Monday, August 11, 2008


Monica Vargas, a 2008 graduate of Chino High School and Sarah Ruelas, who was in 11th grade at the end of the 2007-08 school year, prepare cookies for an end-of-year activity at Chino High School. Their advanced culinary course at Chino High gave them hands-on experience in catering. By taking a series of courses in Chino High’s Home Economics Careers and Technology program, students can earn a special vocational certification with their high school diplomas, as Monica has done.

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) – “Home Economics Careers and Technology, prepares students for high-skill, high-wage careers in related industries,” said David Long, California State Secretary of Education. “Many of the students who take these courses will go on to careers in the same industry. But even if they do not, they learn skills that will help them to succeed in any career or business venture, such as how to be a good employee, how to communicate well, and how to lead others in a project.”

Today’s Home Economics Careers and Technology has created a two-fold program designed to prepare young people for success in home economics-related occupations, and for success in their personal lives.

“Home Economics Related Occupations, the career-oriented part of our program, provides instruction through “pathways,” which are courses of study focusing on a specific career area,” said Janice DeBenedetti, state consultant for Home Economics Careers and Technology. “While high school students primarily focus on graduation requirements, and often college entrance requirements, pathways offer students elective choices that will help them prepare for specific college majors or careers.

Schools offering pathways award certificates of completion to students who successfully complete them, or word the students’ high school diplomas to recognize this accomplishment. The written proof of this highly specialized training may prove as valuable as the diploma itself when the young high school graduate searches for his or her first full-time job.

Within the Home Economics Careers and Technology program, these pathways are:

* Food service and hospitality, which prepares students for careers such as chefs or restaurant managers. It also prepares them for work in entry-level jobs such as food servers, as 90 percent of people who work for a salary in restaurants started out with an entry-level job in the food service industry.

* Food science, dietetics and nutrition, which also prepares students for work in the food industry, but primarily in venues outside of restaurants. This includes developing new food products, creating menus for schools, hospitals and other institutions, and educating people about healthy eating.

* Hospitality, tourism and recreation, which prepares students for jobs in the tourism industry that aren’t necessarily related to food. These careers include theme park directors, event planners, hotel managers, and travel agents.

* Fashion design, manufacturing and merchandising, which prepares students for careers in the garment and accessories industry. Tailors, fashion designers, store buyers and apparel marketers are a few of the jobs within this industry.

* Interior design, furnishings and maintenance, which prepares students for careers in the growing field of interior design. These include interior designers, building maintenance managers, and furniture manufacturers.

* Child development and education, which prepares students for careers with children. This ranges from infant day care to teaching high school. The child development pathway primarily focuses on work with young children, while the education pathway primarily focuses on preparing students for careers in teaching and school administration.

* Consumer services, which prepares students for work in a variety of professional fields, such as communications, customer service, financial planning, and product and development research.

* Family and human services, which prepares students for a broad variety of jobs, such as social worker, marriage and family therapist, or substance abuse counselor. It also provides training in caring for senior citizens, which is one of the state’s fastest growing industries.

“The other part of our program, Consumer and Family Studies, prepares students with personal and life management skills,” DeBenedetti said. “Many have said the skills we teach in these courses should be high school graduation requirements. While they aren’t required, we who teach this program believe our students are much better equipped to handle balance home and work responsibilities.”

Consumer and Family Studies focuses on eight skills considered essential in family life: child development and guidance; consumer education; family living and parenting education; fashion, textiles and apparel; food and nutrition; housing and furnishings; individual and family health; and leadership development.

Food and apparel are important parts of these courses, as they were in traditional home economics courses. But while cooking courses of old likely focused on recipes and technique, today’s introductory Home Economics Careers and Technology courses also address developing healthy eating habits, and how to plan nutritious meals on a budget.

And while traditional clothing courses focused on sewing, today’s courses help people to buy clothes that are both affordable and appropriate. While they will learn the basics of garment construction, they also learn how to establish a clothing budget, and how to properly care for various types of clothes.

An introduction to home furnishings has also long been part of a traditional home economics education. In an introductory course today, student learn not just how to make home accessories and furnishings, but about housing costs and energy conservation.

In addition, students learn how to take care of children from prenatal to adolescence, how to resolve conflict and crisis, how to balance work and family responsibilities and how to stay healthy throughout life.

The program is primarily geared to preparing teenagers for a time when they will both work outside the home and have children under 18 in their home. However, it also takes into account that recent U.S. Census figures show 5.5 million women have opted for careers as “stay-at-home-moms” and 189,000 men are “stay-at-home-dads.”

In the general population, the 2000 U.S. Census showed 48 percent of women with children younger than 2 years old, and 25 percent of those with children ages 3 to 6, were staying home. That census also revealed that in dual-parent households with working wives, 12 percent of fathers of children younger than 6 years old stayed home. However, several more recent studies by independent authors, primarily focusing on high-income families, showed about 60 percent of women were staying home with young children.

In addition to instruction, students taking Home Economics Careers and Technology courses participate in FHA-HERO, which is a co-curricular student organization. Students develop their leadership and communication skills through this organization by taking on projects that apply what they have learned in the classroom.

Chapter projects have included such things as organizing food and clothing drives for homeless people, community beautification, restaurants and other related venues for fund raisers, and putting on assemblies and banquets for other high school students. Chapters and individual members of FHA-HERO also compete each year in 21 career-related events, earning recognition, cash and other prizes, and college scholarships for outstanding performances.

“Home Economics Careers and Technology courses, along with FHA-HERO are building blocks to help our students be more productive in their adult lives,” DeBenedetti said. “The experiences they take from our program remain relevant to them long after high school graduation.”

The program now known as HECT has undergone a transformation over the last 30 years. Prior to the 1960s, the program focused on training women in skills they would need as wives and mothers. But, as more women began working outside the home, California changed its home economics curriculum to reflect this, and added the Home Economics Related Occupations component.

As all professions, including those in home economics related industries became more dependent on technology, so did the courses offered in secondary schools. To reflect this change, California renamed its home economics program Home Economics Careers and Technology in the 1990s.

There are now more than 750 schools offering Home Economics Careers and Technology courses. More than 300,000 students are enrolled in these classes throughout the state.

For more information, call Janice DeBenedetti at (916) 323-5025.