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4-H is Growing Workforce Preparation

workforce prepThe business world says that there are not enough young people with strong communication skills, work ethic, and leadership skills to fill today’s workforce pipeline. Through schoolwork, youth can gain knowledge and skills in areas like reading, writing, math and science. Working hard in school and taking advantage of all the opportunities available is very important, but it is not enough. By stepping up and doing more outside of school, it gives them a head start. Skills such as thinking skills; communication; teamwork and leadership; lifelong learning and self-direction; technology adoption and application; and professionalism and ethics are called 21st century skills (or life skills). These skills have not replaced the technical skills of doing a specific job. Rather, they are the skills necessary for almost all jobs and they are becoming more important every day.

The great news is that youth participating in 4-H are on the right path to obtaining these skills employers seek because 4-H projects, events, and activities incorporate workforce development skills regardless of the subject matter content. In fact, thousands of 4-H Alumni credit 4-H with their success in work and personal life. You can read some of their stories in our 4-H Press Room or watch the video below to learn how Commissioner of Ag Adam Putnam got his start in 4-H.

It’s never too early to start, and 4-H volunteers and parents play a critical role in helping youth gain skills and experiences through the pre-employment process. Below are ideas that will assist youth on the path to a successful career.

Career Awareness and Exploration

☐ Advise youth to read a book or do online research on six different career areas that interest them

☐ Start a job journal where they keep notes on different jobs.

☐ Have them to interview someone they know about their career.

☐ Contribute to a blog about a workforce career or skill.

☐ Take an aptitude assessment to see what types of careers might fit their interests.

☐ Coordinate a field trip for your 4-h club to a business or organization.

☐ Participate in 4-H U to explore different careers and fields of study.

21st Century Skill Development

☐ Youth can conduct a talk or demonstration on a career of interest.

☐ They can volunteer for a leadership role on a committee, club, etc.

☐ They can teach an adult coworker, family member, teacher or club leader how to apply or use a

technology to improve what they are trying to do.

☐ They can ask their teacher, parent, boss or club leader once a week (or whenever you meet) what they

can do to help out.

☐ Ask at least one question each day at school, home and work.

☐ Youth can attend a presentation on a workforce skill or topic.

☐ He/she can identify a skill area and write two goals and specific action items for improving your skill

in that area over the next six months.

Preparing for the Work World

☐ He or she can write a resume including project and work experiences and have an employer, educator

or parent review it.

☐ They can ask a friend, family member or adult leader to give you a practice interview, or apply to be a

summer camp counselor- part of the application includes an interview!

☐ Complete a 4-H Portfolio. The portfolio includes a resume and interview process. Top portfolios are awarded scholarships during 4-H U each year.

☐ Take an application scavenger hunt. Pick up or view multiple applications online to determine

what kinds of things are required for most applications and what the process includes.

☐ Club members can interview a human resource professional to learn about the employment process

and tips they suggest for improving your chance of success in the process

☐ They can apply for a job, trip, office or volunteer experience that requires them to go through an

application and interview process. Don’t forget they can always turn down an offer.

Work-Based Learning (Employment or Service)

☐ They can serve as a camp counselor or a 4-H Ambassador.

☐ Club members can ask their parent for feedback on their performance with a household task or chore.

☐ Can serve as a volunteer at a business or organization.

☐ They can discuss with their current employer other career opportunities.

☐ Mentor a younger youth.

Encourage young people to start thinking about their experiences and accomplishments. They all have unique abilities, talents, skills, knowledge, and gifts. By learning to recognize the valuable skills they have gained, they can pinpoint their interests and help them to discover what types of career they may want to explore!  If you are have skills you would like to share to help today’s youth become tomorrow’s workforce, visit or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

4-H Grows Creativity through Robotics Programs


A scribble bot was built by a team of Gadsden County 4-Hers during the “It’s Alive! Junk Drawer Robotics Day Camp.”

More than 60 youth participated in the district Junk Drawer Robotics Challenge this summer.

More than 60 youth participated in the district Junk Drawer Robotics Challenge this summer.

Everyone has a measure of creativity in them but how we express our creativity is our choice. What is creativity? I am glad you asked. Creativity is defined as the ability to make new things or think of new ideas. Creativity can be expressed in a tangible or intangible way. It is also the ability to take something known and present it or use it in a new way.  So how does Florida 4-H grow creativity in our youth? Well, you know I am glad you asked that too. One way is that Florida 4-H provides opportunities for youth to express their creativity through their project work in one of the national 4-H initiatives: 4-H Science, Healthy Living, Citizenship, and Mentoring.

