CHADRON – High school students from across western Nebraska will have the opportunity to test their knowledge of business and finance Wednesday, March 15, when the Center for Economic Education at Chadron State College plays host to a Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) business competition.
This is the first time that Chadron State has hosted an FBLA contest, according to economics and finance assistant professor Chris McCarthy, director of the CSC Center for Economic Education.
“The competition has taken place elsewhere (in Nebraska) for years, but never at Chadron State,” he said.
Twenty-two students from Chadron and Hay Springs are expected to compete.
FBLA is a nationwide organization that aims to prepare members for careers in business and help them become better employees and citizens, said Brenda Budler, one of the advisers for the Chadron High School FBLA chapter. Contests testing members’ knowledge of business and technology subjects are popular FBLA activities at the local, state and national level.
“We compete at state every year and spend a lot of time preparing and studying for events that members have chosen to compete in,” Budler said.
Chadron High School’s FBLA chapter has 56 members, which is more than 20 percent of the total student body, and sends students to the state competition every year, Budler noted. In addition to the business competition, Chadron FBLA members participate in service events such as food drives, fundraisers for state and national charities and recognition projects for local businesses and educators.
“Not all of our members are going into business-related occupations, but the leadership skills and networking they get from FBLA gives them a great start to any career,” Budler said.
A state Department of Education official asked Chadron State to host the FBLA competition as a way to increase opportunities for western Nebraska students preparing for the state contest in Omaha, McCarthy said.
“FBLA advisers in the eastern part of the state usually take their members to two or three competitions leading up to state competition,” said Budler. “They are usually only offered in the eastern part of the state and we cannot afford an overnight trip to get there. This (the CSC competition) is a great practice before we go to Omaha in April.”
The Chadron competition will include written tests in seven subjects-accounting, business communications, personal finance, business calculations, introduction to business, and FBLA principles and procedure-as well as a job interview contest open only to high school seniors. Members of the Chadron business community have agreed to judge the interview contest, which is conducted much like an actual employment interview, and will include both preliminary and final rounds.
“Students doing the job interview will come with a resume and cover letter. It’s very realistic,” McCarthy said.
Members of CSC’s Phi Beta Lambda club, the college-level division of FBLA, will be on hand at the Chadron contest to greet students and answer questions.
CSC is one of five higher education institutions in Nebraska with a Center for Economic Education. Other centers are at University of Nebraska campuses in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney and at Wayne State College. The centers are supported by the Nebraska Council on Economic Education, a nonprofit organization based at the University of Nebraska Lincoln with a mission of advancing economic literacy across the state by partnering with educators to provide quality economics and finance programs to K-12 students.
Many middle and high school teachers of economics have little background in the subject, and the CSC center tries to assist them by participating in workshops and providing educational materials on the subject.
“Last year I had an event for preservice teachers about how to teach game theory with stuff they could bring into the classroom,” McCarthy said.
The CSC center also hosts a World Food Day Teleconference in October and provides an exam in economics for the annual Chadron State Scholastic Day contest for high school students.
Knowledge of economics is vital, but many young people lack basic understanding of the subject, according to McCarthy.
“I think the need for financial literacy and economic education has only grown since the (2008 financial) crisis,” he said. “I think a lot of it is already being taught, it’s just a matter of teaching it in a more effective way and tying it into the personal financial decisions that these students will be making for the rest of their lives.”
McCarthy sees FBLA contests as a good means for introducing students to economic concepts they will use throughout their lives.
“By having them study and prepare for this and compete, they will be better off in terms of their ability to interact with the real world competently,” he said.
Budler said there are additional benefits for Chadron High FBLA members who will be going on to the state contest after competing at CSC.
“It familiarizes students with the competition process. It allows our students to put themselves into a competitive situation against students from other schools,” she said.
And the contest will benefit CSC, by showing prospective students what the college has to offer.
“It’s a great opportunity to promote Chadron State,” McCarthy said.