“What do you want to study after high school?” “What career do you want to pursue?” As a junior high student, I clearly remember being asked to write a paper on these questions and researching the details of being a dental hygienist, which seemed very interesting at the time. That idea eventually faded, and in the years that followed, many mentors guided me, even though I wasn’t sure where I was headed and whether I could make it in college.
Youth programs have a role to play in encouraging higher education and future careers. In 2010, Graham Cochran and others from The Ohio State University challenged Extension staff across the country to review the role of youth programs in preparing youth for their futures, and to teach skills that are useful for the twenty-first century. We don’t need to develop new programs to meet this challenge – we can simply add components such as resume building, interviews and team building into existing ones. We can also foster relationships between youth and local businesses, who hire teens and can also play a role in preparing future employees.
Here at the Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development, we have set goals around preparing youth for higher education – which includes all types of education beyond high school. This year, teams in our center are developing plans to reach these targets. It has been exciting to hear my colleagues’ ideas and the enthusiasm when they talk about ways to reach our goals. Just yesterday, a group of youth workers here committed to developing campus tours to a variety of higher education institutes, along with a trip to the state capitol. Campus tours, working with local businesses, program alumni mentors, and a focus on job skills are ways that programs can be enhanced to focus on higher education. Are you focusing on higher education and careers in your youth program? What has worked well?
As I look back to my own career preparation, it was critical for me to connect with educated people, explore courses before deciding on a major, and have hands-on work experiences, too. All of these things plant the seed for higher education to help youth – and even adults – prepare for the workforce.
-- Nancy Hegland, Extension program leader, Youth Development
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