Career examination through a LEAP framework: liberal arts graduates' perceptions of employment skills in the workforce
Peloquin, Brad Daniel
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The purpose of this mixed methods sequential exploratory study was to develop an understanding of the ways in which graduates of liberal arts programs recognize, make meaning of, and apply the competencies developed as an undergraduate within the workplace. In the first quantitative phase of the study, the research questions addressed the association among liberal arts graduates’ perceived importance, academic preparation, and assessment of value attributed by employers of eight critical skills in the workplace and any differences based on participants’ academic domain. The data were collected via a self-developed web-based survey (N=328) sent to graduates of six institutions representing four different Carnegie classifications. The overall response rate was 9.4%. A chi-square analysis in conjunction with the Holm-Bonferroni procedure yielded a statistically significant relationship in five of nine academic domain relationships. A post-hoc contingency table analysis further revealed statistically significant results between academic domain and perception value categories. In the second qualitative phase, eight case studies, consisting of graduates of liberal arts programs from four Carnegie classifications and four academic domains, delved deeper into the results from the first phase. Four themes emerged during the within- and cross-case analysis related to participants’ perceptions of the use of critical skills in the workplace: (1) Personal accountability to the job, (2) workplace dynamics among coworkers, clients, and supervisors, (3) self-awareness of what is important in the workplace, and (4) employer support of the liberal arts in the workplace. The final phase of the study integrated the quantitative results and qualitative findings to determine broad-scale outcomes of the study. Based on the overall analysis, the study provides policy implications and recommendations related to practical skill development within liberal arts programs.