A Glimpse into CTSOs and Their Significance
The landscape of technical education has evolved dramatically, and I've seen this firsthand as a former educator and now as a curriculum and program specialist.
We all see a surging emphasis on providing hands-on, dynamic learning experiences during high school. Such experiences not only equip students with technical skills but also nurture the development of soft or durable skills crucial for success in the real world. Dr. Lazaro Lopez, Associate Superintendent of District 214, (an Uncharted Learning member), puts it aptly: "Helping students identify their interests and passions while developing a toolkit to navigate the world of work is one of the most important, if not the most important, functions of K12 education."
Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses epitomize this critical balance. These pathways, academies, and centers aim to provide students with authentic learning experiences while drawing from academically rigorous and industry-aligned curricula. From construction to applied agriculture, engineering, and digital communications, today's CTE courses span many industries and career paths.
Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) provide students the opportunity to practice the skills they learn in CTE through competitive events that are regional and national. Some states require an aligned CTSO for a robust career tech pathway endorsement, and others see CTSOs as enhancing students' experiences. I've seen how they can be instrumental in promoting leadership and job skills, and they can lead to scholarship opportunities. For my students, these events could be life-changing.
How can courses build CTSO strength?
Marketing and business courses generally equip students with the necessary foundational content and skill-building to compete in events offered by CTSOs such as FBLA, SkillsUSA, and DECA, to name a few.
As a former marketing and business teacher and a DECA advisor, I find that some coursework is better than others to prepare students for these competitions. I taught INCubatoredu, high school entrepreneurship class, at Loudoun Academies and found that INCubatoredu provides a unique and fertile training ground for CTSOs. INCubatoredu is a course that teaches foundational business practices, and the methodologies and tools of entrepreneurship, yet in a framework and learning environment that is real-world. This means students are living, practicing, and driving what they learn while engaging with professionals in the community who serve as volunteers and mentors. One of the many outcomes of the course includes students who are practiced and comfortable in CTSO competitions, leading to increased success in the events.
INCubatoredu students are empowered with:
- Problem-solving: a mindset that thrives on innovation
- Business acumen: foundational knowledge on business principles
- Communication skills: public speaking, pitching, and interpersonal dynamics
- Teamwork: collaboration to breathe life into ideas and honor viewpoints to drive consensus
- Student-driven learning: motivated and fueled by purpose
DECA and INCubatoredu: Great Alignment
Specifically, I found that students would excel in the DECA 'role-play' events and 'written business manual' events since INCubatoredu provided natural practice ground and skill-building in these areas.
Here at Uncharted Learning, home of INCubatoredu, we’ve heard from teachers who are also DECA sponsors that INCubatoredu plays a pivotal role in giving students the upper hand in the 'individual series event' format and the 'team decision-making' DECA Events. During class time, INCubatoredu students pitch their concepts, share back their strategic planning, and communicate often with the business community as they work to launch their businesses. There is no better preparation for a DECA role-play scenario than performing those skills weekly.
Finally, the DECA 'written business manual' contests use the same lean start-up formats as the INCubatoredu curriculum. As students work through the lean process of a start-up, they can document their actions in one of the written competitive events.
Testimonials: The impact is clear
"It's evident that INCubatoredu students possess a deep appreciation for customer feedback. While many DECA participants may sound alike, INCubatoredu students have a creative edge. Their shareback experience in INCubatoredu is their secret weapon, especially in role-playing competitions. They're conditioned to tackle assignments creatively and are unafraid to take risks."
"INCubatoredu is a natural fit for DECA students. The difference it makes is real, and consistent, especially in DECA's role-plays. My students have not only been successful but have consistently ranked in the Top 10. Their superior business vocabulary and presentation skills are hard to miss."
"INCubatoredu was pivotal to a student who was on the robotics team in boosting her confidence and helping her find her voice, ultimately propelling her to national competitions."
~ Joe Navickas, Teacher, Deerfield High School and DECA sponsor, IL
Students credit their DECA success to INCubatoredu
"My teacher, Mrs. Doherty, took the structure and organization of the INCubatoredu curriculum and translated it into a hands-on experience where we could practice the competencies we learned in class. Understanding these real-world applications, which INCubatoredu put front and center, gave me a massive leg-up in my DECA role-plays with the knowledge I'd accumulated."
~ Arjun Setty, INCubatoredu alum and 5th Place Worldwide in Business Finance Series at the 2023 DECA International Career Development Conference
INCubatoredu is great prep for FBLA and SkillsUSA
Beyond DECA, INCubatoredu teachers share with us how the course is great preparation for FBLA and SkillsUSA:
"In INCubatoredu, the students learn workplace efficiency skills and soft skills such as how to work in teams, be prepared for events/presentations, public speak, and so much more. I have two students who are into marketing, and their FBLA events are Digital Video Production and Website Design. I have another student competing in Social Media Strategies, and a team competing in Future Business Leader & International Business!"
"Yes, my students have won the Entrepreneurship contest two years in a row for the State of Texas and 2nd in the Nation for both years. ACCELeratoredu (the year-two INCubatoredu program) is great prep because the business model they create in class is aligned with the SkillsUSA competition.
This year I have made it mandatory in my ACCELeratoredu class to compete in SkillsUSA or DECA in writtens...I think we are going to do amazing in both CTSOs!"
Set up for success
The value of INCubatoredu in providing a robust foundation for many CTSO events and challenges is undeniable—DECA, SkillsUSA, and FBLA, to name a few. Schools and students looking to enhance their competitive performance would benefit from the program.
Intrigued by the INCubatoredu advantage? Dive deeper and explore this authentic high school entrepreneurship program.