The following is a speech written by YAC member and one of our 2015 Leadership Excellence Awards of Distinction recipients, Cameron Choquette who had the opportunity to be speak as part of the “Connecting Youth to Agriculture” Youth Panel at the Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council, Growing the AgriWorkforce Summit in March of this year. Below is a copy of his speech.
Passionate, engaged, interested and confident. These words describe 4-H’ers.
I am currently in my first year at the University of Saskatchewan working towards a degree in commerce. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree, I aspire to represent the interests and needs of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector and Canadian rural communities at the executive level of a national organization.
So where did this passion for agriculture and community engagement come from?
Well, I grew up on a farm and I’m involved with 4-H.
4-H’s caring adult leaders, who I have been fortunate enough to have as mentors throughout my years, taught me the values that have helped me become the leader I am today.
I have experienced an incredible amount of life-shaping opportunities through 4-H that are unique and incomparable to other organizations.
I have traveled across Canada, taken part in national programs where I have networked with my peers and industry leaders and I have received a number of scholarships.
One of these scholarships, in particular, is the 4-H Canada Leadership Excellence Award of Distinction, also known as L.E.A.D.
Thanks to our partnership with the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) for the L.E.A.D. scholarships, I was one of four youth members to receive the first-ever L.E.A.D. scholarship representing the Community Engagement & Communications Leadership Development Pillar. I was awarded a $20,000 scholarship over four years and an amazing mentorship opportunity.
I'm proud to say that my mentor is Andrew Scheer, Member of Parliament for Regina-Qu'Appelle. Mr. Scheer was the previous Speaker in the House of Commons and is now a member of the Official Opposition in the House.
Partnerships, mentorships and experiential learning opportunities are what 4-H provides to our members and leaders. Through these opportunities, 4-H’ers build the skills they need to become strong leaders in our community.
I am a living example of how 4-H changes the lives of youth. I haven’t always been this outgoing and confident.
I attended my very first national 4-H opportunity in November of 2013 and I was scared out of my wits. They expected a small town kid to engage with 60 other teenagers, most of whom were extremely pretty girls.
I did my best but kept to myself most of the time, afraid of what others might think of me. I could describe myself in three words: shy, reserved and afraid.
By the time I went to the 2014 4-H Canada Citizenship Seminar in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, my life was changed. I went from being shy, reserved and afraid to outgoing, happy and confident.
The experiences 4-H offered me helped push me past my comfort zone and grow as a young person - 4-H changed my life.
I’ve heard a lot of questions today about the new skills that are needed to address the labour gap and the technological advances of the agriculture sector. The great news is that those same skills, in combination with the traditional agriculture skills, are what 4-H youth are interested in. These are the areas where they want to grow and make an impact, where they have valuable insights to share and innovations to create.
There are 4-H clubs and projects that now focus on rocketry, geocaching, small parts machinery and even robotics.
4-H is engaging youth at all levels, offering opportunities to explore the skill and knowledge that is relevant to them. 4-H helps young people grow as leaders in their communities, across Canada and around the world. Coming out of this conference, I hope everyone in this room, and the agriculture industry at large, will not only see the challenges we face but more importantly, envision the opportunities we have to empower our youth and redefine what it means to work in agriculture.
So talk to the young people in your communities and find ways to share your knowledge of the industry and the great careers and lifestyle opportunities that are available.
Invite youth to your conferences as observers or as speakers and involve them in policy and programming: it can provide a learning opportunity for everyone in the room.
Most importantly, when you talk about the future of agriculture, make sure you bring that authentic youth voice to the table. After all, we are the future.