CTE Program Offers Real-World Experience for Prospective Entrepreneurs
“Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” This familiar old adage is great sentiment and can be encouraging career advice. But it’s not always easy to make it a reality.
However, Emma Patrick, a senior at Smithson Valley High School (SVHS), may already have a head start at turning her first love into a fulfilling career thanks to Comal ISD’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. Since Emma was little, she’s loved art and fashion. With pencil in hand, she drew her first designs on empty outlines in fashion design books. Later, technology would give Emma better tools to explore her creativity. Today, she creates designs for unique shirts and other products that are sold in the school store where she works.
Learning The Business
Emma started in the Arts, A/V, Technology and Communications program, building her graphic design and technical skills. Soon, she realized a career in fashion marketing or product merchandising would require business savvy as well. She looked to another CTE cluster – the school’s Business, Marketing and Finance program – to develop those skills.
“We get to make our own designs for t-shirts and products. I really enjoy that,” Emma says. “But I know I also want to go into marketing. I like to research what sells and what doesn’t.”
In the business program, Emma and fellow students learn what it takes to run a business – product development, business planning, risk management, price, place, promotion and more. Students may take these principles with them to college or use them now to help the family business.
“They learn these skills on a small scale here,” says Gloria Wolfshohl, who teaches many of the business courses at SVHS. “The skills they learn here they can take with them for any industry, whether its mortgage banking, pet boarding, running a bakery, real estate, or computer engineering. They can start their own business.”
After learning the basics, students can deploy them in the real world – at The Valley Student Store. As part of one of the program’s advanced courses – Entrepreneurship – students run the store like a real small business. They create and manage a business plan and each student takes on a role in the business, from managing operations and sales to inventory and publicity.
“This class puts it all together,” Emma says. “I get to negotiate with vendors and determine what designs we’re going to do. That’s the fun part.”
When Opportunity Knocks . . .
Recently, Emma’s two worlds came together to create a new apparel item for the store. Her business side told her to step away from the familiar school colors and try something new. The designer side found inspiration in the bold colors and classic look of a California skateboarder. A sweatshirt with Emma’s design was created and promoted at the store. Before long, there was a waiting list of potential customers who wanted to buy one.
“I want to empower my students to make decisions,” says Wolfshohl. “Some decisions will have repercussions. But here, they have the opportunity to make good decisions and learn from any mistakes they may make.”
As part of this program, students not only get real-world experience, but they also can become certified in small business and entrepreneurship. This certification can be used on their resume, for college applications and for scholarships.
“When I get out into the workforce, I already have these things under my belt,” Emma says. “This may set me apart from other people still looking to get these certifications after they graduate from college.”
CTE programs may offer students the opportunity to discover what they love and turn it into a promising future.
“You can see so much potential in many of these students,” says Wolfshohl. “If they’re given the right tools, there’s nothing they can’t do. Comal ISD gives those students that opportunity.”