Retiring Northland CAPS Instructor Reflects on Dramatic Change
One of the first instructors to help put the Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) on the map is retiring.
Pat Stidham has led CAPS’ Entrepreneurial and Global Business strand since it began three years ago. He says the program may be one of the most dramatic developments in the area.
“I think we’ve done amazingly well,” Stidham said. “Four years ago the program began with just 28 students. Next year it will have over 400.”
A veteran of 26 years in sales and marketing, Stidham entered education 13 years ago. His first 10 years were at Truman High School, where he launched a new career-training program. He joined CAPS in its second year when it added two new subjects, including his Entrepreneurial and Global Business strands. Other areas include digital media and design, engineering and advanced manufacturing, global logistics and, the largest, medicine and healthcare.
From the first day of class, CAPS students work on business projects and are expected to deliver real solutions. Working alongside business owners and professionals, they learn problem solving and “soft skills” like working with a diverse team and effective communication.
“It doesn’t take them long to realize you’ve got to be able to solve problems,” Stidham said. “The answer is not going to be in a book.”
The students also learn about careers many never knew existed, including careers in the Northland and Clay County. “The whole purpose of this was to provide authentic learning opportunities with the hope that these students would develop relationships and land back in our neighborhood,” Stidham explained. “I think we’ve done a tremendous job of dong that.”
As proof, he noted two students who recently told their story at the Northland Coffee Connect, a weekly gathering for entrepreneurs and business owners. “These two students just earned real estate licenses,” he said. “There’s an example of kids who saw where their future was and got into it while going to college. It’s a good match.”
A big part of that involves dozens of business partnerships that make this possible. “If we don’t have the businesses, it doesn’t work. That’s been the key to success for this.”
Stidham is optimistic about the future. “The brand has been very well established,” he said. “When we approach new businesses, they have heard about the program before we get there. We don’t have to explain who we are.”
Although he’s retiring, Stidham plans to remain in the area and stay active with CAPS. He and his wife are also building a home in North Kansas City. “I plan to be around,” he laughed. “I hope to stay involved.”