Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Adam Manley, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Louann Bierlein Palmer, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Richard Zinser, Ph.D.


Education, K-12, manufacturing, partnerships


Manufacturing is struggling to find people to fill open positions in the various career opportunities they represent. The skills gap or skills needed by manufacturers has caused challenges in filling those open positions. Adding to this dilemma is that student interest in these careers has reduced, with the focus being on obtaining college degrees right out of high school. Due to these changes, manufacturing and education are partnering in ways to increase student interest and fill open positions.

This study is looking to better understand one such partnership and how the activities students’ experience influence their career decision making. The Manufacturing and Engineering Partnership Program (MEPP), located in the Midwest partnered with local manufacturing companies to increase awareness and student interest in manufacturing. This research will add to the literature on whether partnerships like the MEPP program can add to the pipeline of people needed in the manufacturing industry.

The purpose of this case study is to understand how the MEPP partnership’s activities shaped participating students’ interest in manufacturing careers. In specific, the goal is to capture students’ responses to the experiences in this partnership program and how they influenced their future career plans. These outcomes can help partnerships evaluate their activities or assist parties looking to create a partnership understand from a student perspective what activities most made an impact.

Upon examining the results on the sixteen interviews, the partnership program does influence student interest in manufacturing careers. In the case of the sixteen students, ten of the 16 students are in or still pursuing careers in a manufacturing field. All sixteen students noted benefits in the career exploration process. Recommendations for future research is to have more studies to determine if students get into a manufacturing careers later in their lifetime.

The implications are that the manufacturing industry and K-12 partnerships represent new opportunities to help in the career exploration and career decision making process. Providing more opportunities for students to understand and apply for the program like MEPP could be beneficial. As discussed in prior themes, the exposure MEPP provided further helped students to determine if a manufacturing related career is the right opportunity for them. This presents an opportunity for partnerships like this to investigate providing classes like MEPP as an elective course for exploring career opportunities.

The research set out to understand how the activities in a K-12 and manufacturing partnership program influence career decision making. From the perspective of the students, there were multiple activities that were impactful and not all connected them to careers in manufacturing. While 10 of the 16 students currently chose careers in manufacturing, all 16 of the students found the Manufacturing and Engineering Partnership Program to be a beneficial part of their career decision making process. The exposure this partnership presented students helped them to determine a course of action for their future careers.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access