Date of Award

May 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education and Human Development

Committee Member

Daniella Hall

Committee Member

Michelle Boettcher

Committee Member

Kathryn Lee D'Andrea

Committee Member

Jacquelynn Malloy


The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of the resources and opportunities available to rural students that contribute to their career readiness particularly essential soft skills. The study was designed to identify critical factors that shape workplace skills of prospective career ready students in a rural high school to inform programs and practices focused on preparing students for the workplace. I analyzed WIN data (the assessment in South Carolina to determine career readiness) from the spring 2018 administration to describe student-level results by readiness levels and demographics. Using a descriptive qualitative design, I interviewed community stakeholders in local workforce development to explore their perceptions of workforce readiness.

In this study, rural community stakeholders expressed soft skills such as communication, and personal responsibility as critical skills needed in local workplaces. Furthermore that schools assist students in acquiring these skills by holding them accountable for expectations such as attendance, being on time, appropriate dress and wearing identification badges. Overwhelmingly, these community stakeholders cited workplace experience as the most critical factor in preparing graduates for local employment. Relatedly, study participants reported that graduates who are familiar with their work tend to experience contentment in the workplace which encourages the growth of consistent workforces in rural areas.

The primary significance of this study is to educational leaders seeking to ensure career readiness in South Carolina. By revealing the perceptions of stakeholders, educators can gain insight into the critical factors of career readiness. This research can influence educational practices by serving as a guide for project-based learning, collaborative work groups, on-site work experiences, technology integration, creating and developing ideas and products, and interpersonal skills. For scholarship and research, this study serves as a basis for further research to give a voice to the perceptions of graduates who met career ready measures during their first year of work. The findings from this study can inform policymakers seeking to support and expand current career pathways for South Carolina graduates.



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