By Katherine Geyer
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth may as well have been on Wall Street on Friday as he watched stocks like Nike and Edison International being traded right before his eyes.
Smyth and a class full of students at La Mesa Junior High School were far from Manhattan, however, and didn’t get to keep the money. They were playing a computer game that used real-time information from the New York Stock Exchange to learn the business of the stock market.
In an effort to craft a new bill that will encourage technology-centered career classes, such as the high-tech business class, Smyth met with teachers and students to see how local schools are utilizing a career-centered approach to education.
“Career technology education is really picking up steam in the capital,” Smyth said. “It needs to be brought to the forefront because what you’re seeing is a lot of baby boomers retiring and you’re seeing a big void in those kinds of fields. Whether it’s manufacturing or aerospace, they’re really facing a potential shortage of employees.
“It’s one of those situations where you see business and labor coming together. You’ve got the manufacturers on the Republican side saying we need these people, and you’ve got laborers on the other side saying ‘we’re losing members.'”
He said his bill, which is still in the early stages of development, is part of a bipartisan effort to not only prepare students for a career in a technology-centered field, but also spark students’ interest and give them goals for their upcoming careers.
“So many kids aren’t going to college, and many feel like there isn’t a direction for them,” Smyth said. “The earlier you give kids areas for interest, the earlier they can start mapping out their plans.”
Eighth-grader Mario Narang is one of five students taking an advanced digital photography class, where students take their own photos and use Adobe Photoshop to edit and enhance them.
He said he enjoys the class because it is easy for him and he can be creative.
“I would like to be a photographer for a magazine some day,” he said.
Jeffrey Aronsky, who teaches the business class, said the students use their math skills as they’re dealing with stock prices and that by frequently writing formal business letters, they enhance their writing skills as well.
La Mesa Principal Pete Fries said that a lot of high schools have career classes, but there are very few junior high schools that offer such classes.
“We still have the reading and the writing classes, but what we’ve tried to do here is infuse the reading and writing within the classes,” said Fries. “Like in the stock market game, you teach the standard things, but you do it in a way that relates to a trade or a vocation they may be interested in.”