RETURNING TO SCHOOL, RETURNING TO LIFE: THE TRANSFORMATION OF DISPLACED WORKERS
Yenger, Jeremy R.
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SubjectCommunity College; Dislocated Worker; Displaced Worker; Manufacturing; Schlossberg; Transition
Problem: Worker displacement is a significant public policy concern. As structural changes in the economy occur, displacement will continue to be an issue that will need to be addressed at both the Federal and state levels, as well as by those who serve displaced workers. Many studies address the quantitative aspects of worker displacement; however, there is a dearth of information on the qualitative aspects of the phenomenon. This qualitative study explored three questions. How does a displaced worker arrive at the decision to enroll in and complete a degree or certificate program? Second, what factors influence a displaced worker’s decision to return to school? Lastly, how has the completion of a college degree, or certificate program impacted a displaced worker’s life? Procedures: This case study explored the concept of transitions, both as displaced workers made a the decision to go back to school, as well as the impact that school has on a displaced worker’s life. A semi-structured interview protocol was created, then, interviews were conducted with nine displaced workers. Participants were chosen through purposeful sampling methods. Data analysis was conducted through the use of open and axial coding. Additionally, axial coding was used to help establish how topics and ideas could be contextualized by Schlossberg’s 4S Model of Transitions (Anderson et al., 2012). Triangulation of the data occurred through the comparative analysis of the nine interviews, as well as interviews with the state’s workforce development office. Findings: I found that within the self component, a participant’s explanatory style was paramount in displaced workers’ understanding of their transition process. Within the supports component, my study found that family and faculty were important components in participants’ decision to return to school and that institutional supports played a critically important role in participants’ decision to move from displaced worker, to student. Conclusion: The importance of participants’ method of explaining their situation – their explanatory style – was clearly instrumental in their decision to return to, and complete schooling. In addition, and perhaps more tellingly, participants noted that institutional supports were critical to their decision to return to school, a finding that was unexpected based on the literature. Recommendations: I implore leaders at both the federal and state level to recognize the important role that institutional supports play in helping those who become displaced. Recognition of the importance of Federal government programs is particularly salient, especially in an era of budget constraints. In addition, post-secondary personnel and faculty can more effectively facilitate and serve those displaced workers who are deciding whether or not to matriculate, or those who have matriculated, but are struggling to complete schooling, with the researcher-created list of questions for helping those who are transitioning from worker, to student.