Innovation in Education
A group of San Antonio thought leaders has come up with an innovative solution to help students compete in today’s job market.
H-E-B and Charles Butt are creating a new type of charter school that will use groundbreaking curriculum and technology to better prepare high school students for high-demand careers. Called Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST), these schools will undoubtedly shape the future of San Antonio.
CAST — the first of its kind in Texas — will offer hands-on experiences through college coursework, jobs and internships, mentorship, and project-based learning, along with the opportunity to obtain an associate’s degree and industry certification.
“When students are provided with role models and a concrete pathway to achieving their goals, both their motivation and performance skyrocket. It’s important for business and industry to play an active role in providing a seamless path from school to college or career,” said Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of H-E-B, in a release. “If we are truly interested in cultivating talent, we’ll need to open our doors to young people and offer them meaningful jobs and shadowing experiences. The future of our city, state, and nation depends on it.”
After the passage of House Bill 5, which requires schools to enhance career planning and technical education, H-E-B put together a committee of technology leaders, superintendents, and workforce development experts from Alamo Colleges, City of San Antonio, and Bexar County. After a year of studying innovative models, the committee unanimously chose the CAST high school system. To help get the project started, Butt and H-E-B are gifting $3.6 million to fund the first two schools. Most funds will go to the inaugural school, CAST Tech, which focuses on technology and entrepreneurship.
Slated to open next fall, CAST Tech, like the other CAST schools to come, does not necessitate any prior skills or academic requirements, and students will be admitted in a lottery format. Operated as a charter of San Antonio ISD, 125 to 150 9th graders will be accepted for the 2017-18 school year.
CAST Tech features two pathways for students, one focuses on cyber security, coding, gaming, animation and digital media, and the second focuses on business analytics, information science, business administration, banking, and finance.
“This new school exemplifies the type of real-world learning opportunities that put students on a higher-level playing field when it comes to college and career readiness,” SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said.
Along with H-E-B, Tech Bloc will serve as the lead industry partner with support from USAA, Rackspace, Geekdom, Open Cloud Academy, Frost Bank, and Firstmark Credit Union. The idea is to foster the next generation of tech talent — and to retain that talent for the city of San Antonio.
“Locating this school in the heart of downtown’s emerging tech district will allow kids to get inside San Antonio’s growing tech scene,” said David Heard, Tech Bloc co-founder and CEO.
The second CAST school, which is still in the planning stages, will focus on advanced manufacturing.
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