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CAPS to launch in Cedar Falls

Strategies to best prepare students for entering the workforce or for higher education are a dynamic process. Educators always are on the lookout for ways to improve the educational experience for students.

After a couple years of study, Cedar Falls Community Schools will implement a new strategy through a new program – the Center for Advanced Professional Studies.

The CAPS program is a partnership with local businesses to put students in a skilled career environment. They will study at a host business for about 2 1/2 hours with high school teachers and business mentors, earning high school and Hawkeye Community College credit.

The program needs a buy-in from the business community, and we believe we are fortunate to live in an area where business leaders are taking an interest.

“It really is an opportunity to provide career readiness skills by focusing on real-world experiences outside of the classroom,” Dan Conrad, the district’s director of secondary education told school board members. Students will complete projects for the companies.

“It’s embedded opportunities for students working with professionals in professional careers,” added Superintendent Andy Pattee.

The program is for juniors and seniors who will take on the title “associate,” when they’re assigned projects with their respective business partner.

District officials have been looking at engineering, computer science and information technology “strands” for the courses, emphasizing career fields for which students would earn at least two- or four-year college degrees.

The host business for the engineering strand will be Viking Pump. Administrators are still working on the other two strands and working with some local businesses to see if that can be determined for the start of the second semester.

“We really worked with our (Greater Cedar Valley Alliance &) Chamber about what strands would be most beneficial,” Pattee said – as well as identifying potential host businesses. They also met with Hawkeye Community College and University of Northern Iowa officials in determining college credit requirements.

The CAPS project was created by the Blue Valley School District in Overland Park, Kan., in 2008 and now enrolls hundreds of students. Related programs have spread to more than 20 other locations in nine states.

This is an opportunity to give students a taste of what various careers may be like, while also an opportunity for high school students to earn high school and community college credit.