By Ryan Metivier Planning your future is never an easy task, and preparing for post-secondary education can be a huge undertaking for high school students trying to choose their career paths. Recently, 4-H Ontario hosted their popular Career Mania camp. This year’s camp had 17 youth ages 14-18 participate from July 22 – 26. “The camp has transitioned over the years from being two separate conferences (Career Mania and Future Talk), to combining them into one,” said Marianne Fallis, Senior Manager, Programming, 4-H Ontario. “The focus is not just on careers, we also have elements of public speaking and presentation style as well. Career Mania is a chance for participants to explore post-secondary and career options that they may not have considered previously. In addition to going on tours of the University of Guelph (UofG) and Conestoga campuses, participants are given the opportunity to live like a student as well, staying in the UofG residence and eating in the cafeteria. Other activities throughout the week included team-building activities, personality style analysis, goal setting, resume, cover letter, portfolio, interviewing, networking and social media workshops, a dinner etiquette course, an “AgMazing Race”, opportunity to present a speech to the group, and a presentation on opportunities in agriculture and food by Rene Van Acker, Professor, Associate Dean External Relations, OAC, UofG. Rebecca Haan is going into grade 11 and is part of the 4-H Swine Club. Living on a swine farm and hoping to attend school in food production to be a swine farmer, she signed up for Career Mania to try and learn more about production and what she can do in the future. “I learned a bit more about where I can go for information and more interesting facts about the university of Guelph,” she said about her time at Career Mania. “The Agmazing Race sounds like a lot of fun and I’m really excited to give my speech on my family farm.” “At this point at the age of 14 years old, it’s a prime time for them to start exploring their future careers,” said Matt Hill, Coordinator, Volunteer Support – Region 1 & First Nations Engagement, 4-H Ontario. “They are leaders naturally, but we want to support them by providing the right tools to help them make excellent career choices that will benefit them in the long run. Andrew Grose is also going into grade 11 and has been in 4-H since he was 10. “I’m looking into computer jobs, so I signed up to see if there were any computer-type jobs in the agriculture market,” he said. Laura DeKlein and Sarah Long were also 4-H members in attendance who enjoyed the Career Mania experience. “I like meeting other 4-H members and haven’t decided what I want to do in the future so this gives me a lot of interactive and fun career opportunities and experiences,” said DeKlein. “I wanted to see the different aspects of post-secondary which is why I signed up,” said Long. “I will probably do something in Guelph with plant or food science.” Student recruiter for Conestoga, Jan Stroh, was on hand for the Conestoga tour. As a 4-H alumni member who’d attended the camp herself as a youth, she had some advice for high school students looking to plan their future. “The key message is to keep your doors open,” she said. “There is a huge amount of variety and options out there and just at Conestoga we offer a variety of credentials from certificates, to diplomas and degrees.” A professor and coordinator of the Robotics & Automation program at Conestoga, John Tielemans also had some words of advice for participants of Career Mania. “The best thing is look ahead, see what you want to do and prepare,” he said. “Even if it’s not to learn the material, if you’re going into something to do with electronics, look it over and get a little familiar. And as far as homework goes, it’s like sports. The only way to be really good is to practice, practice, practice. Get ready for that massive three or four year job interview (referring to your post-secondary program) and make sure that your peers see you as a top student. If they do, they’ll get you jobs when they graduate too.” Career Mania surely opened the eyes of all involved to the world of career opportunities and the tools they need to land the job they’re looking for. “We want to challenge them to think, to grow, see where they want to be in the future and have fun doing it,” said Hill. “Doing career exploration doesn’t mean that you have to sit and be lectured at and not have fun. This week we’re hoping that they’ll have fun, but also take a lot of the key learning, through hands-on, fun activities.”