Preparing Students for Professional Work Environments Through University- Industry Partnerships: A Single Case Study of the Co-op Development Program
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Persistent calls to the field of engineering education to help develop diverse, well-prepared engineers for the STEM workforce have fostered collaborations across university and industry stakeholders. As stakeholders focus efforts on supporting student persistence at several critical junctures, there has been a renewed interest in supporting the school-to-workforce transition for engineering graduates. With calls to develop a more tech-savvy workforce, innovative approaches to supporting and preparing students to enter the workforce have become even more necessary; thus it is important to understand how university- industry partnerships generate experiences that contribute to students' eventual workforce entry. The structure of the Co-op Development Program and the perspective of eight former CDP participants addressed how learning experiences shaped the career decisions of engineering participants immediately following graduation. A qualitative single case study approach was used and Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) guided the study. Major contributions of this study include extending the analytic generalizability of Social Cognitive Career Theory, creating operationalized definitions of learning experiences embedded within that framework, and linking those experiences to how students' beliefs were shaped on their pathway to an early career within engineering industry. The themes identified in this study can help CDP managers and university stakeholders better support co-op participants and potentially allocate resources that will serve as the basis for future co-op design recommendations. Stakeholders may also use findings to promote the role of university and industry partnerships in supporting the student workforce transition. Future researchers may extend the study design across multiple cases and leverage recommendations for qualitative and quantitative investigations to address some of the limitations embedded within this research design and further contribute to the discussion of preparing students for professional work environments through university-industry partnerships. Ultimately, findings of this study give voice to the student partner in university-industry partnerships as themes identified in this study help CDP managers and university stakeholders to establish interventions and serve as the basis for future co-op design recommendations.
- Doctoral Dissertations