Plenty was said about the ways young people can be exposed to potential careers, especially skilled trades, during the Working in Wilkes expo for educators and employers at the Stone Center this past Friday.
The discussion that day begs mention of an organization that has addressed career exploration for a long time: Scouting (formerly the Boy Scouts of America and now Scouts BSA).
Completing the requirements for merit badges is the primary way this is accomplished for youths as young as 10 and not yet 18 in Scout troops. (Although girls within this age range can now be in the formerly all-boy program, troops are either all-boy or all-girl.)
When a Scout completes requirements for one of 135 different merit badges, he or she is presented an embroidered patch with a design unique for that merit badge. Scouts must pass requirements for certain merit badges and certain numbers of merit badges to advance in rank.
Roughly one-third of the 135 merit badges deal directly with certain job skills or careers. Those include animal science, animation, art, auto maintenance, aviation, chemistry, composite materials, dentistry, drafting, electricity, electronics, energy, engineering, entrepreneurship, farm mechanics, fingerprinting, fish and wildlife management, forestry, game design, geology, graphic arts, journalism, landscape architecture, law, medicine, mining in society, moviemaking, nuclear science, plant science, plumbing, programming, public health, pulp and paper, radio, robotics, salesmanship, surveying, sustainability, textile, traffic safety, truck transportation, veterinary medicine, weather and welding.
Many of these require researching careers in the subject fields. Many of the other merit badges relate to certain careers.
The biggest limiting factor a Scout often faces in choosing merit badges to pursue is finding a qualified and willing adult to be the counselor. This means being the teacher and signing off that requirements were met. Merit badge counselors can make a big difference in lives of Scouts by stirring their interest and helping them discover their strengths.
Scouts can work on merit badges individually or as part of groups of Scouts within their troop, at summer camp and at “merit badge colleges.” When Wilkes Community College hosts merit badge colleges each year, WCC facilities and instructors are utilized for merit badges such as composite materials, welding, electronics and plumbing.
A Scout must complete requirements for 21 merit badges, including 13 specific merit badges, to achieve the top rank of Eagle Scout. These 13 are designed to help them develop valuable life skills. For example, requirements for one of the 13 - personal management merit badge - are intended to help youths become financially responsible.
Only having 13 “required” merit badges means Scouts have a great deal of freedom in the merit badges they seek, thus freeing them to pursue merit badges that could start them on lifelong interests and even careers.