Staying ‘nimble’ the key to CTE programming

Staying ‘nimble’ the key to CTE programming

Offered since the 1970’s, CTE programs at the Career Technical Education Center at Portsmouth High School are thriving, according to Career Technical Education Director Diane Canada. Averaging approximately 200 students annually, Portsmouth will offer seven programs in school year 2016-17, which include: Education & Teacher Training, Entrepreneurship, Culinary Arts, Construction Trades, Architecture & Engineering Design, Welding Technology and Automotive Technology.

Down one program from last year, Portsmouth will no longer offer Hospitality Management, however, as leadership elected to close it with enrollment numbers less than sufficient to justify its continuance. In the program, students spent one class period each week learning the different areas of hotel operations at the Sheraton Portsmouth Hotel. Such a closure, though, is not a negative development, but rather the result of the generally “nimble” nature of CTE programming itself.

“In the ten years I have been director, I have had to make changes to programming to meet the needs of the community and the interests of the students,” said Canada. “I have closed programs, cut them to half time, and put some on hold to determine whether to rebuild or close. I have increased programs and added new ones as well. I am continually shifting to keep our programming relevant to our students.”

As for what influences enrollment numbers for any particular program, she cited many factors, including economics, demographics, and perceptions regarding up and coming careers.

“Portsmouth is an affluent community where the vast majority of our students go on to four-year colleges,” she added.

Looking ahead
In looking to the next academic school year, Canada expressed enthusiasm regarding the direction of their CTE programs, including Entrepreneurship, which was just granted two-year approval from the NHDOE Career Development Bureau.

“I have two teachers for this one program and all classes are filled,” she said. “These students compete in the UNH BizGen competition as well as in their own in-house business plan competition that is fully supported by the Seacoast Rotary Club.”

Education & Teacher Training is another program that tends to attract many students, who become extremely active in Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, a nonprofit national career and technical student organization program. Canada said these same students also intend to become quite active in Educators Rising, which provides young people with hands-on teaching experience, and help them develop the skills needed to become successful educators.

“Culinary Arts is also very popular in this restaurant town,” she said. “Our students compete very successfully at state and national levels. One student just returned from his second national competition in SkillsUSA.
In addition to expanding the footprint of current CTE programming, Canada said they are considering two new program areas.

“We are working very closely with Great Bay Community College to bring about a Computer Science Pathway,” she said. “This coming year, we will offer two courses that will be taught by GBCC faculty here in the high school as well as two courses offered in our blended learning lab through eStart. I am also partnering with a local nursing home, the Edgewood Centre, to offer an LNA Certification class. I am hoping to eventually offer more healthcare courses…This is an exciting time for our program and CTE statewide.”

Cheshire Career Center

Cheshire Career Center

Location: Keene, NH

Director: Lisa Danley


Students Think Outside the Box at BizGen

Students Think Outside the Box at BizGen

Organized by BizGen, whose mission “is to light the spark in the next generation of business developers,” BizGen is a business competition hosted at UNH designed to inspire students to think like an entrepreneur.

Noting it is still in its infancy stage as a competition, Tiffany D’Amour, Business Educator at Portsmouth High School, referred to this year’s BizGen as “stellar.” “Judges were critical and treated the students as if they were true entrepreneurs,” she said. “These judges were comprised of business professionals and angel investors, who are similar to venture capitalists.”

At this year’s competition in late May, Portsmouth High School teams placed 3rd and 4th with prize money for the students of $1,000 and $500 in total, respectively. Awards were provided to the top 4 business ventures out of 18 teams who entered.

D’Amour praised both teams for their hard work, which began with creating and submitting a 1-page abstract that highlighted their business idea, critical areas needed for success, and the target market. The teams then wrote a 10-page business outline and provided a business presentation pitch to a panel of judges.

The 3rd place team, BookBit, was a business venture whose goal was to capture 65% of college students who do not purchase college textbooks. BookBit provided a digital textbook where students could purchase pages of a textbook versus having to make a large upfront payment for the entire textbook.

The 4th place team, Just in Case, was a business venture based on improving the response time of local police to sexual assault or domestic abuse victims. The company offered a cell phone case where the user could slide and click on a button on the side of the cell phone case that immediately configured his/her GPS location and then directly connect with local law enforcement.



“There is no prototype as of right now for either business, but the students learn the entrepreneurial process with this idea,” D’Amour said.

In Portsmouth, she said BizGen has also garnered interest from outside the Business CTE program.
“For the last 2 years, there has been a team that competed and they were hockey players who met before practice to compete,” she added.

Aside from the value of the experience in the competition itself, D’Amour said she believes students gain skills for the long, term, too. “They learn confidence, speaking skills, thinking on their feet, how to keep calm in a high pressure environment and how to network—all critical skills in the business world and life,” she said.

Katie Auger, who was on the 4th place winner and plans to attend UNH Paul College in the fall, said her BizGen experience was unique, as it helped her “learn about myself and discover another part of the business world.”

“It pushes students to discover interests and talents they never knew they had as well as test their creativity,” she said. “It was an incredible event that challenges students to think outside the box.”

D’Amour also expressed enthusiasm regarding the future of BizGen.

“Ken Johnson, one of the founders, works at F.I.R.S.T, which is a robotics STEM company and he believes in the hands-on approach of teaching and inspiring students to be creative in the classroom,” she said. “It is a local competition with a goal to expand nationally.

To learn more about BizGen as an organization and its various initiatives, visit