For Falmouth students looking to enter the workforce after graduation or to work in fields such as culinary arts or carpentry while pursuing further education, attending Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Bourne might seem like an obvious choice.
However, attending Falmouth High School is also an excellent option, Falmouth Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Sonia Tellier told the Falmouth School Committee at its meeting October 22.
As district coordinator for the Career Vocational Technical Education program, Dr. Tellier, along with John Schmidt, an advisory member of the CVTE program in the culinary area, spoke about teaching students critical skills for today’s workforce.
The program offers classes and career experience in seven areas: business marketing, technology programming and web development, design and visual communications, woodworking technology, culinary, early education and care, and the newest offering, television production and broadcasting.
“Such opportunities provide Falmouth High School graduates with opportunities for dual enrollment, technical certification and true preparation for advanced technical training. A number of our CVTE students also take advantage of college enrollment at both two- and four-year programs,” the high school’s website indicates.
All programs offer introductory courses that students are able to complete for elective credit. However, each also offers a dedicated series of courses, called a pathway, that must be taken to prepare the student for appropriate assessments for technical certifications in the field.
“We don’t want to lose our students to another school or district through school choice because we’re not offering something, and here they have a taste of everything, which is important,” said Mr. Schmidt, who has more than four decades of culinary experience. “I’m glad to see they’re earning technical certifications in each program. They will be more employable than a student who doesn’t have one.”
While Mr. Schmidt said he has great respect for the offerings at technical schools, he stressed that “if you can get it here [Falmouth High School], you don’t want to go anywhere else.”
To improve and expand the CVTE program, Dr. Tellier said, she works with the high school’s principal, Mary W. Gans, and assistant principal, Henry St. Julien, to manage the federal Perkins Grant funding for the program, which “continues to hover around the $25,000 mark.”
“With the help of our general advisory and each of our program advisories, we decided not to split the pie each year into equal parts, but each advisory member is able to advocate for a specific need that they may have,” Dr. Tellier said. “We’ve made sure that every program has its own technical skill attainment or certification, which puts our students in a more job-ready position when they graduate, if they want to go straight into the workforce.”
The team used demographic and labor data from the Workforce Investment Board of Cape Cod to drive its programming choices, the assistant superintendent said.
“Our next step is to expand the internship opportunities, and the high school store is really going to be one of our bigger ventures,” Dr. Tellier said, noting the store will draw on the skills of students from several CVTE programs and will expand online and likely to a satellite location in 2021.
Possible locations are near the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce on Main Street or in the Falmouth Public Schools administration building on Teaticket Highway.
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Students will create the store’s business plan and will learn to work within the restrictions of the setting, both front-of-house and back-of-house, Dr. Tellier said.
Culinary students already run the Friday morning cafe called “Get Mugged” in the high school’s culinary room. Students learn management and customer service skills while serving fresh-ground coffee from Pie in the Sky Bakery and Cafe in Woods Hole, and fresh-baked muffins and scones.
Teachers can buy the wares for $1 each, and so far the cafe has been a great success, Mr. Schmidt said.
To interest 8th graders at Lawrence School in pursuing a CVTE pathway, the district uses Perkins funds to offer an exploratory program in January and February that allows students to engage, for two hours each, in three of the original six programs.
“They learn a critical skill in that program and a little about the instructor,” Dr. Tellier said.
School committee member John Furnari, who is also the operations manager for the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in North Falmouth, said that “with the challenges over the past couple of years with the J-1 and H-2B visas, we’re definitely in an environment where there’s a lot of opportunity out there” for students to find jobs and internships.
Acting chairwoman Kelly L. Welch asked about the demand from students for the programs and if there are more students wanting to take these classes than the high school can support.
“They’re full pretty much, but we don’t seem to have an over-demand,” Ms. Gans said. “For the most part, if students don’t get their first choice, they can get it the next semester. “However, early education classes are overbooked. That program has grown tremendously and has become very popular. It could easily expand.”
The Business Marketing pathway, led by Janet Rocha and leading to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10 HR general industry certification, provides skills training for immediate entry into the workforce and preparation for studies in accounting, banking, finance, economics, marketing and business administration.
Technology: Programming and Web Development students take courses in such topics as human-computer interaction; data analysis and visualization; object-oriented computer languages; internet protocols and networking; mobile communication; and robotics. Michael Campbell is the instructor; students earn a Google certification.
The Design and Visual Communications pathway introduces the Adobe Creative Suite and focuses on solving design challenges for print communications and personal visual expression. Students apply principles of design while exploring typography, layout and composition. Larisa Hart is the instructor, and students earn an Adobe certification.
Woodworking Technology courses explore engineering principles to solve practical problems and teach the use of tools, materials and processes of industry and engineering design. Related science and math principles are stressed in all courses. James D. Brooks is the instructor, and students earn an OSHA 10 HR construction certification.
The Culinary pathway introduces skills required for food preparation and an understanding of nutrition principles. Students demonstrate safe food practices to prevent food-borne illnesses and prepare nutritious foods with healthy cooking methods. Lynn Campbell is the acting instructor, and students earn a ServSafe food handler’s certification.
Early Education and Care students learn about a child’s physical, cognitive and social/emotional development, first in the classroom and then in the high school’s preschool. Students intern in public elementary schools or the private sector. Nancy E. FitzGerald is the instructor, and students earn a state early education and care certification.
Television Production and Broadcasting students use the digital video resources of the high school’s TV student and editing lab to create projects that combine video with graphics, images and sound to tell a story. Ryan P. Webber is the instructor, and this pathway, which evolved from applied technology courses, is still in its early stages.