Career Ready Programs opens door to job opportunities as program continues to grow

Welding program students working on a project


Listen to the podcast


No one else in Cameron King’s family is a welder. In fact, King, a Blue Valley North junior, thought his only option following high school was to attend a four-year college, receive a degree and follow in the footsteps of his family members. 


That was until he learned of Blue Valley’s Career Ready Programs. 


Career Ready Programs offer opportunities to junior and senior high school students to learn and experience a variety of trade professions from welding, automotive technology, construction management or fire science to culinary, plumbing or electrical technology. 


Now King has a better understanding of the endless opportunities available to him post-high school and is learning through hands-on experience what it takes to be a welder. 


Blue Valley is in its third year of offering Career Ready Programs through Johnson County Community College (JCCC). The partnership allows junior and senior high school students to spend about half their day away from their home high school. 


The students head to JCCC or the Overland Park Fire Department for the fire science program. Career Ready allows high school students to get formal training, earn certifications and licensures in multiple fields that could lead to an exciting career. 


“It’s very hands-on in nature,” said Adam Wessel, Director of Career Ready Programs. “It’s teaching kids a skill or set of skills that they then could apply for and get employment in that area and have a very lucrative and sustained career.”


Blue Valley has also partnered with JCCC to offer a dual-degree program in which students can attend the community college full-time and work toward their associate's degree, ultimately allowing them to graduate high school with their diploma and associate's. 


Both the dual-degree and Career Ready Programs are offered at little or no cost to students, Wessel said. 


There are currently 30 students in the dual-degree program, 13 in auto tech, 13 in welding, five in culinary, two in plumbing, four in electrical tech and 15 in fire science. 


Fire Science Program students

Sense of creativity leads to welding program

King said he’s always dabbled in creating and using old tools and pieces of wood to craft items. 


When King’s mom suggested he consider participating in Career Ready Programs he became intrigued. He chose to pursue the welding program. 


“I’ve always had a hard time in school, not necessarily with grades, but with being in a classroom,” King said. “It’s hard for me to just sit there and try to take in the information. (Career Ready Programs) came around and it sounded like the perfect thing for me, and I think it is.”


King starts his day at JCCC. After a short lesson, he heads to the welding lab where he works to complete the instructor’s assignment. 


The welding class ends shortly before 1 p.m. each day. King then heads back to Blue Valley North where he finishes out the school day. 


King said the welding program has helped him realize he has a passion for the profession and that he works well with a team. 


After what King has experienced so far in the welding program, he said he’s interested in pursuing a career in the field following high school graduation. 


“In these welding jobs there are many different levels than just being a welder and that’s the main thing I think is good about this program,” King said. “To become higher up in a welding position you need to not just know how to weld, you need to know about the processes. That’s what we are learning most about at JCCC.”


Students practicing welding in class.

Welding becomes viable career option for King

Sarah King, Cameron King’s mom, said her son is outgoing, studious and friendly but also enjoys spending alone time working on creative projects and woodworking and 3D printing. 


When Sarah King learned about Career Ready Programs, she tossed it out to Cameron as an option. 


“He has jumped in with two feet and has loved every single minute of it,” Sarah King said. 


Sarah King said there is a learning curve associated with Career Ready Programs. Her son now has to take on more responsibility, driving himself to JCCC and making sure he arrives on time. 


“I’ve seen growth in him meeting new people,” Sarah King said. “You are thrown in with people from all over so he’s getting more comfortable with that and different teaching styles. The teachers over there are hands down amazing and they know how to treat these kids like adults.”


Cameron King comes home and feels excited, listened to and valued, Sarah King said. 


Sarah King said she doesn’t think her son would have known welding was an option if it wasn’t for Career Ready Programs. 


Most of the King family has gone to a four-year university, taking similar career paths, Sarah King said. 


“I think this also lets Cameron know this is a viable career option,” Sarah King said. “The pressure of him going to college right away, picking a major and just sticking with it — that pressure seems to be a lot less. He probably will go to a four-year university right out of high school and then use this (certification) also but this might give him an upper hand in getting into a program.”


A construction student cuts a piece of wood

Career Ready Programs highlights high demand job fields

One of the biggest benefits of Career Ready Programs is students having the opportunity to explore career paths prior to high school graduation. 


Wessel said most of the Career Ready students see their chosen program through to the end, but there are some who decide the profession isn’t a good fit. 


“In our mind, that’s a win too because we’ve saved that kid a lot of time and money,” Wessel said. 


Students can choose to explore a different program or return to high school full-time if their first choice doesn’t work out.  


“We’re not asking them to make a full commitment of ‘You’re going to finish this,’” Wessel said. “We see it as an exploratory opportunity for a lot of kids.”


Career Ready Programs also allow students to develop work skills in a professional setting and are tasked with responsibilities they will have once they enter the workforce. 


Wessel encourages families to start having conversations with their children when they are in middle school to determine if Career Ready Programs might be a good fit. 


“We see that as an opportunity to get on people’s radars at an early age so when the time does come, the students have done what they need to do academically and know for certain that’s an opportunity,” Wessel said. 


Career Ready Programs has experienced immense growth in its three years and will continue to expand. Cybersecurity and nail technician will be added to the lineup in time for the 2023-2024 school year. 


And the exciting opportunities don’t stop there. Because of community partnerships Blue Valley is developing with local businesses, Career Ready Programs students can job shadow, potentially opening doors for future job employment. 


“A lot of these programs are putting kids into very high demand fields of employment,” Wessel said. “People are retiring so we are trying to build that new wave of students to come in. If you go through Career Ready Programs, the job market is incredible for these students.”


Those wanting more information about Career Ready Programs can visit An information night about the emergency management and fire science program will be held 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at Overland Park Fire Department, 12401 Hemlock. 


An information session about all Career Ready Programs will take place 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at JCCC in the CTEC building lobby.