4-H Career Fair experience prepares youth

Michigan State University Extension helps youth prepare for their future through its “Touch the Future Career Fair.”

Our 2012 4-H Exploration Days event is history, but the impact continues. As a member of the Career Exploration and Workforce Preparation Workgroup, one of our identified outcomes is that young people will have the knowledge needed to choose appropriate post-secondary workforce training, entrepreneurial or career endeavors. I taught the Touch the Future Career Fair (TFCF) session to fourteen teens from across the state of Michigan.

The five-hour experience centered on participants completing skill assessment inventories to help them identify their interests, followed by on-line career/job research and a career fair. The teens were also coached on how to present themselves for informational interviewing. According to end of program evaluations, 93 percent of participants learned something in this session that he/she could apply to his/her future. Evaluations also revealed that:

  • More than half of the participants had set a goal for his/her job or career and found the self-assessments to be useful.
  • Learning the perfect business handshake and meeting with professionals as a part of the career fair was viewed as useful for 79 percent of participants.

After the session, two of our career fair professionals shared how much they each enjoyed working with our participants and one of them even offered to take on a larger volunteer role next year. Jolynne Judge, our contact with the MSU Veterinary Technology Program, shared the following:

“I found the students to be well-prepared for the interview. Even those students who were not interested in Veterinary Medicine were interactive and attentive. Every student introduced him/herself and some of them included where they were from. Knowing a student’s background helps establish rapport with the professional being interviewed. It is also useful to me as it offers insight into the type of educational opportunities available to each student (e.g. some rural high schools may be limited in the number of advanced science and math courses offered.) I can tailor any college preparation suggestions to individual situations.

Every student remembered to shake hands and introduce him or herself. It was apparent this was something they had practiced and polished. Kudos to their group leaders! In my opinion, a professional handshake is essential in creating a positive first impression at an interview. It is exciting for me to see young people learning how to act professionally so early in their educational careers. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Touch the Future Career Fair.”

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