Build Your Future: Choices…Connections…Careers

National 4-H curriculum provides career exploration and workforce preparation lessons.

Students working on curriculum
Lesson two of Build Your Future is about career exploration. These middle and high school students attending a summer day camp learned about being a business owner and author from Michigan-born author Amanda Lamkin. Photo by Debra Barrett, MSU Extension.

4-H Youth Development staff and volunteers have been helping 4-H members and youth audiences make connections between their experiences, skills and career interests for years. When corn and canning clubs were initiated in 1902 to encourage youth to learn skills, build competencies and set goals for their future, young people were participating in career exploration and development. Volunteers teach skills to youth through projects, but sometimes need assistance with how to connect the projects with life skills and the purpose of projects for future implications. The Build Your Future: Choices…Connections…Careers 4-H curriculum, launched in 2013, continues to help make this connection.

This national 4-H curriculum is aligned with the Youth Development Mission Mandate and supports the Leadership and Personal Development area. Build Your Future is a research-based curriculum that consists of nine educational activities intended for use with young people 14 to 19 years of age. While it is encouraged to be taught in its entirety, Build Your Future is flexible enough to be used as stand-alone lessons that focus on skill identification, career exploration including entrepreneurship, financing careers and educational training, and workforce development. Each lesson is aligned with national career-technical education standards as they were at the time it was authored.

Build Your Future was written by a team of Michigan State University Extension educators. In addition to being piloted in Michigan, Build Your Future passed both a Michigan and the national peer-review process and continues to be available through National 4-H Council.

Using identified learner outcomes and success indicators, volunteer facilitators can easily lead fun, interactive learning experiences. Participants experience a variety of learning methods such as developing a business plan, competing in a quiz bowl, creating a portfolio, analyzing case studies and discussing questions that reflect on their experiences. Most activities range from 30 to 90 minutes in length and include accompanying handouts and ideas for additional learning. The curriculum comes complete with an evaluation and certificate of completion for participants. Add Build Your Future to your educational resources!

As a part of our work, Michigan State University Extension provides career education programming. To learn more about the positive impact of MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H career preparation, money management and entrepreneurship programs, read the Impact Report: “Preparing Michigan Youth for Future Employment.” For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, contact

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