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The North Texas Aerospace Manufacturing And Aviation Industries: An Explanatory Case Study Of School-to-work Collaborative Networks
Miller, Cynthia Ann
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The purpose of this study is to explore how educators, business partners and facilitators developed ties or networks to initiate a school-to-work collaboration to prepare students for jobs and careers in the aerospace manufacturing and aviation industries. There is growing concern about preparing a future workforce supply in these industries in North Texas. Workforce projections call for 8000 additional jobs between 2010 and 2020 (North Central Texas Council of Governments, 2013). Collaboration is recognized as a valuable asset to connect disjointed segments within the K-16 trajectory. This study explores the contradiction between the stated need for collaborative strategies and the inability of stakeholders attempting to collaborate across organizational and institutional boundaries to sustain these connections. Through the lens of networking theory, the roles of facilitators and the operation of networks and ties between and among partners are investigated. Ten participants in a high school curriculum development project were interviewed, representing a business, community college, and K-12 education. Data analysis revealed findings associated with three major themes: facilitation, project activity and relationships. Nine individuals were identified as facilitators, and facilitators were perceived as helping the project move forward. Project activity benefited from the structured curriculum development process. Although relationships characterized by strong ties helped start the project, weak ties predominated among project participants. Implications for theory include the need for more knowledge about facilitator roles and group dynamics. Further research about the functioning of weak and strong ties and facilitator skill sets relating to collaborative leadership would be valuable. Implications for practice include capturing lessons learned to apply to other industries, and overtly acknowledging the existence and importance of facilitators.