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Helping prepare community college students to make the transition from college to work

Dissertation
Author: Lagena Arlette Bradley
Abstract:
The purpose of the study was to investigate students' perceptions about the need for more student training on making the transition from community college enrollment to employment. The hypothesis was that community college students would perceive that additional career counseling services would help them transition successfully into the world of work. Examination of students' thoughts about career counseling services assisted in finding factors that facilitate and impede students' desires for career counseling services including career courses. A researcher-developed pen and paper self-report survey instrument was administered to students enrolled in English courses at Meridian Community College during the 2009 fall semester. Out of the 1242 students enrolled in English classes, 359 chose to participate in the study. Descriptive characteristics of study participants and study participant preferences related to career counseling services are reported as frequencies and percentages. Data from this study indicated that there is a need for further student training in career transition from the community college to employment. The perception of freshmen, sophomores, and non-degree students who participated in this study is that there is a need for a course in basic career seeking skills in order to help students find employment after graduation. Logistic regression analysis findings predicted that a model did exist that could determine whether a community college student will seek career counseling services based on a combination of gender, ethnic group, and internet use for employment. Results from this study indicate that the majority of community college students who responded perceive that more career counseling services would assist them in their transition into the world of work after graduation. Key words: Career, community college, counseling, transition

v TABLE OF CONTENTS

DEDICATION .................................................................................................................... ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................... iii LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................ vii CHAPTER

I. INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................1 Statement of the Problem ........................................................................................1 History of the Community College .........................................................................3 Purpose of Study ......................................................................................................6 Research Questions ..................................................................................................7 Limitations of the Study...........................................................................................7 Theoretical Framework ............................................................................................7 Definition of Terms..................................................................................................9

II. LITERATURE REVIEW ......................................................................................12 History of Career Counseling ................................................................................12 Career Transition of Today ....................................................................................15 Students and Transition..........................................................................................18 Technology and Career Counseling .......................................................................21 Future of Career Transition Counseling ................................................................24

III. METHODOLOGY ................................................................................................27 Research Design .....................................................................................................28 Participants .............................................................................................................29 History of Research Site ........................................................................................30 Instrumentation .....................................................................................................31 Validity ..................................................................................................................32 Procedures ..............................................................................................................33

IV. RESULTS ..............................................................................................................35 Demographic Characteristics .................................................................................35

vi Attitudes about Career Counseling Services ..........................................................46 Knowledge about Career Services .........................................................................50 Use of Technology for Job Search .........................................................................53 Logistic Regression Analysis Findings ..................................................................56 Summary of Research Questions ...........................................................................59

V. SUMMARY, CONCLUSION, AND RECOMMENDATIONS ...........................61 Summary ................................................................................................................61 Conclusions ............................................................................................................64 Recommendations for Further Research ................................................................65

REFERENCES ..................................................................................................................67 APPENDIX A. ENROLLMENT SUMMARY TABLE .................................................................71 B. PERMISSION FROM MCC LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE DIVISION CHAIR ....................................................................................73 C. TRANSITIONING COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS FROM SCHOOL TO WORK SURVEY ...............................................................75 D. SURVEY INSTRUCTIONS .................................................................................82 E. IRB APPROVAL LETTER ...................................................................................84 F. CONSENT FORM .................................................................................................86 G. FREQUENCIES AND PERCENTAGES FOR RESPONSES TO DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS SUMMARY TABLE ...........................88

vii LIST OF TABLES

4.1 Current College Enrollment Status of all Survey Respondents .......................36 4.2 Ethnic Groups of all Survey Respondents .......................................................37 4.3 Gender of all Survey Respondents ...................................................................37 4.4 Current Highest Educational Level for all Survey Respondents .....................38 4.5 Current Marital Status for all Survey Respondents .........................................39 4.6 Current Majors for all Survey Respondents .....................................................40 4.7 Current Age Groups for all Survey Respondents ............................................41 4.8 Current College Choice of all Survey Respondents ........................................42 4.9 Current Enrollments Status for all Survey Respondents ..................................43 4.10 Current Employment Status for all Survey Respondents ................................43 4.11 Current Income Levels of all Survey Respondents ..........................................44 4.12 Generation Status of all Survey Respondents ..................................................45 4.13 Current Number in Households for all Survey Respondents ...........................46 4.14 Student Desire for Employment Help with Career Transition .........................47 4.15 Student Perceptions about the Need for a Career Transition Class .................48 4.16 Student Perception of the Need for a Course on Job Seeking Skills ...............49 4.17 Student Perceptions of What Should be Taught in a Career Transition Class .....................................................................................................50 4.18 Whether or not Student has Visited the Career Center ....................................51 4.19 Whether or not Student is Aware of Career Center Resources ........................52 4.20 Whether or not Student Plans to Visit the Career Center ................................53

