Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Raul Leon, PhD

Committee Member

Carmen McCallum, PhD

Committee Member

Diane Parfitt, PhDhD

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy, PhDhD


This is a case study of a group of students enrolled in traditional skilled trade certificate programs at a large Midwestern community college. Considering severe shortage of skilled labor in the geographic area of the college, there is great need for better understanding of ways to alleviate the labor shortage by attracting more young adults to the in-demand fields. Therefore, this case study sought to examine millennial students’ decisions to pursue careers in areas of demand. To collect input from multiple perspectives, interviews were conducted with students, college employees, and family members. The influence college-for-all culture had on their decisions was of significant interest. Analysis of the data revealed several major themes and resulted in a skilled trades choice model. The qualities knowledge, appeal, and self-determination were found to combine to produce a disposition that prepared the students to make the decision to pursue their paths. The development of these three qualities depended on the presence of the supports of time, awareness, and values. The process of forming the disposition was challenged by the influence of college-for-all culture and expectations of previous generations. Recommendations for practice, policy, and future research were also offered based on the findings. Overall, in order for students to wisely invest resources in their futures while providing much needed skilled labor for their communities, students must engage in career exploration early in their education, be taught that all useful work has value, and receive personalized guidance informed by the current needs of the local labor market. Anything less results in wasteful, mismanagement of talent.