Impact Reports

4-H Teen Conference

2014

Helping young people explore multiple and flexible pathways for a successful future

Nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young adults are neither attending school nor working. The employment rate for youth ages 16 to 19 has dropped 42% since 2000. To address these concerns, Washington State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program organizes and sponsors the annual 4-H Teen Conference to assist youth in finding answers for their future.

The last 10 years have been the most challenging decade in 50 years for young people to transition to adulthood, earn a degree, get a job, and stand on their own financially. Nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young adults neither attend school nor work. The employment rate for youth ages 16 to 19 has dropped 42% since 2000. In 2011, only 24% of 16- to 19-year-olds and 60% of 20- to 24-year-olds were employed. These youth are veering toward chronic unemployment as adults, and failing to gain the skills employers require in today’s job market. When young people lack connections to jobs and school, the government spends more to support them.

Yet, as young people struggle to gain experience and find any type of job, businesses cannot find the skilled workers they need to compete in the ever-changing, 21st Century economy. Part of the challenge is the gap between young people’s skills and the qualifications needed for available jobs. More than three-quarters of job openings in the next decade will require skills obtained beyond high school. McKindsey Global Institute predicts that by 2020, the United States will fall short of workers with college and graduate degrees by 1.5 million, but will have a surplus of nearly 6 million unemployed individuals who have not completed high school. In 2011, the National Center for Education Statistics reported Washington’s graduation rate was only 73.7%.

To address these concerns, Washington State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program organizes and sponsors the annual 4-H Teen Conference to assist youth in finding answers for their future. The 3-day event, held on the WSU Pullman campus, focuses on identifying post-secondary educational options, exploring careers, and developing life skills, including workforce preparation. More than 60 workshops connect youth to educational and employment skills and options, provide support for transitioning from high school to college, and help them strengthen skills to move into the work force. Activities, networking, and mentoring connect youth to education and training pathways that prepare them for jobs and economic success. Young people with academic know-how, technical skills, and essential “soft skills” to hold a job, can launch a career.

Conference objectives include:

  • Opportunities for teens of all backgrounds across Washington to come together to engage in educational programs applicable to their lives;

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