PARIS — The Oxford Hills Technical School marketing program is celebrating 50 years of success this year.
Since 1968, the vocational program has combined marketing, entrepreneurship, and retail management and academics to produce successful business men and women whose careers have taken them across the country and beyond.
“The Oxford Hills marketing program set a foundation that propelled me through my first few years of college and has had an everlasting effect on my career,“ said Dan Higgins, a 1999 graduate of the Oxford Hills Technical School marketing program and now director of Social Media and Content Marketing for one of the largest distributors of public service advertising in the country.
Higgins, who works for the PlowShare Group in Alexandria, Virginia, said his success is largely due to the marketing program at the Oxford Hills Technical School.
“I owe an incredible amount of my professional success to the program and the instructors I had,” said Higgins. “The program builds confidence and gives students time to reflect on their future. It makes an incredible impact on students whether they decide to stay in marketing, move on to other business fields or another alternate career path.”
He is not the only success story to come out of the program. From a mobile team project manager at L L Bean in Maine to a district manager of a brewing company in Florida to a project service manager for a healthcare company in Georgia, an advertising intern at a communications firm in Providence R.I. company to an account sales executive for an NBA franchise in Wisconsin, marketing alumni have taken their skills from the classroom to boardrooms around the country.
“Without the marketing program at OHCHS and the DECA affiliation they had while I was there, I’m not sure I would be on the successful path I am on today,” said 2013 graduate Kelsey Deblois, account sales executive for Milwaukee Bucks, an NBA franchise in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
On Sunday, April 7, the program leaders will be hosting a party for the marketing program participants and its alumni to celebrate its five decades of success, said 10-year veteran marketing program teacher and DECA advisor Wendy Robichaud.
The marketing program, which includes the school store Valhalla and the international marketing club DECA, offers a wide range of courses that allow students to become skilled in a variety of career paths and interests.
Students can apply their learned skills in the school store, which teaches them a variety of skills in marketing, entrepreneurship and retail management including, promotions, security, purchasing, merchandising, human resources, finance and management.
All marketing program (and hospitality program) students are also members of DECA, an international club for marketing, hospitality, entrepreneurship, and finance students. Students have traveled to Colorado, Florida, Utah, Washington DC, California and many more for competition, career development, and leadership training.
In 1974, the marketing program created the popular DECA craft fair as a fundraiser to help send 25 to 30 students to compete at the International DECA conference. The fair started with just seven vendor spots and this year, its 44th, organizers said there will be 175 spots and over 250 people on a waiting list to become a vendor. Vendors and patrons attend from all over New England and more than 3,000 people attend on the traditional Saturday before Thanksgiving Day event date.
Third-year students are encouraged to follow their own personal interests through mentorships, job shadowing, volunteering, and school-based enterprise. Many students may work with some of the members of the program’s Marketing Board Advisory members which include Katie LeTourneau from Norway Savings Bank; Gene Benner, Bessey Motors; Wendy Newmeyer of Balsam Fir products and Brendan Schauffler of Healthy Oxford Hills among others.
Vocational programs, such as marketing, have undergone changes in the last 50 years, some impacted greatly by changing technology.
“Students in the distributive education program in the late 60s early 70s were preparing for jobs in office administration and sales,” said Robichaud when asked about the changes that have occurred in the program over the last five decades. “The focus was centered around entrepreneurship. Moving into the 80s and 90s, the program focused on sales and event planning with a strong focus on community involvement.”
Today, she said, students are prepared for a wide range of careers including sales, advertising, social media, and analytical marketing, supply chain integration, logistics, management and more.
On average, she said, about 94 percent of the Oxford Hills Technical School marketing program students continue on to some form of post secondary education including certification programs and college.
“We still focus on community involvement, in fact we have several local businesses with which we collaborate, especially to help the owners with social media,” she said.
Along with the changes in available career paths, Robichaud said changing technology has played a large role in the program.
“Technology has had a huge impact on the program,” she said. “We use programs to keep an accurate inventory and process sales in our school store, as well using social media for advertising and promotions. We also search for examples online and talk about information from major companies.”
Higgins believes that the placement of the marketing program in a vocational setting has sometimes been questioned.
“Marketing is somewhat of an outsider to the hands-on physical/technical skills that are taught through the school’s other programs. Marketing provides largely cognitive skills that are needed to support business functions. They are also valuable to every-day business communication,” he said of the some of the skills that are acquired through the program.
Higgins said the future of the program and support by the community is vital.
“It is important for the community and school board to invest in vocational programs that can not only help them be competitive locally, but nationally and internationally too,” he said.
Deblois said the Oxford Hills Technical School program allowed her to build a career that combines her passion for sports with her marketing skills.
“The OHCHS Marketing program not only made me realize I could combine sports, a passion of mine, with business to create a career, but it also gave me a leg up when I got to college at Johnson & Wales University,” she said.
Higgins agreed, saying the program set a foundation that had an “everlasting” effect on his career.
“Because I had learned marketing and business management principles in high school, I was able to excel in my collegiate studies, win prestigious student marketing/advertising awards, hold student leadership positions on campus, and attain amazing internship opportunities,” Higgins said.
“This boost has led to jobs in the industry working for some of the largest marketing campaigns in the country. I owe an incredible amount of my professional success to the program and the instructors I had.”