Quick and creative tools to help youth develop workforce skills

Research indicates professionalism, communication and team work are the three top skills desired by employers. These “Grab and Go” lessons help youth explore careers, discover their skills and talents and prepare for the workforce.

Developing youth with the skills needed to be successful and compete globally in the 21st Century Workforce is a major concern in the United States. However, most of the research, reforms and initiatives have focused on school based learning. Since learning takes place in and after school, youth programs such as 4-H can play an important part in developing workforce skills.

According to key findings from a survey of employers, professionalism, team work and oral communication were the top three skills most important for success in the workplace. These skills cut across disciplines and 4-H project areas. When asked what skills would be essential in the future for new employees, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, communication and self-sufficiency were ranked at the top of the list by employers.

Youth development professionals, afterschool program staff and trained volunteers that create safe environments allowing youth to explore new things, make mistakes, practice communication and teambuilding skills and provide leadership opportunities can contribute to young people’s career success later in life.

Are you looking for quick and creative ways to help youth explore careers, discover their skills and talents and prepare for the workforce? You don’t have to be an expert on career development to implement, “Grab and Go” lesson plans, developed by The National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA) Workforce Development and Career Exploration Task Force.

Extension task force members from Michigan State University, Ohio State, Oregon State, Purdue, University of Illinois, West Virginia and Wisconsin have all contributed to the development of these tools and resources. Lesson plans cover job search techniques, interviewing, career exploration, entrepreneurship and connecting careers to 4-H programs. Career development resources, curriculum and training materials can also be found.

These lessons and materials can be implemented at club meetings, camps, afterschool programs, workshops, extra-curricular activities and classroom settings regardless of the instructor’s knowledge of workforce preparation. In less than an hour, youth can improve their communication, teamwork and professional skills, as well as build their confidence by learning such things as the “Perfect Business Handshake,” “Creating your Professional Pitch” and “Putting your Best Foot Forward.”

The lessons are interactive, experiential learning opportunities that will enhance their cognitive, emotional, and social growth as it relates to career preparation. By learning skills that foster independence and enhance confidence, youth will step further in the world of work and become more involved in school and their community.

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