Preparing Michigan Youth for Future Careers and Employment


May 25, 2016 - Author:

The Issue

By the time they enter the workforce, today’s youth will address problems not yet identified with tools that don’t currently exist. According to the MacArthur Foundation’s Cathy Davidson, 65 percent of today’s grade school students will end up working in jobs not yet invented. With so much uncertainty, young people need more than a good education to prepare for that perfect job: they need well-rounded skills that can be applied to any career as well as the ability to explore and try on exciting opportunities in a safe and informative way.

MSU Extension Action

To meet this important need, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension offers 4-H Youth Development programs that focus on entrepreneurship, financial literacy, career exploration and workforce preparation. Through these various programs and activities, MSU Extension arms young Michiganders with the skills and competencies critical to any job while allowing youth to explore various career options and entrepreneurship. In 2015, this programming reached 18,500 participants in 78 Michigan counties through more than 300 educational events, programs and workshops.

The Impact

As a result of these career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives. Among the participants:

  • Nearly 1,800 learned how to explore future careers and develop a self-awareness of their interest in various fields. Of those surveyed:
    • 53 percent were more aware of the various careers available in fields connected to their interests, skills and experiences.

    • 50 percent had an increased knowledge of the specific education, skills and characteristics needed to be successful in careers.

    • 49 percent reported they had identified the steps necessary for them to reach their career goals.

  • More than 1,500 learned how to prepare for the work world through workshops and activities that help youth develop a basic knowledge of employability and job search skills. As a result of these programs:
    • 92 percent reported they are prepared for a job interview.

    • 86 percent indicated they could identify the options available for funding their post-secondary education.

    • 76 percent agreed they know the importance of networking.

  • More than 1,150 were engaged in entrepreneurship workshops or events that helped them understand how to start their own business. Of those surveyed:
    • 92 percent said they learned how entrepreneurial skills could be used in any career.

    • 65 percent indicated an increase in understanding of what it’s like to own a business.

    • 60 percent reported they plan to start their own business.

  • Nearly 1,000 were recipients of financial literacy programming that helps youth gain a basic understanding of money management and master application of these skills in everyday situations. Of those surveyed:
    • 55 percent indicated an increase in their understanding of how to track the money they earn and spend.

    • 56 percent reported they felt confident in knowing how to create a written budget.

    • 64 percent said they planned to pay their bills on time.

Quotes from Program Participants

“It taught me more about what 21st century employers are looking for in the workplace and what I should improve on for work-related skills.”
  • Work force preparation program participant
“After today, I feel like I could go into an interview with confidence.”
  • Mock Interview Day workforce preparation program participant

Culinary Arts Program Leads to Employment

Five years ago, Michigan 4-H Youth Development launched a culinary arts career exploration program in Barry County in partnership with a local chef and restaurant owner. The program helped one local youth develop a passion for the culinary business. In 2015, the 4-H’er applied for a job at a local restaurant. As this was her first job, she fully expected to be hired in the introductory role of dishwasher. However, due to her experience with the 4-H program, she landed an advanced position, helping in the food preparation area and assisting with catering events. She credits the 4-H culinary arts program with allowing her to explore her passions and providing the basic experience and skills needed to land a great first job in the restaurant business.

MSU Extension Statewide Impact

In 2015, the state’s $56.6 million investment in MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension generated more than $1 billion for Michigan residents. Every dollar the state invested in AgBioResearch and MSU Extension leveraged an additional $2.59 in federal funds and external contracts, grants and other revenues, including nearly $1.3 million leveraged by MSU Extension children and youth programs alone. As a result, MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch are able to serve Michigan residents with a benefit/cost ratio of 18:1.

These cost benefits are huge, but they are not the only benefits that MSU Extension brings to the state. Through MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development, more than 200,000 youth learn lifelong skills, develop leadership abilities and discover the value of community service. In addition, MSU Extension early childhood education programs prepare thousands of Michigan’s youngest children for school success.

MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer, committed to achieving excellence through a diverse workforce and inclusive culture that encourages all people to reach their full potential. Michigan State University Extension programs and materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran status. Issued in furtherance of MSU Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Jeffrey W. Dwyer, Director, MSU Extension, East Lansing, MI 48824. This information is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or bias against those not mentioned.


Accessibility Questions:

For questions about accessibility and/or if you need additional accommodations for a specific document, please send an email to ANR Communications & Marketing at