Profession-Based Learning Program - Real World Learning
Overland Park, KS
Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS)
Support & Sustainability

Profession-Based Learning Program

Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) represents the collaboration of education, business and community to provide students with unique, immersive experiences, resulting in highly skilled, adaptable, global innovators and leaders. The program utilizes profession-based learning, supports self-discovery and exploration, develops professional skills, nurtures the entrepreneurial mindset, and is responsive to market shifts.

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CAPS is a nationally recognized, innovative high school program. Students fast forward into their future and are fully immersed in professional cultures. They solve real world problems, use industry standard tools and receive mentorship from actual employers, all while receiving high school and college credit. CAPS is an example of how business, community, and public education can partner to produce personalized learning experiences that educate the workforce of tomorrow–especially in high-skill, high-demand jobs.

Implementation: How We Did It

The CAPS program was created to enhance relevance in a district that already delivers rigor. Being responsive to industry changes, the program aligns to high-growth, high-demand professions in the region.

Students realize their strengths and passions by exploring and experiencing potential professions. This allows them to make informed decisions about their futures, while learning to practice leadership. Unique experiences allow students to cultivate transformative professional skills such as understanding expectations, time management, collaboration, and other essential business values. These skills are critical to providing students a competitive advantage in their post-secondary education and professional careers.

All students meet with counselors to ensure that core requirements have been met before enrolling in CAPS. More than 80 percent of the student body consists of high school seniors. The school day consists of seven periods, and CAPS students spend either periods 1-3 or 5-7 in their chosen strand. There are six course strands that are aligned to high-growth, high-demand careers in the immediate area. The offerings include Engineering, Medicine & Healthcare, Business, Technology and Media, Human Services, BioScience, and the Innovate/Entrepreneur Strand.

Related Resources

Community Partners
Professional Learning

Community Partners

Jennifer Bauer, the Business Development Specialist at Blue Valley USD 229, works to establish relationships with community partners at the ground level. After confirming the number of students who will be enrolled the following semester, Jennifer works to secure new projects and partnerships, with the goal of building collaboration skills among] students who then work together in small groups throughout the semester. Once partnerships are established and project ideas are formed, the relationship is often passed from Jennifer to the classroom teachers for execution.

There are currently 15 different internships, and they each use a 360 review process. First, students complete a self-evaluation, followed by an intern sponsor evaluation at the middle of the placement. This information is used to inform improvements or adjustments that are needed during the internship.

Students are also involved in the development of their projects. They meet with partners to outline the scope of the project and check-in with partners before delivering a final pitch and/or deliverables at the conclusion of the project. The partners offer feedback to students about the project throughout the course of the placement.

During the summer, Jennifer meets with community partners to monitor and inventory the existing relationships. During these one-on-one meetings, partners review their partnership to-date and consider ways that they would like to engage moving forward. Partnership opportunities include, but are not limited to real world projects, teacher externships, advisory/steering committee input, mentors, student internships, and gifts of equipment or money. The goal is to ensure that all relationships are mutually beneficial.


Students receive high school credits equivalent to three elective courses, per a semester at CAPS. In addition, CAPS maintains partnership programs with higher education institutions, providing CAPS students with opportunities to earn college credits while completing their high school requirements through concurrent enrollment.


The CAPS program is studying impact in a few different ways. First, students take a survey at the end of each semester to assess their comfort with a number of professional skills before and after their CAPS experience. Topics include composing professional communications; building a professional resume; forming a positive first impression with a 30-second elevator pitch; conducting 1-on-1 conversations with a professional and/or mentor; owning personal strengths and passions; collaborating effectively as part of a project team; exhibiting leadership; planning and executing a project; and positively responding to mistakes or other unexpected circumstances. Parents are also surveyed every semester to provide feedback on the program and student progress from their perspective.

Additionally, CAPS is currently working with Northeastern University on a study about the impact of STEM learning on specific populations with a focus on persistence. A BVSD statistician is analyzing Clearinghouse data to disaggregate CAPS students from the general BVSD population. This has already proved fruitful with data showing that students at CAPS persist at a higher rate if they transition to post secondary education.

Professional Learning

Instructors develop real-world, project-based learning strategies through collaborations with business and community partners. CAPS structures our building level professional learning time to facilitate specific program demands. This may include topics like project management, business development and relationship cultivation, or a professional externship.

Support Structures

The ability to have a diverse field of educators promotes an environment where creative thinking and problem solving is encouraged. Half of CAPS teachers are from traditional teaching backgrounds, while the other half are from the professional discipline the students are working. Kansas has made this possible with alternative pathways into the classroom including the Visiting Scholars license. Blue Valley CAPS has nurses, a certified athletic trainer, a licensed attorney, and an engineer, as well as traditional classroom teachers to facilitate learning. This unique culture ensures Blue Valley CAPS is equipped with an innovative culture that is critical to fostering entrepreneurial learning and design thinking.

The Future of this Work

We will continue to be responsive to industry changes and modify our programming to reflect emerging opportunities.

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