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Taking 4-H into the future

It’s 4-H Fair week! One of the things you may not know about the 4-H Fair is that it can help young people develop the skills they need to be successful in a career. While many people are familiar with the skills that could apply to specific careers (animal care, growing plants, cooking, sewing, art, etc.), the 4-H Fair also provides opportunities for youth to learn skills that are applicable to a wide range of career opportunities.

Many job listings will specify a candidate with strong communication skills. At the 4-H Fair, youth are required to share their project with a judge. They must answer questions about their exhibit and what they learned, and receive feedback from the judge. If the 4-Her cannot be present for judging, he or she must include a written report summarizing the exhibit. The conference judging process provides opportunities for youth to practice the communication skills they will need in almost any career they choose.

Another frequently-mentioned attribute in job listings is organizational skills. Whether the 4-Her is enrolled in one project or several, he or she must keep organized records, return enrollment forms by specified deadlines, and present a neat and orderly project exhibit for judging. Making a poster, preparing a foods exhibit and grooming an animal all require the organization and attention to detail that many employers are looking for.

Looking for team players? Four-Hers are good at that too. Many 4-H exhibits are prepared individually, but each 4-H member is also part of a club or group. At the fair, you will often see club members encouraging and helping each other. When a 4-Her is not able to take their exhibit to the judge, another member of the club takes it in for them. If an exhibit is too heavy for one person to carry, others volunteer to help. When an exhibitor has more than one animal in the same exhibit class, another 4-H member steps in and shows one of the animals.

Although not often mentioned in job ads, most employers are looking for honest employees with integrity and good character. When participating in the 4-H Fair, youth are expected to do their own work, show good sportsmanship, and accept both criticism and praise with dignity. And when they exhibit at the 4-H Fair, they not only represent themselves, but also their club and their county.

And if what you are looking for is someone who is willing to go above and beyond, stop by the 4-H Fair today, and you will see many examples of that. Four-Hers see exhibit requirements as an exciting challenge, and many will put in extra work to make their projects really shine. They take pride in their work, and do their best to prepare great exhibits.

The 4-H Fair is a great place for young people to develop career skills. If you don’t believe me, consider this: I was offered an interview for my first part-time job at a 4-H meeting after giving a presentation on my 4-H Fair project.

I hope that you have made it out to the 4-H Fair to see the amazing exhibits that our outstanding young people have made this year. If you are looking for further career development opportunities, we will be having a special two-day career development certificate program for youth ages 15-18 on Aug. 1-2. Call our office today to sign up.

Jennifer Caldwell is the program coordinator for 4-H and youth development at the University of Illinois Extension — Bureau County.

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