Youth engage in statewide 4-H Career Pathways Academy

Iowa State University Extension
4-H Career Pathways Academy youth learn how to take blood pressure readings at the September Healthcare Find Your Spark workshop.

Youth in grades 8-12 from across Iowa have been participating in the year-long 4-H Career Pathways Academy program. They are exploring opportunities for higher education and careers in education, healthcare, agriculture, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), skilled trades and entrepreneurship.

The Iowa 4-H Career Pathways Academy kicked off in June at the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference on the Iowa State University campus. Since then 40 youth participants from across Iowa have been engaging each month in the college and career exploration program.

“The intent of this program is to engage youth in research-based educational opportunities that get them excited about pathways after high school,” said Cayla Taylor, 4-H senior program manager who leads the Career Pathways Academy for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “Whether through pathways to higher educational pursuits or pathways to the workforce, 4-H plays a key role in preparing young people with skills, experiences and opportunities to explore a variety of career fields.”

Youth engage each month in a Find Your Spark educational workshop where they immerse themselves in hands-on learning experiences in a career field. The workshops also entail learning from local professionals working in the specific career field as well as connecting to local community colleges or universities with relevant college majors.

In September the youth explored healthcare at Mercy College of Health Sciences, Des Moines, and Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, Storm Lake. In October they explored agriculture at Iowa Central Community College, Fort Dodge.

In November the youth will examine STEAM opportunities at Iowa State University College of Design in Ames and at Northwestern College, Orange City. During December they’ll explore skilled trades at Southwestern Community College, Creston, and Indian Hills Community College, Ottumwa.

The Find Your Spark monthly sessions are led by trained 4-H AmeriCorps members who serve as local mentors for the youth participants. The members are also responsible for engaging youth between sessions in their own personal career exploration in addition to connecting youth to other related opportunities and programs through 4-H. Next spring, youth participants will identify their own career fields of interest and engage in externship opportunities in or near their local communities, as well as attend workshops to learn and develop important life and employability skills.

For more information on Iowa 4-H or the 4-H Career Pathways Academy, please visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/ or contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office.