Students get paid internships, job experience with GO CAPS Manufacturing
Kickapoo junior Ben Garay thought he wanted to go into manufacturing or engineering. But after a year in an immersive engineering and manufacturing program, he knows exactly what career field he’s interested in: automotive.
“I thought I wanted to be an engineer, but after learning all the math and science that engineers are required to do, maybe it’s not for me,” he said. “I think automotive is more for me. But I liked seeing the plants and factories in town, to see what’s out there.”
Ben is just one of 17 students who have spent every afternoon of every school day this year in the GO CAPS Engineering and Manufacturing program. GO CAPS, the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies, allows students to test drive their future career options by being embedded in project-based experiences with local businesses.
Nixa High School senior Tanner Hartman spent months working on a project for John Deere Electrical, eventually being offered a paid internship with the company for the summer before he heads to the University of Arkansas School of Engineering.
“There was a board at the beginning of the semester with projects for local businesses that we could sign up for, and I was unsure of which company I wanted to work with,” said Tanner. “But I thought that John Deere project was the one that I could learn the most from, and then Darrin told me about applying to a paid internship at Miller Engineering and their $1,000 scholarship.”
Darrin Earhart, the GO CAPS Engineering teacher, worked in engineering for 30 years before choosing to mentor future engineers in the program. His classroom at Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation is a collaborative space, where Earhart views his students more as co-workers, partnering with them to make connections with industry leaders and complete projects on time.
“Not only do we connect students to business, but we have to connect business to students if it makes sense,” said Earhart. “Often a business is interested in working with students, but they don’t know exactly what that looks like. My years of experience in engineering and manufacturing gives me some insight into what kind of projects a business might be able to offer to students that will provide a meaningful learning opportunity, but that also brings value to the business partner.”
Students are partnered in a variety of ways with business leaders to meet their learning and professional goals. Hanna Perez, a senior from Reeds Spring, was paired with a female engineer mentor to help her navigate the industry and unique opportunities for women in engineering. Ozark senior Cooper St. John had wanted to design roller coasters since he was a child, and thanks to GO CAPS and Earhart’s connections, he has worked a paid internship working on roller coasters at Silver Dollar City for most of his senior year.
“I’ve owned my own business since I was 13, so I thought I was pretty good at networking,” said Cooper. “But GO CAPS has really helped me build such a huge network of professional contacts, contacts that will help me in the future, even after engineering school. I’ve got a head start on engineering school, and I’m not even in college yet.”
GO CAPS gives junior and senior high school students in the Springfield area a chance to explore their interests in five areas: Engineering and Manufacturing, Entrepreneurship, Medicine and Health Care, IT and Software Solutions and Teacher Education. Click here to enroll in GO CAPS.