The average high school student learns the theory of a subject like math, but rarely are students given the exposure necessary to apply such theories. In his bestselling book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell asserted that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. The sooner students focus on their careers, the sooner they will reach those 10,000 hours. Imagine how much more prepared for a business career one would be if given access to critical information at an early stage in professional development. BridgePrep is designed to address four critical areas that prevent high school students from learning the necessary fundamentals to roadmap their success in business. These areas are: 1) imperfect information about business careers, 2) lack of knowledge about business terminology, 3) lack of understanding about business math and 4) lack of exposure to alternative learning communities.
Why aren’t high school students receiving the available information about the plethora of business-related careers? The period before college or entry-level employment is the prime time to explore career possibilities. To quote Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one must “begin with the end in mind.” Schools across the country cite giving students the best, well-rounded education possible as their main goal. But in some instances, schools are unable to give students their best due to budget cuts, which demand that administrators do more with less. For example, The American School Counselor Association recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of 250-to-1. However, the national average is 460-to-1. As a result, students may not receive adequate knowledge about their career options.
A 2009 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that nearly half of public schools have increased the caseloads of high school counselors. A 2009 article from The Cleveland Plain dealer illustrates this trend. “I’m the only counselor for 440 students and I don’t even have secretarial help,” said Cardinal High School guidance counselor Lori Gill Hughes. Hughes is hardly alone in her frustration, according to a report released in April 2009 by the Michigan-based Joyce Ivy Foundation. After surveying almost a third of Ohio’s 1,500-plus high school counselors, the report concluded counselors handle multiple duties and so many students that they can’t focus on guiding their charges toward college or career training after graduation. Glenda Davis, a tenth grade Math teacher, says it’s important to quickly assess a student’s progress. “Software like BridgePrep gives students the structure as they determine their career goals,” Davis said.
When a high school student is asked what they want to be, some may reply, “a doctor” or “a lawyer.” But at the time, they only have a snapshot of the type of work involved in these careers. Vince Gray, a transactional attorney, tells students all the time that being a lawyer isn’t always the way it’s portrayed on television. “I’ve never seen the inside of a courtroom,” Gray says. “I spend more time negotiating on behalf of clients than arguing.” The best way to get information about a career is to intern or talk with someone in that industry. However, this takes time that high school students may not have. Similarly, busy career professionals may not have time to show high school students every aspect of their job description. Even within a career such as law, it is nearly impossible for one lawyer to know all the different types of law a student could practice. The benefit of BridgePrep’s software is that it does a lot of the legwork for both parties.
Knowledge of business terminology
Every profession has a culture and its own language that is used to define it. Doctors have medical terms. Lawyers speak in ‘legalease.’ In order to understand the business world, it is necessary to understand its terms, concepts and how they impact the big picture. Most high school students are unfamiliar with business terminology. Therefore, the son or daughter of a marketing executive or finance professional is at a significant advantage over those with limited or no exposure to the business world when pursuing a career in business. For example, the daughter of a marketing executive may have heard her mother discuss the absorption pricing of a product and the need to ensure advertising substantiation. Similarly, the son of a banker may have overheard his father discuss the importance of understanding the time value of money. The average student wouldn’t be exposed to these terms until pursuing their respective majors in college. Having heard and understood these basic concepts at a younger age, they will likely reach the 10,000 hours of mastery necessary sooner than other individuals without such exposure. Susan Page, a college graduate we interviewed, illustrates this occurrence.
During the last ten years, organizations have recognized this problem and started training programs for high school students to teach the fundamentals of business and entrepreneurship. For example, there is the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and Teen Business Link, a part of the US Small Business Administration. The latter states that great business ideas come from personal, work-related and family experiences. Many students come to college with an undecided major because they haven’t developed a method of measuring their ability with their knowledge. Even students who major in liberal arts find it necessary to learn business fundamentals. A 2005 MSNBC article sites schools like Vanderbilt, Dartmouth and Southern Methodist University that offer crash courses in business for interested individuals, including college students who picked other majors. But there are no exams or college credit given and the courses can run up to $7,500 per person.
There is a clear need and interest in young people learning about business. However, many parents and schools don’t have the money or resources necessary to send their children to these programs or support such a program at their school. Our product is a cost-effective way for students anywhere in the world to be able to learn fundamental business concepts that they can use during college and apply throughout their career.
Understanding of business math
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. These standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts. Furthermore, they are designed to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare children for college and the workforce. The Common Core advocates that high school standards demand students practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges. In addition, these standards should prepare students to think and reason mathematically. The Standards set a rigorous definition of college and career readiness, not by piling topic upon topic, but by demanding that students develop a depth of understanding and ability to apply mathematics to novel situations. This application of mathematical theory is what college students and employees regularly do.
One essential skill needed to be successful in business is mastery of the analytical concepts associated with business math. However, the most common math learned in high schools is algebra, trigonometry, geometry and calculus. Real world business math is different. Algebra is the most applicable math for business professionals and generally algebra is taken in eighth grade or freshman year in high school. To better prepare students for the real world there must be a focus on real world math. This should complement the math that students currently learn before college. Although these online tools are readily accessible to most students, online business math tools remain virtually nonexistent.
Benefits of virtual learning
As the data and interviews we’ve mentioned suggest, most high school students simply aren’t exposed to core business concepts either in or outside the classroom. Take Greg Archer. Greg is an ambitious high school student. He has an exceptional academic record and participates in extracurricular activities, but has no experience to help him in transitioning to internships and full time positions. Still, he is bright and willing to learn the skills necessary to provide value and ultimately become successful in his chosen profession.
In order to help Greg realize his full potential, parents and schools must realize that technology is changing the way we gather and understand information. Blended learning, a combination of traditional and virtual education creates more learning possibilities for students. It combines the best elements of both face-to-face and online instruction. A successful example of blended learning is demonstrated by The Chicago Virtual Charter School (CVCS). CVCS lets students work online from home four days a week and come to school for the fifth. CVCS is one of a growing number of schools that have adopted blending learning, an approach that appears to be paying off. CVCS was named to the 2009 Illinois honor roll, which celebrates the outstanding academic accomplishments of exemplary public schools in the state.
Another way to consider virtual learning is similar to the difference between a newspaper and the radio. If you buy a newspaper and take it home, you can re-read the information it contains at your leisure. Unlike newspapers, once the radio program goes off, you lose the information. The crucial benefit of virtual learning is that it allows students to learn at their own pace and convenience. As a result, students can re-create learning experiences from anywhere and participate in a software program that prepares them for long-term career preparation. How can blended learning help arm students with factual knowledge gained from real-world lessons about finance, marketing or consulting careers? The answer is closer than you think.
Now that we have explained the challenges high school students like Archer face, it’s time to address how our product can help overcome them. BridgePrep makes it easy and fun for students to tap into their career aptitude potential by using software designed to enhance not only learning but also a thorough understanding about the introductory concepts of business. It can expose students to terms and concepts they may not otherwise learn until college, giving them a competitive advantage when enrolled in their major courses of study. Furthermore, BridgePrep can be used in conjunction with the blended learning format to supplement any high school educational curriculum. It can be used anytime and anywhere that a student has access to a computer and Internet connection. This program will help students explore various career opportunities, it will introduce critical concepts to help prepare students for the next level, and allow students to apply what they have learned.