Date of Award

Winter 2-4-2021

Document Type

Dissertation - University of Massachusetts Global access only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Carol Riley, Ed.D

Second Advisor

Marilou Ryder, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Sumer Avila, Ed.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this explanatory sequential mixed methods study was to investigate the perceptions of disconnected young adults’ participation in a WIOA program on the impact of their academic, career, and personal development.

Methodology: This study used quantitative and qualitative approaches to explore how disconnected young adults perceived their academic achievement: reading, writing skills, and educational attainment; and career and personal development, in terms of motivation, life, people, and professional skills as a result of participating in the WIOA program.

Findings: The findings suggest that, overall, disconnected young adult WIOA participants’ academic, career, and personal development have been positively impacted as a result of participating in a federally funded WIOA program. Participants expressed how motivation played a key role in their academic achievement. However, a significant number of WIOA participants did not need the academic support services focused on high school diploma completion. WIOA program empowerment strategies designed to motivate WIOA participants impacted their personal development. Participants believed that their career development had the greatest impact. However, the findings revealed that participants had barriers that created challenges for transitioning into the workforce. Participants thought that WIOA career counselors and coaches lacked training and cultural sensitivity. The need for more career and technical education (CTE) certifications, paid internships, and work-based learning activities was also a concern among WIOA participants.

Conclusions: The study’s findings supported the need for federally funded WIOA programs to develop work-based learning activities that are directly aligned to participants’ needs. Businesses and community partners are needed to implement job training programs that lead to middle-skilled career jobs. At the federal, state, and local levels, WIOA administrators, in partnership with policy makers and politicians, must introduce legislation and policies that bring more funding to WIOA programs.

Recommendations: Further research on federally funded WIOA programs is needed to provide a greater understanding of what barriers prevented participants from successfully transitioning into the workforce. Research examining career counselors and coaches’ perceptions on effective work-based learning activities will provide needed data for program success. Additional research on how WIOA programs were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic will add to future WIOA program and development strategic plans.