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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High Program, Teacher Help Prepare Students for Workforce

Oct 08, 2015 01:17PM ● By Bryan Scott

By Stephanie Lauritzen

Utah’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program aims to provide all students with opportunities to explore various education and occupational fields as high school students, with the hope that the experience they gain better prepares them for college and future careers.  

At Hillcrest High, the CTE Program offers classes in business, marketing, and computer technology, in addition to specialized classes designed to meet student interests. Hillcrest CTE teacher Shelley Symes believes that the CTE program allows students to gain the “problem solving and critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in any work environment.” 

Symes initially began her career outside education, after graduating from Weber State University she worked in media buying and retail, gaining experience in marketing that she applies to her current teaching. After working in the field for four years, her mother’s teaching career inspired her to pursue a teaching license. 

Now in her 11th year at Hillcrest High, Symes is dedicated to helping students develop the skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly demanding workforce.  Symes believes a key component to a successful CTE class involves “teaching the students the basics, and then giving them a problem to solve. It’s amazing to watch students practically explode with excitement when they get to design their own sports stadium or build their own website.”

In addition to gaining new skills, Hillcrest High students can also earn industry-standard certifications to jump-start their post-high school careers. Hillcrest currently offers a Microsoft Office Specialist certification, which provides training in Microsoft programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Funding for the certificate program and testing requirements allows students to save money and expand their resume. 

Symes believes that students who pass the certification test not only “look good” to future employers, but also become more marketable in a competitive job market. “Every industry now requires skills in computer science, regardless of what field you enter. Employers want to hire people with the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills needed to solve complex problems.” According to a 2013 study sponsored by Microsoft, students earning a MOS certification earn up to $16,000 more annually than their peers. 

Hillcrest High also offers specialized marketing and business classes, and Symes currently teaches both fashion merchandising and sports marketing. In her fashion merchandising class, students go beyond design sketches to address important job skills, like how to talk to potential buyers and how to market products to the masses.

“We really focus on learning how a product goes from paper to the rack,” Symes said. “I want students to understand how a design goes from a drawing, and moves through various intermediaries in order to be made. We also study the different channels an article of clothing goes through in order to get from Bangladesh to Nordstrom Rack.” 

As part of the fashion merchandising curriculum, students visit the Salt Lake Community College Fashion Institute. 

“This is a great resource right in Salt Lake City. Kids are introduced to one of the largest collections of fashion in the Intermountain West,” Symes said. “Students can learn about fashion and marketing in their own city, without having to spend tons of money to travel to New York or expensive design institutes.” 

In her sports marketing class, Symes follows a similar pattern, guiding students through the process of designing a team uniform, or building a sports stadium, beginning with concept designs and working all the way through to a hypothetical construction plan. 

“I love the marketing industry, and I loved being a part of the industry,” Symes said. “It is really fun to be able to give these tools to my students.”

When asked what Symes enjoys most about teaching CTE classes at Hillcrest High School, Symes is quick to point out the value of working with a diverse student body. 

“Hillcrest serves a student population with very diverse socio-economic backgrounds, and diverse learning backgrounds. Many of our students speak a variety of different languages,” Symes said. 

Symes also notes that in any of her CTE classes, she might be working with students with special needs, as well as students from the school’s academically rigorous International Baccalaureate program. 

“It’s challenging but good to work with a class of 30 students, knowing all of them are going to bring in different input and perspectives based on different aspects of their lives.”