viii 4.21 Student Use of the Internet ..............................................................................54 4.22 Internet Accounts Students Use .......................................................................55 4.23 Student Use of Online Technology for Job Searches ......................................56 4.24 Logistic Regression Classification Table .........................................................57 4.25 Variables in the Equation .................................................................................58 4.26 Model Summary...............................................................................................59 A.1 Enrollment Summary Table .............................................................................72 A.2 Frequencies and Percentages for Reponses to Demographic Questions .........89

1 CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

Many college graduates find themselves at a loss once they finish their degree requirements. After years of hard work, they have the skills required to complete a job but they lack the skills needed to transition from college to the world of work. According to Mau and Fernandes (2009), one of the most important career development tasks for young adults attending college is making a successful transition from school to work. For many college students, acquiring a satisfying career is the main reason for pursing a college degree (Mau & Fernandes, 2009). Statement of the Problem In today’s competitive global job market, it is important for students seeking a career to have an edge over their competition because many college graduates find themselves competing with job seekers from around the world. Changes in the world of work as well as demographic shifts toward a more diverse college population and workforce require changes in the way career counseling is provided on college campuses (Kenny & McEachern, 2004). The problem for this study is that community college students are not being prepared to enter the workforce after graduation. Career transition programs are geared toward helping individuals make a smooth transition into a career path. Career transition counseling is a process, which assists in

2 determining lines of work, which meet individual needs, developing a methodology for targeting jobs, establishing an effective action plan to secure employment, clarifying and designing entrepreneurial initiatives, and planning for life (Lepre, 2007). Because of advances in technology and the changes in the world of work, many community colleges have expanded their career centers to offer career transition counseling programs. In the 2008 heated debates between U.S. presidential candidates, providing jobs for American citizens was the number one topic. It surpassed concerns of war overseas, health care, and education, which were predicted to be the number one concerns on Americans’ minds until some of the major U.S. companies had financial difficulties and asked the federal government for a bailout. The 2008 Democratic Party Platform stated: We believe that the nation’s universities, community colleges, and other institutions of higher learning must foster among their graduates the skills needed to enhance economic competitiveness. We will work with institutions of higher learning to produce highly skilled graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines who will become innovative workers prepared for the 21st century economy. At community colleges and training programs across the country, we will invest in short-term accelerated training and technical certifications for the unemployed and under-employed to speed their transition to careers in high-demand occupations and emerging industries. (Democratic Platform, 2008, para. 2) The 2008 Republican Party Platform stated:

3 Community colleges are central to the future of higher education, especially as they build bridges between the world of work and the classroom. Many of our returning veterans find community colleges to be welcoming environments where they can develop specific skills for use in the civilian workforce. As the first responders to economic development and retraining of workers, these schools fulfill our national commitment of an affordable and readily accessible education for all. (Republican Platform, 2008, para. 4) Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has increased from 7.6 million to 15.1 million, and the unemployment rate has doubled to 9.8% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). The economic state of the nation has lead to more individuals looking for work, which has resulted in, more competition for new community college graduates who are seeking jobs. Also because of the economic state of the nation, many unemployed workers are returning to community college training programs to learn new skills (American Association of Community Colleges, 2009). The community college has a rich history in providing the necessary training that out of work citizens need in order to return to the world of work.

History of the Community College The earliest community colleges emerged as additions to the public high schools (Cohen & Brawer, 2003). They served as the 13 th and 14 th grades. Joliet Junior College was the first community college and is the oldest continuously existing public 2-year college in the nation. This college was founded in 1901, and by 1915, the school had

4 outgrown the wing it was given at the local high school. Joliet Junior College constructed the first major facility specifically for use by a public junior college. According to Cohen and Brawer (2003), the growth of technology was the number one reason for the demands of more educated people and science was seen as contributing to progress. The belief was that the more people who learned and used scientific principles, the more rapid the development of society would become. New technologies demanded skilled operators, and schools were expected to train these workers. Although technology might have been a reason for more educated individuals, the reason for the growth of community colleges was that an increasing number of demands were being placed on schools at every level. In previous generations, the family, the workplace, and various social institutions such as churches trained the young to be responsible, law-abiding citizens (Cohen & Brawer, 2003). This responsibility eventually shifted to schools and schools were expected to solve the social and personal problems of students. According to Cohen and Brawer: In the Twentieth Century the community colleges flourished on the new responsibilities because they had no traditions to defend, no alumni to question their role, no independent professional staff to be moved aside, no statements of philosophy that would prevent them against taking on responsibility for everything, unlike the universities. (p. 63) Community colleges, as open admissions institutions, serve a unique position between secondary and advanced postsecondary education. Community colleges have assumed the role of setting college preparatory standards such as SAT scores and grade

