making it easy to facilitate by providing background information, time and materials needed, directions, suggested conclusion content and journaling for participants. The over-arching topics of Skills to Pay the Bills are:

  • Communication
  • Enthusiasm and attitude
  • Teamwork
  • Networking
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking
  • Professionalism

As reported on their website, “the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert and confidential guidance on job accommodations and disability employment issues.” It has a wealth of information and materials available to help educate and empower educators, family, employees and employers. They have a collection of videos with accompanying PowerPoint slides and resources. Their Role Play videos provide insight, empathy and suggestions for addressing real-life workplace situations. A few topic examples include:

  • JAN's Telework as an Accommodation
  • JAN's Interviewing an Individual on the Autism Spectrum
  • JAN's Accommodating an Employee with Non-Apparent Disabilities
  • JAN's Retaining an Individual with an Intellectual Disability After a Change in Supervisor

Perhaps these resource ideas will spark interest in learning more. MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education or youth entrepreneurship, email us at

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