4-H Program Serves as Avenue for Career Exploration

Melissa Cater

Selecting a career path is one of the most challenging decisions an adolescent makes, and it is one that often complicated by not knowing how to make such an important, life-changing choice. When youth face barriers like the increasing cost of post-secondary train­ing or a lack of support from family or peers, the decision becomes even more difficult. It is not uncommon for youth to be unsure about the steps they should take in making a career choice. Additionally, the internet and other sources can provide too much informa­tion for youth to sort and organize so a decision can be made. In the face of all these hurdles, youth often rely on infor­mal sources of information and their own experiences to make a career path determination.

The programs offered by Louisiana 4-H play an important role in adoles­cents’ career exploration process and provide a natural complement to the work of local school systems. Many 4-H programs include an intentional career component, such as field trips and visits with professionals. Youth have the opportunity to ask questions and to experience the work firsthand. For this particular study, youth were actively engaged in educational club meeting lessons. Some youth also had access to additional field trip opportunities and job shadowing experiences.

The purpose of this study was to determine if changes occurred in 4-H club members’ career decision-making confidence as a result of their partici­pation in the club program. Data were collected from a cross section of 144 ninth- to 12th-graders 4-H Club mem­bers. Youth ranged in age from 12 to 18 years old, with the average age 13.9. Males (42.6 percent) and females (57.4 percent) were fairly equally represent­ed. A 14-item retrospective pretest questionnaire was adapted from the Middle School Self-Efficacy Scale and was distributed to youth in the spring after the club educational program was completed. A retrospective pretest questionnaire collects both pretest and posttest information at a single point in time. Responses were collected using a four-point, Likert-type scale with responses ranging from strongly dis­agree to strongly agree.

Two mean scores representing pre­test and posttest levels of confidence were created for each youth’s responses to the 14 items. Youth reported lower confidence levels at pretest (2.94) and higher confidence levels at posttest (3.45). There was a statistically signifi­cant increase from pretest to posttest. Youth experienced the most change in their confidence that they could decide what they valued most in an occupa­tion (Table 1).

Making a career choice is one of the most important decisions that a person makes. Programs like the Louisiana 4-H program can help increase ado­lescents’ confidence they can make a decision and they know the appro­priate actions to take in making the choice. Results of this program suggest that when youth engage in intentional career exploration programs, their con­fidence to make a decision increases. As the Louisiana 4-H program expands its focus to better meet the needs of today’s youth, programs like the educa­tional club program can fill an import­ant niche in the lives of youth.

Melissa Cater is an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation.

2/8/2017 5:55:57 PM
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