Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon came to the Northland on Tuesday to salute a partnership that puts high school students in real-world work environments while giving them community college credits.
The Innovative Education Partnership links Northland high school students with Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City, Northwest Missouri State University and more than 100 area businesses. Such a collaboration, Nixon said, “is what it takes to get things done now. We need everyone working together.”
He designated the partnership a state “Innovation Campus” and awarded it $450,000 in grant funding.
About 200 students are participating in the partnership through the year-old Center for Advanced Professional Studies, or CAPS, at six Northland school districts: Park Hill, Platte County, North Kansas City, Liberty, Smithville and Kearney.
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The students can leave high school with an associate’s degree from Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City that can be applied toward a bachelor’s degree at Northwest Missouri State or another four-year college.
CAPS not only develops a more skilled workforce but also helps schools such as Northwest Missouri State increase enrollment and improve retention and graduation rates, said John Jasinski, the university’s president.
Tuesday’s money for the partnership came from $2 million in grants from USA Funds, a national nonprofit group. Nixon also awarded Northwest Missouri State $385,000 to promote awarding college credits to students for competence gained on a job.
Laura Evans, a senior director in charge of human capital strategy and talent development at Cerner Corp., said she spends a lot of time thinking about expanding the state’s workforce.
“We will need individuals who can collaborate, problem solve, lead and adapt in an environment of ever increasing complexity,” she said.
The partnership and the Innovation Campus designation, she said, “take us a critical step closer to closing the loop between those who prepare our future workforce and those who hire them.”
Sahaja Alturi, a senior at Platte County High School, is interning at Cerner and Liberty Hospital and said she’s gotten to work shoulder to shoulder with full-time employees at both.
“We see their core values, those things that make us want to be more like them,” said Alturi, who aspires to be a physician.
The state’s Innovation Campus program was launched in 2012 at the University of Central Missouri on the school’s Summit Technology campus in Lee’s Summit. Similar efforts are being developed at 10 other locations across the state, Nixon said.
Students in the first Missouri Innovation Campus class graduated from high school with an associate’s degree from Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City last spring. Nine of those students transferred to Central Missouri to continue working toward a bachelor’s degree.