One of the ways that Florida 4-H is growing creativity is through our Junk Drawer Robotics Program.  The 4-H Robotics Program is designed not only to teach youth about science and physics, but also the engineering design process.  Every good engineer is creative!  Several counties offered a day camp this summer to teach youth about forms of energy, gears, motors, switches, circuits, and pulleys.  Then, they were given everyday “junk” to build a robot and make it move or complete a task using the science concepts they had learned.  Youth worked in teams and used their creativity and curiosity to design, build, and test their robotics.  Youth came together for a district challenge in July and will also have the opportunity to compete November 14th during 4-H Day at the North Florida Fair at the Junk Drawer Robotics Contest.  Last year, more than 20 teams competed to build robots that could paint out of scrub brushes, solo cups, and toothbrushes.

Florida 4-H is sending a team of youth and volunteers to the National Maker Summit in Washington, DC November 7th.  The Maker National Youth Summit is for the creative and curious young minds of the next generation of innovators. Participants make what they can with a variety of materials from a range of fields, utilizing their resourcefulness and creativity.  That same weekend, a 4-H Tech Wizards Team will be hosting a SeaPerch Challenge during the 4-H Marine Ecology EventSeaPerch is an underwater remote controlled robotic platform that Florida 4-Hers can participate in.   Engaging in Florida 4-H from the county to state levels opens an array of opportunities for creative expression via leadership roles, volunteer service, public speaking, teaching, photography, talent showcase, culinary arts, and many other areas. Learn more about opportunities for youth on our webpage or watch this month’s Make a Difference Monday volunteer training on how to Navigate 4-H Events and Activities. 

There are many opportunities with Florida 4-H for creativity expression but did you know many youth will not have the chance. Why, you ask? I am definitely glad you did. We need more adults who will be committed to the positive youth development process that happens with 4-H to become a club volunteer. Working with the local 4-H Agent as part of the leadership team, you will find many avenues as well for creativity expression and growth as you help local youth; “Make their Best Better.”  Learn more about our volunteer opportunities with Florida 4-H: or contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.

Counselors practices leadership skills by leading teambuilding activities at robotics day camps

Counselors practices leadership skills by leading teambuilding activities at robotics day camps

4-H Grows Responsibility

Noah, a Holmes County 4-H member, is learning responsibility through the 4-H Chick Chain project.

Noah, a Holmes County 4-H member, is learning responsibility through the 4-H Chick Chain project.

Regardless of the age-old debate, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” one thing is certain- raising chickens is a big responsibility. One of the newest and most creative ways that some of our Florida 4-Hers are learning the importance of being responsible is through the 4-H Chick Chain pilot program.

This year, six counties in the Florida Panhandle partnered with Alabama 4-H to offer the Chick Chain program. The goal of this project is to help youth learn life and workforce skills while learning how to raise and show chickens. Thirty-six Florida 4-H members chose to take on the responsibility of raising 18, two-day old chicks from May through October. Over the course of the program, youth participated in workshops to learn how to care for their chicks, keep records of their project, and how to prepare their animals for a show. This past Saturday marked the culminating event of the project when youth participated in a show and auction in Ozark, AL. During this event, youth competed in a showmanship competition, record book competition, and poultry quiz. All three events counted towards their overall score.

Members also had a short course in entrepreneurship- they were required to meet with potential buyers and market their hens. Life skills were clearly present in every aspect of the 4-H Chick Chain program which aided youth in the further development of not only responsibility but also confidence, capability, and compassion.  When asked about his experiment, Noah, a Holmes County 4-Her shared:

“Chick Chain is a great opportunity to learn about responsibility and respect for other people and animals. You get to raise 18 of your very own chickens for a couple months and then get to take them  to a show with your fellow 4Her’s to compete for ribbons and money. You also learn about proper sportsmanship.  I love it!”

Based on participant’s feedback, we will be expanding the pilot next year and making some exciting programmatic changes. Holmes County 4-H parent and club leader, Jewellyn Owens, was instrumental in developing the Chick Chain pilot for Florida because she saw the potential this program had to help youth learn valuable life skills while increasing their knowledge about agriculture. Jewellyn shares:

“My family Loves Chick Chain. It is a great program for children wanting to do a 4-H livestock program but their parents don’t feel they are ready yet or can’t afford the cost of the larger livestock. Chick Chain has taught my children respect, sportsmanship, caring for another living creature and responsibility. My children love seeing their chicks grow from 2 day chicks to full grown egg laying chickens. Best part is getting to eat their chicken’s eggs. I also feel it teaches them other aspects of life like record keeping, writing, leadership skills, financial responsibility all things that will help them years down the road.”

