Manufacturing Employer Engagement with High Impact Work-Based Learning Programs of Career Academy High Schools: A Qualitative Grounded Theory Study
Neff, Christopher R.
University of Wisconsin--Stout
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Career and Technical Education provides the education and training to develop skills for the future workforce from local to global communities. Career academies are one model for education, aligning academic, CTE, and work-based learning programming. Manufacturing employers, identifying a skills gap as a local challenge to hiring talent to fill current skilled positions, particularly in the Midwest, held certain beliefs to engaging with a local school district implementing career academies at the high school level. This qualitative grounded theory study identified a practical theory related to business and education partnerships, namely Opportunities to Engage. Decision makers and hiring employers of various sized manufacturing companies provided input on the perceived benefits and barriers to partnering with high schools implementing robust work-based learning in a career academy model. Partnerships between employers and high schools are vital for the success of CTE. Implementing work-based learning within a career academy model requires communication, commitment from key leaders, collaboration between the workplace and school district to be successful. Addressing these barriers and capitalizing on the benefits identified by the employers can lead to impactful programming that addresses the workforce needs and provide high school students meaningful experience and career development.