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CAL's new entrepreneurship program means business

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Carol Egan, director of Center for Advanced Learning and Adam Reid, Mt. Hood Community Colleges Small Business Development Center in CALs manufacturing center. The innovative high school, Center for Advanced Learning, is launching a new program focusing on entrepreneurship.

The new program, called [email protected], to start this fall, will be the fifth signature program offered by the popular public charter school that focuses on career and technical education.

“I am super-excited about the possibilities,” said Carol Egan, director of CAL.

Career and technical education is a big focus of schools nationwide and helps prepare students for family-wage jobs or for post-high school education.

“All young people — indeed all people — need employability skills,” said a report by the nonprofit group Jobs For The Future. “These skills are critical to success in college, career and civic life. Eighty-four percent of business leaders said the amount of knowledge a candidate has in a particular field was “very important,” followed by 79 percent who said applied skills were very important,” the group said of a recent poll.

CAL strives to impart those sought-after skills.

For CHANGElab, CAL is teaming up with Adam Reid, who teaches a program for young entrepreneurs called Project Pronto. It is affiliated with Mt. Hood Community Colleges’ Small Business Development Center and draws students from seven East County high schools.

CAL, founded 12 years ago, offers about 450 high school juniors and seniors project-based, hands-on learning. The career-oriented, college-prep education also allows students to earn college credits. CAL accepts students from Reynolds, Gresham-Barlow, Centennial and Corbett school districts. Students take their speciality classes and English at CAL and the rest of their classes at their home school.

CAL offers four career areas of study: mechanical engineering and manufacturing; digital media and design; computer information systems; and health sciences both medical and dental. The new program can take 60 students and already has 20 signed up, without much publicity yet.

“This (CHANGElab) program offers a different window for kids,” Egan said. “This appeals to risk takers.”

She said an entrepreneurial program “seemed like the perfect program to have that would interest certain students that might not fit or be interested in other CAL programs.”

Reid sees the new program dovetailing nicely with CAL’s current offerings. The CHANGElab students “will launch products and companies and they can use the tools from other programs to make that happen.”

For example, CAL’s 3-D printers can make prototypes of products. CAL’s media lab can be used to create promotional videos or other marketing materials.

Entrepreneurs and the small businesses they create are the engine of the U.S. economy. Small businesses accounted for 60 percent of the new jobs created between mid-2009 to mid-2013, according to the most recent statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Reid is no stranger to starting a business. He owns Origin’s Coffee, Tea & Desserts on Northwest Eastman Parkway and also co-founded a nonprofit in education.

At it’s heart, entrepreneurship “is about problem solving,” Reid said. The students “come up with the business ideas and then everything we teach them is centered around their own ideas,” he said. Students might learn about manufacturing, branding, marketing and enough law to make sure everything they do is legal and safe.

One student Reid works with in the Pronto program is making a wireless technology device similar to Bluetooth, “that is even more convenient than what is available today.” Pronto students also started budding businesses in bath and food products, clothing and web-based companies. The students are learning to build businesses around these products.

It’s important to Reid to teach entrepreneurship skills “by doing. It’s like teaching swimming. The way to do it is by jumping in the pool and learning. You can’t learn to swim by reading it in a book or watching a video.”