School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Susan K. Stanley


Career Technical Education, Experiential Learning, community college, soft skills, employer experiences


Education | Vocational Education


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand what skills alignment gaps exist between graduates of Industrial Systems Technology CTE programs and local industrial employers. Career Technical Education is structured to develop students using practical experiences, which help students to develop the skills, both practical and soft, needed to work as technical career professionals. A phenomenological approach was used to structure this study. Phenomenological research is used to explore the shared meaning of a group of individuals that have the same experience, discovering differences and similarities between those experiences. The setting of this phenomenological study was the production and manufacturing industry located in Northeast Alabama that employs individuals, with technical degrees, from community colleges. Individual interviews and focus groups were used to explore the experiences of those who employ career technical graduates. The data obtained was prepared for data synthesis by preforming a thematic analysis, which is used to establish patterns or themes drawn from each participants’ experiences, analyzing what the participant said during the individual interviews. Three themes emerged from the data that included skills deficiencies, technical degree perceptions, and changing technology. An examination of these themes revealed an expectation of skills deficiencies by employers, and an overall positive view of a community college education. CTE program instructors should meet with employers to determine current needs and prepare for changing technology. Future studies should be conducted to determine if employer experiences are similar in different types of industries.