Two new contests at 2012 State Fair provide real world experience

Nebraska State Fair opens Friday.
Nebraska State Fair opens Friday.

Two new contests aimed at exposing youth to real world experience will be unveiled at the 2012 Nebraska State Fair Aug. 24-Sept. 3 at Fonner Park in Grand Island.

"Our goal is to provide youth with hands-on activities which will help them prepare for a successful future," said Shane Potter, extension educator in 4-H youth development at UNL.

The first new contest, scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 26, is an interview judging contest, where participants will be evaluated on how well they complete three steps of a job application process for one of three fictitious jobs: veterinary assistant, 4-H camp counselor and political intern.

Based on the three job descriptions posted on the 4-H Nebraska State Fairbook website, participants must complete a cover letter and resume beforehand and turn them in on the day of the contest. During the contest, participants will fill out a job application and interview for a position.

To simulate an actual job application process, Potter has invited UNL's Career Services and employers from outside the university, such as Union Pacific, to help conduct the interviews and judge the contest.

"We want the experience to be as close to real life as we can make it," he said.

After the interviews, Career Services staff and employers will provide critiques to participants. The feedback will be valuable to show participants how they can improve, Potter said.

The second contest, called the Great Question Challenge, is being held in partnership with the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and will let youth explore real world opportunities in entrepreneurship.

Teams of two to four 4-H youth must come up with a feasible solution to decrease food wastage.

"The main purpose is building entrepreneurial skills," Potter said. "The concept is the same as if you're going to start a business, it's about finding a need and figuring out how to meet that need."

All teams will present their solution to a panel of judges at the state fair from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 3. The winning team in each of the two divisions – ages 12 to 14 and 15 to 19 – will receive $500 to put their plan into action.

Potter said the contest will continue in subsequent years with a timely problem for teams to solve each year. For more about this contest, visit the page on the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program website.

Interactive activities will continue to be a staple at the fair in addition to other 4-H contests, Potter said. Each day, activities will highlight a different area of 4-H, such as leadership and citizenship, science, healthy living, agriculture literacy, career development and youth entrepreneurship.

Through direct participation in these activities, Potter hopes the public will appreciate and be engaged in what 4-H youth are doing. After all, the State Fair is not just a one-time event or activity, Potter said.

"It's the capstone – a celebration of what these 4-Hers have accomplished throughout the year," he said.

Also at the fair, the UNL Food Processing Center booth in the FFA-4-H Building will offer samples of food products made in Nebraska. More than 20 food companies will be available to provide samples and information regarding their products. Visitors to the exhibit will be able to taste products including lemonade, seasoning blends, jellies, pasta sauce, beef jerky, popcorn, salad dressing, noodles, apple dip, soda, sunflower seeds, coffee, marinades, barbecue sauces and more.

For more information, including a map and schedule, visit the Nebraska State Fair website.

- Sandi Alswager Karstens, IANR News