5 point averages. They have also provided instruction for students who were capable of doing college work but who did not have the educational background to succeed in the regular four-year college programs (Cohen & Brawer, 2003). Community colleges increasingly have been called upon to provide remedial and developmental programs and services to those students without adequate levels of academic preparation to succeed in college (Cohen & Brawer, 2003). According to Vaughan (2000), community college missions state that they address the educational, vocational, and technical needs of the communities in which they serve. Higher education in general and community colleges in particular have faced an array of new challenges. Broad demographic shifts across the nation, urgent and changing workforce needs, and the need to respond to both business and societal needs in what is now a global economy and a world culture are some of the key challenges higher education institutions are addressing (Vaughan, 2006). Community colleges pride themselves on helping the students they serve develop the necessary skills to be successful in the community and the world in which they live. However, technological advances have left many community colleges struggling to provide their students the skills needed in order to be able to market themselves once they complete their degree requirements. According to an article written by Mobley (2001), over the last few decades of the 20 th Century, scholars were concerned about the school to work transition at all levels of education. Mobley further stated that those who support the community college vocational education system think that community college education applies directly to the demands of the labor market, while others who do not support the community college

6 system believe that vocational training in the community colleges and the school to work transition are not doing as much as they need to in preparing students because individuals who work in these programs are not held accountable for the student outcomes. Mobley (2001) concluded that community college vocational programs fail to meet student expectations and their needs for after graduation such as successful employment. At the college level, career-counseling services are usually provided by an office of career planning and placement. Unfortunately, many students do not take advantage of these services for a variety of reasons including not being aware of the services or a belief that the services are unnecessary for themselves (Winer, 2001).

Purpose of Study The purpose of this study was to investigate community college students’ perceptions about the need for more student training regarding the transition from community college enrollment to employment. The hypothesis was that community college students would perceive that additional career counseling services would help them transition successfully into the world of work. Students’ thoughts about career counseling services were examined to identify factors that facilitate and impede students’ desires for career counseling services including career courses. This study examined the perceptions of freshman, sophomore, and non-degree students related to career counseling services. It also identified whether or not students would like to receive more career counseling services to help in their transition into the world of work.

7 Research Questions Questions to be answered by this study are as follows: 1.Do students who have participated in career counseling services feel the career services they participated in will help them attain employment after graduation? 2.What topics do the students who have participated in career counseling services think should be covered in a career transition class? 3.How have students used technology in their career search? 4.Does a model exist that predicts whether a community college student will seek career counseling services? Limitations of the Study This study is limited in that only those students enrolled in English courses at one community college were surveyed. Another limitation is that those students who were willing to participate in this survey may not represent all students enrolled at the community college. Another limitation may be that survey participants may not have been truthful in all responses, thus changing the results of the data.

Theoretical Framework The average adult spends nearly half of their adult life at work (Zunker, 2002). When enjoyed, a career can bring satisfaction and happiness, contribute to higher self- esteem, and ultimately aid in healthy life adjustment (George & Cristiani, 1995). According to George and Cristiani, when work is disliked, a person can experience stress,

8 boredom, tension, frustration, low self-esteem, and even physical illness. To a great degree, work determines our individual identity and worth and can influence our self- concept. O’Brien (2010) stated: The commitment to social change demonstrated by the founder of vocational psychology Frank Parson continues in several areas of vocational psychology today, including individual career counseling, guidance work in the schools, career interventions with special populations, and vocational research. (p. 1) O’Brien further stated Frank Parson who was considered the father of the guidance counseling movement was an advocate for individualized approaches to career counseling and was the founder of the first vocational guidance center and provided counseling using the principles of light, information, inspiration, and cooperation. According to Zunker (2002), the educational systems of the 1970s were not adequately preparing youth for work. The commissioner of education at that time, Sidney P. Marland, developed a plan that specifically addressed career development, attitudes, and values in addition to traditional learning (Zunker, 2002). This idea is based on the philosophy that career education is an essential part of the educational process from kindergarten through adulthood. As O’Brien (2010) stated: Career counselors when working with individual clients can be agents of social change by conceptualizing clients holistically, using more integrated models of career counseling, being cognizant of multicultural issues, identifying environmental barriers, and using nontraditional interventions. (p. 3)

