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Business and economy news and issues in the Ozarks.

GO CAPS To Benefit Ozarks Area Students, Businesses

Scott Harvey

A new pilot project will join local schools and businesses to offer high school students better experience in the real world.

This week, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors authorized the chamber’s management of the Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Professional Studies (GO CAPS).

“Employers really are willing to teach employees what they need to know as long as they have those basis skill sets,” says Dial.

Dr. Jason Dial is the superintendent for Bolivar Schools, one of 11 districts to contract with the chamber on the project. GO CAPS is patterned after a successful program that originated in the Blue Valley, Kansas school district and has since been replicated by other Kansas City area schools and beyond.

Dial, who came to Bolivar in 2013, had witnessed the emergence of the CAPS program during his time at Independence.

Dr. John Jungmann, formerly of Liberty and current superintendent for Springfield Public Schools, planted the idea for the program locally by reaching out to area school districts and the chamber.

"GO CAPS is all about providing a relevant, engaging learning experience for students and partnering with businesses around major areas where the community has needs," Jungmann said in a news release.  "Our students will learn about the needs of our community, what the future of the workforce is and how to align their talents."

Workforce development is a major area of focus for the chamber, which said this week that its members have increasingly reported a significant disconnect between the skills and talent available in their rapidly changing workforce needs.

“By prioritizing workforce development, our board has made it clear that chamber members rightly expect the chamber to lead on this issue,” Chamber President Matt Morrow said. “We are uniquely positioned to coordinate the innovative efforts of today and tomorrow into a cohesive and complementary system of solutions for the workforce challenges that confront our job creators.”

Bolivar’s Jason Dial says most of the jobs needing to be filled now weren’t even in existence 10 years ago.

“Our job markets are ever-changing, those skills are ever-changing, and we need kids that are adaptable – can think on their feet – and can really work together as a team to solve problems.”

Dial is part of a four-member superintendent’s panel that is working to help shape the program, and will eventually choose five business members to chair its board.  He says in meeting with several businesses throughout the community, the GO CAPS model has been well received. Additional details on the program, including possible funding mechanisms, are tentatively scheduled to be released in April.

The program is expected to increase in student participation over time, but how scalable it will become is not yet clear. The initial emphasis of the pilot project is expected to include course offerings in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors.

In addition to Bolivar and Springfield, other districts include Logan-Rogersville, Nixa, Willard, Republic, Ozark, Strafford, Reeds Spring, Branson, and Monett.

Dial added he’s excited to partner with school districts throughout the region to help the project move forward.

“I think we learn best when we learn together.” 

Follow Scott Harvey on Twitter: @scottksmu