The Park City School District's Center for Advanced Professional Studies (PC CAPS) officially opened this week and it couldn't have come at a better time. With the national economy still teetering, students are finding that landing a job is a huge challenge even with a degree in hand.

The new program at Park City High School, however, is intended give local students a competitive edge. Through partnerships with local professionals, business owners and volunteers, the PC CAPS program offers unique on-site job experiences to add to students' resumes.

The opportunities are more than after-school jobs or internships. Instead, they entail assuming responsibility for specific projects for local companies like Rockwell Collins, Adobe and Skullcandy. Students will work directly with the companies and volunteer mentors.

In addition to concrete work experience, it is hoped that the program will also allow students to explore potential career paths and help them hone their college selections. For most, high school is a broad platform that doesn't always intersect with specific career choices. PC CAPS, with its emphasis on putting education to practical use in the business world, should help shrink that gap.

The concept has been in development for more than two years, beginning with a school district trip to a successful CAPS program in Overland Park, Kan. in 2011. School district leaders, along with local business people, were excited about what they saw. Since then, the district and local volunteers have been busy obtaining funding and enlisting business partners and volunteer mentors.

When enrollment for the program finally opened, organizers were swamped with applications. Original projections were to accommodate 60 students. This semester, PC CAPS welcomed 150 enthusiastic participants.

Park City High School juniors and seniors are lucky to have this opportunity. But keeping the program going will require an ongoing investment of time and energy from the community at large. There is a page on the Park City School District's website for those who want to learn more about the program. On the site, businesses can also sign up to outsource a project to students, and local professionals can volunteer as mentors or to give guest lectures. Think of it as Park City's very own opportunity incubator.

For more information, log on to: http://caps.pcschools.us/