9 The National Occupational Information Coordination Committee (NOICC) was established by Congress in 1976 (Zunker, 2002). NOICC was supported by four federal agencies: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Employment and Training Administration, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, and the National Center for Educational Statistics. The purpose of NOICC was to develop an occupational information system that provides information about employment and training programs at federal, state, and local levels. NOICC was also developed to assist in the organization and operation of state committees, referred to as State Occupational Information Coordinating Committees, to help all users of occupational information share information and to provide labor market information for the needs of youth (Zunker, 2002). NOICC sponsored projects to establish national career counseling and development guidelines to encourage career guidance standards development at the state and local levels (Zunker, 2002). Standards were developed for young adults and older adult career guidance programming.

Definition of Terms Following are the operational definitions used for terms in this study: Career refers to the activities and positions involved in vocations, occupations, and jobs as well as the related activities associated with an individual’s lifetime of work (Zunker, 2002). Career Counseling includes all counseling activities associated with career choices over a life span. In the career counseling process, all aspects of individual needs

10 (including family, work, and leisure) are recognized as integral parts of career decision making and planning (Zunker, 2002). Career Development is defined as the total constellation of psychological, sociological, educational, physical, economic, and chance factors that combine to influence the nature and significance of work in the total life span of any given individual (American Counseling Association, 2009). Career Development Counselor is a school counselor whose program addresses student needs in all three areas (academic, career and personal/social), placing an emphasis in the area of career development and career counseling (American Counseling Association, 2009). Career Development Facilitator is an individual working in a variety of career development settings (Schmidt, 2003). Career Education is a Kindergarten-Adult concept that integrates career-related activities into regular classroom work or may be taught through stand-alone classes focusing on career exploration and decision-making (Schmidt, 2003). Career Guidance encompasses all components of services and activities in educational institutions, agencies, and other organizations that offer counseling and career-related educational programs (Zunker, 2002). Career Transition Counseling is a process that assists in determining lines of work, which meet individual needs, developing a methodology for targeting jobs, establishing an effective action plan to secure employment, clarifying and designing entrepreneurial initiatives, and planning for life (Lepre, 2007).

11 Community College is a regionally accredited institution of higher education that offers the associate degree as its terminal degree (Vaughan, 2000). Employed is participating in an active manner at a job or vocation to earn an income; contribute labor in exchange for wages (American Heritage Dictionary, 2005). School Counselor professional counselor skilled in current counseling techniques focusing on students’ academic, career and personal/social needs (Schmidt, 2003). Unemployed out of work, especially involuntarily; jobless (American Heritage Dictionary, 2005). Vocation, Occupation, and Job are used interchangeably to indicate activities and positions of employment (Zunker, 2002).

12 CHAPTER II

LITERATURE REVIEW

The review of literature is divided into five sections focusing on the growing need to help community college students prepare for work after graduation. The sections are (a) the history of career counseling, (b) modern day career transition counseling, (c) how students can benefit from transition career counseling, (d) the use of technology in career counseling, and (e) the future of career counseling.

History of Career Counseling

Work in the United States is an important part of life since it has a major influence on how people live, where people live, and with whom people interact. Sigmund Freud (as cited in Malone, 2008) saw the goals of lieben and arbeiten (love and work) as critical to the healthy person. Attaining satisfaction from love and work is of the utmost important in a fully functioning person (Corey, 1983). According to Zunker (2002), literature on career development suggests that we are at a crossroads in the career counseling movement. Career counseling is being challenged to meet the needs of a society that is experiencing vast changes in the workplace and that is rapidly becoming more diverse (Zunker, 2002). Changes in the economy, workforce, and advances in technology have all contributed to the changes in the workforce. The career counseling movement is a result of our progress as a nation. Pope (2000) suggested that the birth

