Iowa 4-H Launches Inaugural Career Pathways Academy for Youth

Youth from across the state will explore future careers during the 12-month immersive program

March 31, 2022, 11:25 am | Valyn Bodensteiner, Cayla Taylor

AMES, Iowa – Young people learn by doing, as Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development knows well. That’s why Iowa 4-H is launching the 4-H Career Pathways Academy for all Iowa youth in grades 8-11 to explore pathways to college and career readiness.

This 12-month, immersive program will officially kick-off June 28-30 on the Iowa State University campus in conjunction with the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference. Event registration is open online on the 4-H Career Pathways Academy webpage. Cost to attend is $180 and financial assistance is available upon request.

4-H Career Pathways Academy.“We encourage all youth to consider participating in the academy, particularly those who may not have had access to opportunities for career exploration. Youth will learn about options for education after high school and how to be ready for the workforce,” said Cayla Taylor, director of the 4-H Career Pathways Academy.

Goals of the innovative program include:

  • Engaging youth in research-based educational opportunities that promote skill development. Youth will discover how to prepare for higher education and career pathways in high demand fields of study.
  • Providing hands-on workforce development training to build leadership, innovative thinking and entrepreneurial skills. Youth will also connect with local businesses to engage in externship opportunities.
  • Preparing youth for long-term academic and vocational success, leadership, civic engagement, employability and economic stability.

“Iowa has a continuing need for a skilled workforce, so it’s important to get our young people focused on college and career exploration at an early age,” said Taylor. “This program will include valuable experiential learning opportunities such as guest speakers, job site visits, and field trips in healthcare, education, manufacturing, agriculture, entrepreneurship and skilled trades.”

Taylor recently was promoted to senior program manager with ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development. She now leads the development of the 4-H Career Pathways Academy in addition to strengthening Iowa 4-H’s connection to scholarly learning opportunities for young people. Taylor has been with the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program for the last 10 years, serving as an educational program manager and program coordinator. She holds a doctorate in agricultural education and studies with a specialization in extension education.

Looking ahead at the next year of the program, youth will engage in externship opportunities in the spring of 2023 in their fields of interest. Creation of the 4-H Career Pathways Academy is a first step in establishing a formal academy that serves as a hub for positive youth development research, teaching and outreach for Iowa State University.

“Iowa 4-H provides opportunities for youth to develop skills that they can use now and throughout their lives and is well positioned to connect young people to 21st Century skill development, entrepreneurship and apprenticeship opportunities,” said Debbie Nistler, state 4-H leader.

An informational session for potential industry partners to learn more and engage with the program was held on Friday, March 25, in the Extension 4-H Building in Ames. If you or your local business are interested in partnering with the program, please fill out the 4-H Career Pathways Academy partner interest form for more information.

For more information on Iowa 4-H or the 4-H Career Pathways Academy, please visit or contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office.

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