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Students put real-world skills to the test

    Waipahu High School sophomore Kimberly Chun tried on a helmet during the 2011 High School Student Career and Technical Education Performance-Based Assessment Competitions yesterday at the Sheraton Waikiki’s Maui Ballroom.
    Waimalu Elementary fifth-graders Nohe­lani Hee, left, and Logan Bates fiddled with a gear model yesterday during the 2011 High School Student Career and Technical Education Performance-Based Assessment Competitions at the Sheraton Waikiki's Maui Ballroom.

Challenging. Brutal. Intense.

High-schoolers didn’t mince words yesterday when describing the difficulty of the Department of Education’s career and technical education competition, a two-day test of skills designed to mimic the real-world challenges students will face in the workplace.

The gathering in Waikiki attracted more than 320 students this year — twice as many as last year — and showcased the talents of public high school students studying in nine program areas, ranging from animation to health services to marketing to natural resources.

In the competition, which wrapped up yesterday afternoon at the Sheraton Waikiki, students were given a specific task based on a scenario and asked to meet key benchmarks to illustrate what they’d learned over the course of the year. They had one day to complete their proj­ect and delivered presentations yesterday in front of judges, many of whom are leaders in their fields.

Kalani High senior Joshua Lum created a marketing plan with his team for a soccer equipment company struggling to compete with bigger sports retailers.

Lum said the competition was "brutal" and added that the work gave him a new appreciation for what it takes to succeed in the business world.

The Lahainaluna High team wrote a business plan for a fictitious nature and studio photography company named Seaside Snapshots.

Yesterday afternoon, looking a bit exhausted, team member Jay Caba­ding said the competition was tough "but well worth it."

It also got Caba­ding thinking about his future. Rather than studying travel industry management in college, he now wants to go into business and hopes to open his own restaurant one day.

The competition, first held in 2003, is a chance for students to show off their creativity and career-geared knowledge and to rub shoulders with potential employers.

Its popularity has steadily increased in recent years at a time when the state is looking to put new emphasis on career and technical education as a way to stress hands-on learning, keep students engaged and give them a head start on their future.

Some 27,000 students statewide participated in career and technical education programs at public high schools last school year, up from 25,000 the year before, DOE educational specialist Sheri­lyn Lau said.

Barbara White, assistant state director for career and technical education at the University of Hawaii, said the programs used to be reserved for students not interested in going to college, but career and technical education is now seen as a way to give students an edge in competing for spots in college or for directing them to the right post-secondary programs or training.

"Career and technical education takes advantage of applying knowledge," she said. "This (competition) shows they can take the knowledge and do something with it."

Before the awards ceremony yesterday, Aiea High’s culinary arts team was taking a well-deserved break in a quiet corner.

The team was given a pretty formidable task: Create a new McDonald’s menu item for seniors — keeping in mind their dietary needs — cook it, calculate its calorie content and cost, and deliver a pitch to judges on why their menu item was ideal for seniors.

Aiea High created a portobello mushroom sandwich — a "McMushroom Burger" — that had a low-sodium teri­yaki sauce. The team priced the burger at about $9, but that was based on buying ingredients from a supermarket.

"The judges really liked it," said Aiea High senior Ezra Barroga, who wants to be a chef.

One of the team’s advisers, Gina Ramson, said it’s vital that students be given a chance to pursue their career goals in high school classrooms.

"There is so much potential there," she said.

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