Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. Richard Zinser


Manufacturing, technician, profile, characteristics, student, learn and earn


The 2008 recession proved to be difficult for the manufacturing industry. As a result, strategies for succession and talent attraction are now important for the resurgence of the industry. The purpose of this study was to describe and interpret how community college students, preparing for entry-level technician positions in manufacturing, experience a “learn and earn” industry and education partnership. For this study, “learn and earn” can be defined as students enrolled full-time in an associate degree program while working at a company that is sponsoring a full ride scholarship for their education.

Past studies have focused on (a) preparing young adults for specific disciplines other than manufacturing, (b) evaluations of partnership programs, and (c) the analysis of the learning characteristics of young adults preparing for a career in manufacturing. This study advanced that body of research in that the young adults’ characteristics were thoroughly explored to understand the type of person who is a good fit for a specialized “learn and earn” program in manufacturing.

Using qualitative research methods, I explored the students’ experiences in five phases: (a) analysis of the community college’s semester surveys, (b) phone interviews, (c) classroom observations, (d) work setting observations, and (e) face-to-face interviews. With a set of research questions developed from a review of academic literature, I was able to better understand what can learned from the experiences of students who enrolled in such a program. Seven major themes emerged. Participants:

  • valued mentorship both in the classroom and on the job,
  • were academically strong and preferred challenging work both in the classroom and on the job,
  • were active both in and out of the classroom,
  • desired to move to a professional career, with defined future goals,
  • valued on-the-job training and formal education,
  • preferred applied learning and were willing to apply their work ethic to both school and while on the job, and
  • were not overwhelmed by the balance of school and work.

I then used a typological framework to provide a lens to distill the elements of students’ experiences in order to better inform the planning and recruitment for “learn and earn” types of programs. This analysis identified the following themes. Participants:

  • disliked repetitive work,
  • were accurate in both their coursework and work setting projects and valued quality,
  • understood the monetary value of an education,
  • possessed strong math skills,
  • liked problem solving, and
  • engaged in physical hobbies.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access