Michigan 4-H youth build portfolios with employers in mind

Michigan State University Extension suggests students to develop employability portfolios that serve as a communication tool with prospective employers.

Portfolios are designed to serve as a tool, demonstrating to potential employers and the business community that a person has the necessary competencies for today’s employment and the attributes for lifelong learning in an ever-changing society. Educating young people about portfolios and how to utilize them can enhance Michigan 4-H Youth Development experiences.

What is a portfolio? When working with young people, a portfolio is traditionally referred to as a selection of a person’s work, such as papers and tests, compiled over a period of time and used for assessing performance or progress.

For high school aged youth, a portfolio begins with a person’s educational development plan. A portfolio should contain one’s best work and best efforts. Portfolios are focused on how one has changed and grown into a fine young adult. It should reflect not only the past, but also the future to display hopes and dreams. According to Michael Kimeldorf, “When you sequence the samples in your portfolio, you begin thinking more broadly about your collection of talents. You think more deeply about who you are.” Portfolios are reviewed by teachers, potential employers, parents and others. There are several types of portfolios.

Employability portfolios were developed to extend the definition and assessment of learning into the world of work. In building an employment portfolio, learners discover, develop and document their academic, personal management and teamwork skills in relation to employment and career opportunities. An organizational system of folders, guides or online tools is used for documentation.

Employability skills documented in an employment portfolio are often organized in the following three areas:

  • Academic – test results, skill and interest assessments, projects that received high grades/scores
  • Personal management – attendance records and awards
  • Teamwork skills – athletic or extracurricular awards or team photos that show teamwork

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