In 2017, I attended our Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet. I sat next to the leader of the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) group from one of our local high schools.
He told me that 25% of their high school graduates begin their freshman year in college. Of those students, only half begin their sophomore year in college. “Yet,” he said, “one hundred percent of our students are on an academic track as if all of them are going to college.”
Doing the math (50% of 25%) means only 12.5% of these local high school grads begin their sophomore year of college, which leaves 87.5% of students in the job market.
He thought that more high school students should get vocational training in areas like welding, auto mechanics, construction and other trades.
I told him about my online high school business course launched the year before. In the course, students learn about the world of business and business opportunities. Students learn valuable business skills such as website creation, graphic design, copywriting and app building. Students then choose one or more of these skills to plan and launch an online business.
We brainstormed about how great it would be if high school students took a business class like mine while taking technical classes at the community college. For instance, a student learning how to fix cars would also learn what it takes to own an auto shop and be the boss. Nothing came from our discussion, and I lost touch with him.
The reality is that not everyone will succeed in college or has any interest in college.
A hundred years ago, only a small fraction even went to high school. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, “The high school enrollment rate rose from 10% to 90% and the graduation rate increased from 5% to 65% during 1910 to 1960.”
How many high school graduates go to college nationally?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 42% of 2021 high school graduates immediately enrolled in a four-year school; another 19% enrolled in a two-year college. In that year, how many adults have college degrees? According to PEW Research, “In 2021, 39% of women ages 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or more education, compared with 37% of men in the same age range.”
A simple average tells us 62% of adults 25 and over do not have college degrees. High school should be rigorous in academics plus prepare students for life after high school. In my view, this means more hands-on training in valuable and interesting skills, which will pay off in the marketplace after graduation.
My business course has been self-guided using video lectures and reading assignments. It has received many positive reviews by students:
“Extremely informative and to the point. Real world advice from a businessman with experience who treats his students with respect.”
“I started this course with almost no experience of how to start and run a business. In this course, I have learned a lot about business and how to prepare for, launch and run a successful business. Along the way, I have even learned useful skills (e.g., how to create a WordPress site, graphic design, photography). Even though I have not launched a business, this course has prepared me for when I will.”
“I very much enjoyed it. I felt it gave me the perfect opportunity to start a business and make money. I am very grateful for the ‘rethink college’ lesson. It has been very helpful for me. Thank you so much for everything. Y’all have had a huge impact on my life. Best of Luck!”
What’s been missing is coaching the students through business problems and helping them figure things out.
I would have benefited from a business class and business coach while in high school. I knew next to nothing about business, so I made a major miscalculation when I graduated from high school. I attended the U.S. Naval Academy to study engineering and become a Naval officer. After two years, I left the academy to get an accounting degree and enter the world of business. It was a rocky and frustrating start.
This year I have been hard at work re-imagining my business course on my own online learning platform. Finally, I’ll be able to mentor and coach the students who take my course. I’ll also critique and correct their written assignments to help them improve their writing skills. Maybe one of them will want to work for the Eagle someday.
Some students grow up in a family that’s business savvy and successful. Others grow up without a clue about the business world. Most are somewhere in-between.
I hope my new business course will help high school students gain the competency, clarity and confidence to successfully launch their lives after high school whether they go into business for themselves, get a well-paying job or go to college.
To learn more about my new business program, please go to www.highschoolbiz.com.
Richard Emmons is the publisher and editor of the Josephine County Eagle.