Date of Award

Summer 2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

STEM and Professional Studies

Committee Director

Ginger S. Watson

Committee Member

Norou Diawara

Committee Member

Philip A. Reed

Abstract

The increased concern of declining STEM candidates could negatively impact the U.S. economy (Kelic & Zagnoel, 2009; Maltese & Tai, 2010). Previous studies suggest that the gap between the supply of STEM students in higher education and workface demand is not reflected merely in the number of STEM graduates but instead in the number of qualified STEM graduates who could satisfy STEM workforce demands (Kelic & Zagnoel, 2009; Lowell & Salzman, 2007). The current study used Rae’s employability theory (Rae, 2007) to develop an assessment for evaluating student’s career development in STEM during their higher education. Unlike other instruments focusing on students’ interests, knowledge, and preparation of their careers interests, this new assessment integrated employability, enterprise, and curriculum elements to assess five career development domains. Results from an exploratory factor analysis indicated that the assessment retained four factors with a total of 33 questions. New STEM graduates’ employment status, their skill development, work-based learning, and career management in STEM higher education were positively associated with their employment status (i.e., employed full-time or non-full-time). In addition, students’ skill development, work-based learning, career management, and applied learning experiences significantly predicted their academic performance (i.e., GPA). The implications for this study support offering work-based curricula and personal-development opportunities in undergraduate STEM programs to help college students achieve their career goals in STEM, which could optimally decrease the skill gap between STEM higher education and workforce demands.

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