Yesterday, I visited Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill, South Carolina to talk to the Virtual Enterprise class about the cruise industry and the ins and outs of running an online cruise agency. The Nations Ford Virtual Enterprise class, taught by Lou Anne Cornwell, chose to be an online Cruise Agency for their virtual business (great choice). They interact in a virtual economy with the other Virtual Enterprise businesses from around the US. I was impressed by how well this program is preparing students for the real world. They have to write a business plan, write resumes, interview with local business leaders, develop websites, create commercials, and almost any other function that is required to run a business.
I showed them how we market CruiseDeals.com online and how we use social media to interact with our customers and continuously provide free information to help make the cruising experience better for all cruisers. I explained to them that Travel Agents provide value by using their expertise to match up clients with the perfect cruise based on the client’s preferences. Vacations are in most consumers’ top 5 most expensive purchases and a good travel agent ensures that their client gets the most out of that investment. After answering a few questions, I toured the class to review their website, 30 second commercial, accounting tools, invoices, brochures, and company policies.
What I Learned: My fellow Travel Professionals, take this as your fair warning. If this group of students is any indication of what the future holds you better step up your game. 15 – 20 year olds grew up on the internet and creating a professional website, editing video & pictures, using social media, maximizing mobile devices all come naturally to this generation. Their strong base of technical knowledge will give them a huge advantage as technology development continues to move forward at light speed. We have to adopt new technology quickly as it becomes available and push ourselves to continuously experiment and learn.
Prior to meeting the Nation Ford High School Virtual Enterprise class, I’d become jaded about high school curriculum. I felt that US students graduate high school without basic real world skills like how to buy a house, how to write a resume, how to fill out their tax forms, and other basic finance skills. I’m glad that I went to “teach” this class about the cruise industry because I learned that there are programs teaching students real world skills, teachers like Lou Anne Cornwell who enthusiastically teach those classes, and that these students come naturally loaded with a base of technical knowledge that will help them compete in the real world.