13 and subsequent development of career counseling in the United States has occurred during times of major societal change. Career counseling in the U.S. was developed in the latter part of the nineteenth century out of societal upheaval, transition, and change. An alliance among education, social work, and psychometry in vocational guidance led to the organization of the National Vocational Guidance Association in 1913 (Lambie & Williamson, 2004). According to Lambie and Williamson, the term that was used during the early 1900s for the career counseling profession was vocational guidance. This term involved roles that were similar to modern career counseling with a focus on the transition from school to work, which emphasized appropriately matching clients with work opportunities (Lambie & Williamson, 2004). Career development is a lifelong process of getting ready to choose, choosing, and continuing to make career choices (Wadsworth, 2004). Zunker (2002) indicated Frank Parson is considered by many career experts to be the father of career counseling. Parson’s lecture in 1908 had a huge impact on the career guidance movement. One of Parson’s important contributions to the career guidance movement was his conceptual framework for helping an individual select a career. Parson’s three-part formula was: First, a clear understanding of yourself, aptitudes, abilities, interest, resources, limitations, and other qualities. Second, knowledge of the requirements and conditions of success, advantages and disadvantages, compensations, opportunities, and prospects in different lines of work. Third, true reasoning on the relations of these two groups of facts. (Zunker, 2002, p. 11)

14 Parts of Parson’s three-part formula are still used in many career counseling programs today (Andersen & Vandehey, 2006). The earliest support for vocational guidance came from the progressive social reform movement (Pope, 2000). The federal government played a vital role in helping this movement. The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 established federal grants for support of a nationwide vocational educational program and was influential in supporting the establishment of counselor training departments at major universities (Zunker, 2002). The George-Dean Act of 1936 continued the support of the vocational education movement (Zunker, 2002). The federal government was also responsible for the first edition of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, which was published in 1939. During the time when career counseling was finding its place in history, two books were written that had a dramatic impact on the career counseling movement: Edmund G. Williamson’s book How to Counsel Students which was published in 1939 and Carl Rogers’s influential Counseling and Psychotherapy which was published in 1942 (Zunker, 2002). According to Zunker, the Rogerian theory was responsible for the first major break from Parsons’ straightforward approach to career counseling. The end of World War II also brought about change within career counseling, much in the same way as the end of World War I. The end of WWII established separate career counseling programs and theories. The testing movement made a rapid advance at this time and several books were published on testing (Zunker, 2002). The Educational Testing Service was formed in 1948 after several testing programs were combined. The American College Testing program was developed in the late 1950s.

15 Holt (2001) noted that new theories in career development emerged during the 1950s. Career education includes seven major goals: (a) to equip persons with general employability, adaptability, and promotability skills; (b) to help persons in career awareness, exploration, and decision making skills; (c) to relate education and work so that better choices of both can be made; (d) to make work a meaningful part of total lifestyle; (e) to reform education by infusing a careers emphasis in classrooms; (f) to promote and implement private sector-education system partnerships; (g) and to reduce bias and stereotyping and thus protect freedom of choice (Holt, 2001). The trend of the career counseling profession is to become more humanistic and existential orientated. Career counseling developed to help people during times of change find occupations that worked best for them. The early, straightforward procedures used in helping individuals choose occupations have evolved into diverse strategies that incorporate career decision making and life planning (Zunker, 2002).

Career Transition of Today

Citizens from most countries are facing record-breaking unemployment rates. The number of adults unemployed in America is the largest number unemployed since the Great Depression (American Progress, 2009). The changing work force and changing workplace have created several significant needs for our society today that will continue well into the 21 st century. According to Anderson and Vandehey (2006), there is a growing need for programs and strategies to assist adults in career transition. In the past most career counseling programs focused on initial career choices, but with

Full document contains 103 pages
Abstract: The purpose of the study was to investigate students' perceptions about the need for more student training on making the transition from community college enrollment to employment. The hypothesis was that community college students would perceive that additional career counseling services would help them transition successfully into the world of work. Examination of students' thoughts about career counseling services assisted in finding factors that facilitate and impede students' desires for career counseling services including career courses. A researcher-developed pen and paper self-report survey instrument was administered to students enrolled in English courses at Meridian Community College during the 2009 fall semester. Out of the 1242 students enrolled in English classes, 359 chose to participate in the study. Descriptive characteristics of study participants and study participant preferences related to career counseling services are reported as frequencies and percentages. Data from this study indicated that there is a need for further student training in career transition from the community college to employment. The perception of freshmen, sophomores, and non-degree students who participated in this study is that there is a need for a course in basic career seeking skills in order to help students find employment after graduation. Logistic regression analysis findings predicted that a model did exist that could determine whether a community college student will seek career counseling services based on a combination of gender, ethnic group, and internet use for employment. Results from this study indicate that the majority of community college students who responded perceive that more career counseling services would assist them in their transition into the world of work after graduation. Key words: Career, community college, counseling, transition