Teenage youth examine a filled jar.

New Curriculum Prepares Rural Youth for 21st Century Careers

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The transition from high school to the workforce or college can be challenging for even the most well-supported youth. Many feel anxious or lost as they take the first steps toward adulthood.  

Youth in rural, high-need communities may experience unique challenges. For example, the availability of educators trained in specialty topics is often limited, and exposure to diverse career options may be limited due to geographic isolation. As a result, youth may feel limited in their future college or career options.  

A collaborative team of Extension professionals from North Dakota and South Dakota developed LaunchSkills, a collection of learning opportunities designed to engage high school students and the educators who work with these youth.  

The curriculum prepares youth for college and career, providing exposure to career opportunities and post-secondary education and highlights careers in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences, sectors that are relevant and available in many high-need communities.  

“This innovative learning approach engages high school students in high-need, rural communities to prepare them to be contributing members of the 21st century workforce,” says Meagan Hoffman, NDSU Extension 4-H youth development specialist. “The curriculum can be used by teachers to help youth gain important life-readiness skills and improve their social-emotional learning skills.”  

The LaunchSkills curriculum includes a book of lesson plans focusing on readiness skills, a virtual career camp that highlights specific careers, a “Careers in a Box” component with activities to help youth experience aspects of various careers and a webinar series for educators.  

The curriculum includes both careers that require an advanced degree and those that do not.  

The LaunchSkills collaborators received a grant to implement the program in three counties in North Dakota and three in South Dakota during the first year, reaching 532 youth. Since then, LaunchSkills continues to expand, reaching more youth in both states and educators across the U.S.  


Meagan Hoffman, (701)