A professional job experience in high school? | ParkRecord.com

A professional job experience in high school?

Megan Yeiter , The Park Record

There is no denying that the job market is slim, especially for high school and college graduates with little to no experience. Over the past several years, Park City School District has been researching models for a Center for Advanced Professional Development. The idea is to offer a program that will help students get a leg up on practical business experiences and to focus on project-based cooperative learning, according to Tom Van Gorder, Park City School District Director of Student Services.

Over the last few years, Van Gorder said the school district has looked into ways to expand career and professional classroom opportunities for all students, including those who might not be college bound. This fall, school district employees visited a program in Overland Park, Kansas, where they believe they found a suitable model for Park City.

"In the past three years the Park City School District has asked the board to explore the expansion of our current offerings," Van Gorder said. "We saw in Kansas that students would have to sit down and cooperate and work together for the company they were working for."

Potential programs and internships that could be offered at the Center for Advance Professional Studies, include ProStart hospitality, digital media, medical career exploration, education, international business, engineering, pharmacy education, Bio technology and Emergency Medical Technician, according to Van Gorder, who said students would gain invaluable experience and local business connections. He said the program could sustain itself without a designated facility at first.

"At the point of building a facility, if we were to be at that point, this could be a multi- purpose facility," he said.

According to Donna Deeds, Executive Director of the CAPS program in Blue Valley School District, they built a building, but it’s not required to run a successful program.

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There is a need for students to have that professional experience, according to Deeds, who said the CAPS program sets students aside from the normal market.

"First and foremost we are trying to give juniors and seniors in high school the opporuntity to fast-forward into their future, and that future is past college. We teach in a way that is very different from a regular high school," Deeds said.

The Overland Park CAPS program has been educating students for three years. Deeds said the school is expected to hit its capacity at 1,000 students next year.

One of the most important aspects of the program is asking businesses what students should be learning, according to Deeds, who said guiding students to where the jobs are will help them succeed.

"One of the most key and fundamental pieces of this is that we engaged business partners from the very beginning," she said. "We literally went to the industry first and said ‘tell us what we are supposed to be teaching and help us write this curriculum.’"

In the Blue Valley School District, parents are on board with the program, according to Deeds, who said they want their students to have that professional experience.

"The parents are really embracing that they want their students to have this experience," she said. "The parents see the value of that in their child’s future and the success in making those connections."

Deeds said the program is for students who are looking to perform at a level higher than high school. She said students should be willing to work like a 22-year-old fresh out of college.

"This district chose to not have a GPA minimum, but students need to be mature, meet dress code requirements and the workload," she said. "We are looking for students who are committed to working in teams and they have to be committed to doing college level work."

Deeds said students can expect to learn about business ethics, collaboration and communication and economics. The Overland Park CAPS program spends about $500 to $600 per student each semester course, which equals about 2.5 hours of instruction each day in the morning or afternoon.

A second group of school district employees and business partners will visit Overland Park at the end of January to review the Blue Valley CAPS program and discussion will continue from there experience.

For more information regarding the Blue Valley CAPS program visit http://www.bvcaps.org . Questions for the Park City School District can be asked by calling (435) 645-5600.