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Learning on the job: Farmington will participate in MN CAPS this fall

Eric Sill, coordinator with MN CAPS, talks with Farmington High School sophomore Savanah Waag, who is interviewing for the 2018-19 program that places juniors and seniors with businesses to learn real-world, professional skills. The Minnesota Center for Advanced Professional Studies is a fairly new program. Kara Hildreth / contributor

FARMINGTON — Students interested in pursuing careers in the business world or health care may be interested in an apprenticeship program coming to District 192.

Next year Farmington High School will partner with the Prior Lake-Savage School District to offer an apprenticeship program for juniors and seniors through the new Minnesota Center for Advanced Professional Studies.

"We are teaching professional skills that are vital to the real world," said Erik Sill, coordinator with MN CAPS.

"We have students who come to us with the idea that they want to go into business but this actually affirms their decision because they are actually doing it — we are a profession-based, immersion program for 11th- and 12th-graders," Sill said.

Junior and seniors commit to one year and spend half their school day working and learning real-world skills. They will learn inside an office near the industrial park in Lakeville, a few minutes from Farmington High.

"The first month is teaching the kids how to operate in this world that is not a school, because we do not have bells and we give them a lot more responsibility," Sill said.

After getting acclimated to the new learning environment, each student becomes part of team working on an eight-to-10-week project for a company.

"Each student has a fall and spring business pathway," Sill said.

The immersion program pathways fall under the industries of health care, business and marketing.

MN CAPS works with a wide variety of partners, including General Mills, YMCA, Allina and Fairview Southdale Hospital and even the Minnesota Timber Wolves.

In the future, Sill said MN CAPS may broaden its offerings based on students' interests and the industry demands.

"For us, it is a safe place to fail because they are surrounded by adults and they have two to three teachers and their jobs are not at stake and their families," Sill said of students.

Farmington counselor Jerry Pfau said students earn both high school and college credit enrolled in MN CAPS. "I think it is so empowering to students who are not traditional learners and they can gain hands-on experience and we can serve a wide variety of students," Pfau said.

Students need to sign up soon to be considered for enrollment next school year; they can do so even if they already have scheduled classes for next school year, Pfau said. Students and parents then can take a tour and schedule an interview with MN CAPS.

"We have invited sophomores and juniors, but we are targeting juniors because as they have more flexibility their senior year," Pfau said.

"It is a program that was originally created partnership with Lakeville and Prior Lake that was tailored after a program in Minnetonka," said Jason Berg, principal at Farmington High School.Comparing the experience to an apprenticeship, he said he learning experience helps students build skills and mentor in their career pathway.

"It is directed for kids who want more of a robust experience in high school," Berg said.

To find out more about MN CAPS, check out www.mncaps.org or email Sill at esill@priorlake-savage.k12.mn.us. To consider enrollment, local students should talk with a Farmington High School counselor.

Berg added, "The more opportunity we can give students to shine, the greater chance they have to find their niches or spark."

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