Opportunity youth (OY; i.e., youth ages 16–24 who are neither working nor in school) are a population who is difficult to engage and retain in educational programs, particularly in community college career and technical education (CTE) programs. OY are an important population to community colleges, as CTE programs culminating in industry-recognized credentials and employment constitute an important on-ramp to the workforce for young adults. The Manufacturing Training Program is a vocational training program offered at a local community college in Phoenix, Arizona that was informed by input from youth and service providers to support OY in obtaining the necessary technical skills/credential for entry-level employment in manufacturing. Researchers conducted a qualitative study using in-depth interviews with 32 program stakeholders and beneficiaries (i.e., 14 staff and 18 youth). Data were coded and analyzed using content analysis to identify major themes for each stakeholder and beneficiary group interviewed as well as working hypotheses to guide future CTE program development. Findings suggest that there are both challenges and successes related to recruiting, retaining and employing OY. Recruitment challenges include lack of information about and disinterest in manufacturing, whereas successes include leveraging family members in recruiting youth. Retention challenges include meeting OYs’ basic needs, whereas successes include providing quality case management. Employment challenges include limited employer participation whereas successes include developing an effective process to connect employers with trained youth. Findings and lessons learned on recruitment, retention, and employment challenges and successes offer direction for community colleges to develop and strengthen CTE programs for OY.
|Community College Journal of Research and Practice
|Accepted/In press - 2021
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