4-Hers spent 6 weeks learning how to care for their chicks, biosecurity, showmanship, and recordkeeping.

4-Hers spent 6 weeks learning how to care for their chicks, biosecurity, showmanship, and recordkeeping.

If you would like to help 4-H grow responsibility in your community (through this program or others) consider becoming a 4-H volunteer. For more information about becoming a volunteer, or to find out about next year’s 4-H Chick Chain program, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office. We are also looking for sponsors to help expand this program.

For more information, check out:

4-H Grows Character

IMG_1514Growing up, we lived on a farm. At the age of 8, and not weighing much more than 50 pounds, my dad called me outside to a relatively small pen that he had fenced off the weekend before. He taught ag, so farming was more of a hobby for us, but this was something new. I noticed my grandpa’s old beat up blue horse trailer backed to the pen’s gate. I can remember my dad helping me climb onto the wheel well of the trailer and peek through the slats to see two yearling steers. One black and one red and white. “Which one do you want?” he asked. At the time I didn’t know that the judge always picks the black cow to win, in fact, I didn’t know there were any judges involved at all. I didn’t know why these cows were at our house about to go into a special pen. All I knew was that red cow was beautiful, and that’s the one I chose. My dad laughed and said, “He’s a haus.” So that became his name.

As it turns out, Haus was a show steer. With my dad’s help I spent a lot of cold, dark evenings after school walking that steer with fingers so numb I thought they’d break off if he jerked too hard. I learned to groom him. I learned to lead him. I learned how to feed him properly. And I learned that extra hoses and an automatic waterer were well worth the investment the next year when it cut down on the number of trips I had to make with cumbersome, sloshing, five gallon buckets of water to make sure the cows didn’t go thirsty.

I quickly fell in love with the whole idea of showing cattle, and by the Fed Cattle Show, Haus was well over 1,500 lbs. Incidentally, I hadn’t gained an ounce – in retrospect it might have had something to do with hauling those buckets of feed and water. However, I wasn’t scared. You see, as Haus grew, so did I. Not physically as I mentioned before, but my skill had grown, and so had my confidence.

For those of you who don’t know, showing cattle isn’t like other 4-H competitions where you are placed in age categories. The classes are based on animal weight in a steer show. So I walked in the ring to show with people more than twice my age. I didn’t know any better. As luck would have it, Haus not only placed first in his class, but he placed 2nd in the show as Reserve Grand Champion behind the steer everyone said was the clear favorite. What they couldn’t believe was that an eight year girl with less than a year of show experience and a white-faced red cow had beaten a sixteen year old veteran pro with a pure bread black Angus on her lead.  Apparently it was a bit of a toss up between her steer and mine as to which would take the Reserve Champion spot.  And as I was repeatedly told, when it’s close, the black cow always wins – no matter who’s on the lead.

From this experience I learned that it didn’t matter my age or size, I could do anything. The confidence I gained from this experience sparked a courage in me that pushed me to become a champion in poultry, livestock, and land judging, in public speaking, and in showing rabbits, chickens and hogs as well.   I used each of those experiences to fuel countless other successes in life.  And each time I was further building that courage.  The same courage that gave me the strength of character to be honest, to show integrity when it’s not easy, and to care for others around me.  It gave me the strength of character to make wise choices even when they were widely unpopular and to stand alone when it would have been easier to follow the crowd.

It certainly hasn’t always been easy. And I’ve failed a time or two. But, I continue to grow – much like the 4-H motto suggests, “To Make the Best Better”. I will be forever grateful to my mom and dad for choosing 4-H as the vehicle to start my lifelong journey toward an upstanding character. Through them and their support and guidance I came in contact with agents, volunteers, and friends from other clubs and counties who have helped me grow.  Now it’s my turn and yours to inspire the next generation. How will you empower youth in your community to grow through 4-H? 4-H offers a wide range of opportunities for youth and adults- everything from animal science to aerospace.  To volunteer or enroll a child in 4-H, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit   It’s never too late to start growing character and make a positive difference!