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Northland CAPS Students Help Boost Area Businesses

Northland CAPS
Clay County Economic Development Council Director of Business Development Chris Sizemore (standing, left) addressed area high school students during a recent Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) session. The students are helping the EDC expand its annual business retention survey. Photo Courtesy: Dale Garrison, DGInform.com

Nearly 300 area high school students are getting a jump on both the job market and college, while also helping area businesses.

The students, who represent seven school districts in Clay and Platte counties, are part of the Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS). Only three years old, the program is already having a significant impact on both students and businesses.

“These are not small, busy-work tasks,” explained Patrick Stidham, instructor for the CAP’s Global Business and Entrepreneurship “strand.” “We try to find out what our businesses need and then help them. These are projects the businesses would do if they had time.”

A good example involves the annual Business Retention Survey conducted by the Clay County Economic Development Council. On a recent Tuesday, Stidham’s nearly 40 students met at BankLiberty in Gladstone to learn techniques they would use to gather the opinions and needs of area businesses. Their work will greatly expand EDC efforts, which help with everything from proposed regulatory reform to coordinating the county’s community development efforts.

“This provides us with a tremendous boost,” noted EDC Director of Business Development Chris Sizemore. “With the students’ help, we are able to contact far more businesses and get more of their input. It’s a significant expansion.”

The survey isn’t a small effort, either. With 300 questions, it helps the EDC and area cities build a detailed analysis of area businesses, examining everything from employment to project technology expenditures.

The students are spending much of September learning everything from establishing communications to confidentiality requirements. Stidham noted many of the skills directly relate to college and future jobs.

“This is a professional training process that provides them with employable skills,” he noted. “We’ve also had students, who are now in college, tell us that they are finding their work much easier because of what they learned in CAPS.” Stidham drives that home by noting that the EDC project is only one of 12 that his students will undertake this semester.

“It’s like work,” he noted. “You rarely go to work and spend all day on one project. You normally will have several things to work on. This is the same.” This group is also working on projects for the Kansas City Economic Development Council, Synergy, the Museum at PrairieFire in Overland Park and several smaller organizations. On the EDC project, students will eventually present a summary of their information to several city councils.

“By the time they’re done, they’ll have a much better and broader knowledge,” Stidham concluded. “They’ll see how business decisions are made and make lifelong contacts.”

Matt Dobbler from Liberty High School plus Jacob Harris and Jacob Wilson from Staley High School are good examples. “It’s fun to see how things work,” Harris said. “We’re involved with real business issues and can apply what we learn.”

Stidham says these successes are only the start, however. The three-year-old program also includes programs covering technology, engineering and advanced manufacturing, medicine and healthcare, and global logistics and transportation.

Dale GarrisonArticle by Dale Garrison of Dale Garrison Editorial Services.

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