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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.

Growing Gardens with 4-H Clubs and Schools

Outgrown clogs can make an excellent container garden.

Outgrown clogs can make an excellent container garden.

Research shows that gardening in school and clubs positively influences youth environmental attitudes, nutritional attitudes, self-esteem, test scores, school attitudes, interpersonal skills, social concerns and behavior. For example, students in third and fifth-grade who learn science through gardening scored higher than students who did not learn science through the use of a garden (National Gardening Association, 2002). The first step is helping your club or class select a garden style. The three most common types of gardens are raised-beds, container, and your typical in-ground garden. This article will provide some tips in helping you decide what type garden is perfect for your 4-H Club or 4-H Classroom.

Container GardensContainer gardens are extremely kid-friendly and are an excellent choice if you have little space, poor soil, or are surrounded by cement and blacktop. Even the smallest outdoor nook can feature a thriving crop of vegetables, herbs, and flowers in containers.

 Benefits of Container Gardening Include:

  • Maximizing your space. You can take advantage of small areas like sunny window ledges and courtyards.
  • Testing the waters. You may want to make sure gardening will work well with your club before committing lots of resources.
  • Portability. If you are faced with challenges — vandalism and theft, or upcoming construction that will displace your plots — you can design container gardens that can be easily moved on a daily or seasonal basis.
  • Soil control. By using containers, you can be confident about the safety of your growing media and enjoy eating your harvest. This is a concern where soil may be contaminated with lead or other industrial pollutants.
  • Blacktop greening. Perhaps you are in an area void of soil and green space. You can place containers on concrete or cement surfaces.
  • Deer, rabbits, and other wildlife are less likely to dine on plants in your container garden.
  • Keep in mind though, that bigger is often better. The bigger your container, the more soil it will hold.  In container gardening, more soil means better water retention, which means you have more latitude with watering and that usually increases your chances of success.
Jefferson County 4-H Agent, John Lilly, shows teachers how to prepare a raised bed garden.

Jefferson County 4-H Agent, John Lilly, shows teachers how to prepare a raised bed garden.

Raised-bed GardensA raised bed garden is built from wood or plastic boards, typically four feet wide and as long as desired (four-feet-by-four feet for square foot gardening, up to 14 feet long rectangular beds). Because much of Florida soil is sandy and does not hold many nutrients, the deeper the garden beds, the better the soil will be. Many schools stack two boards on top of one another to achieve a 10 to 12-inch high garden bed, using 18-inch wooden stakes to keep the boards together. Potting mix, compost or garden sand from the site itself are added to fill the boxes, leaving two inches from the top as clearance. Raised beds help prevent kids from walking on delicate plant roots, clearly marks the boundaries of the bed and reduces some soil-borne pest problems. Clubs in urban areas have constructed raised beds directly on asphalt or concrete surfaces with successful results.

Benefits of Raised-Bed Gardening include:

  • More control over the location of the garden
  • Ability to choose the best soil for your particular plants
  • More efficient draining
  • Can be easier on backs and knees due to less bending and stooping
  • Easier to keep out weeds
  • The soil warms up earlier in a raised bed, so you can plant earlier and extend your growing season
The 4-H gardening project teaches valuable science and life skills.

The 4-H gardening project teaches valuable science and life skills.

In-Ground GardensVegetables, fruit trees, and flowerbeds (such as butterfly gardens) can all grow directly in the ground, as farmers have for centuries. Gardens can be as small as four-feet-by-four-feet, or as large as the garden committee is willing to implement. Before planning a garden, dig several holes at the proposed site to collect soil samples for a pH test and to determine the soil type. Your local County Extension Office can test the soil. Most plants grow best with a pH of seven, but some have different pH requirements. Low-lying or seasonally moist areas will require different plants than high, dry, sunny areas with sandy soil.

Benefits of In-Ground Gardening Include:

  • Use of existing soil. Most soils are perfectly fine for gardening, provided the soil is properly tilled, mulched and watered. Even without organic amendments, most soils can produce a bountiful harvest.
  • Less start-up work (and cost). A flat, well-drained area can be quickly and easily prepared with a large rotor-tiller. You can also save on soil and bed or container materials.
  • An in-ground garden can easily be replaced by another crop or moved to another location.
  • Lower water requirements. In-ground beds won’t dry out as quickly as raised beds and will, therefore, require less water to maintain.
  • Irrigation systems for flat, in-ground gardens are simple to design and easy to install compared to raise beds that require careful design and installation.

If you have a green thumb, consider going “totally green” as a 4-H gardening volunteer! 4-H needs caring adults like you to share their knowledge and passion for gardening with the next generation. Through the 4-H gardening project, youth not only learn gardening knowledge and skills, they also learn responsibility, teamwork, and other life skills that will help them grow up to be compassionate and competent citizens. To get involved, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or visit

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Teen Volunteers: Impacting Their Communities

John G. Lilly

Jefferson County Extension Director/4-H Agent

Young people in 4-H are committed to improving their communities. Dr. Richard Lerner, and the team at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University highlights a notable trend. 4-H youth are three times more likely to actively contribute to their communities when compared with youth who do not participate in 4-H. (more…)

4-H Volunteers Reporting on Child Abuse and Neglect


“Our 4-H volunteers strive to provide a positive learning experience for all youth,  reassuring parents that their children are in safe and nurturing environments, but what do you do when you recognize child abuse?  How do you deal with it?”

“Our 4-H volunteers strive to provide a positive learning experience for all youth, reassuring parents that their children are in safe and nurturing environments, but what do you do when you recognize child abuse? How do you deal with it?”

As members of a youth serving organization it is important that adults are aware of their responsibility for child safety. Our hope is that all children will live in a safe environment, but we know that children are exposed to neglect and abuse. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves and the children with whom we work about the risks to the welfare of a child. It is mandated by law as a volunteer with the Florida Cooperative Extension Service that you must report suspected child abuse cases to your Florida Department of Children and Families. (more…)