Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

DREAMing of a Better Life: A Policy Delphi Study Exploring Skill Development and Employment for Undocumented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) Immigrants
by Pakornsawat, Tracy Lorraine, Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 2017, 400; 10610663
Abstract (Summary)

Young adults between the ages of 16 and 30 are typically at the stage of their life when they should be transitioning from school, gaining employability skills, and entering the workforce (Settersten et al., 2005; van Gennep, 1960). An estimated 1.3 million undocumented, DACA eligible youth are currently in this transitional life stage (Hipsman, Gómez-Aguiñaga, & Capps, 2016), and another 80,000-90,000 will enter this stage each year (Batalova et al., 2014) where their opportunities for gaining skills and quality legal employment will impact their futures (Becker, 1992; Schultz, 1961). Struggling to find a path towards meaningful careers, these young adults know that if they are not able to gain additional education, training, and quality work they will be trapped in an underground society, working in under-the-table jobs that are way below their potential, education, and skills abilities, and are ultimately unable to escape poverty and support themselves and their families (Anguiano, 2011; Bank-Muñoz, 2009; Bernstein & Blazer, 2008; Burman, 2013; Gildersleeve, 2010; Gonzales, 2007, 2008, 2009b, 2011a; Gonzales & Chavez, 2012; Hudson, 2012; Padrón, 2007/2008; Snyder, 2013).

In lieu of comprehensive immigration reform, this study sought to identify policy recommendations that would assist the DACA youth to develop skills, continue with their education, and ultimately enter into the workforce in legal employment opportunities. Two theories framed this study and a third was used as a lens in which to view the issues. These theories are human capital theory, national human resource development (NHRD), and Kingdon’s multiple streams theory. The intersection of these three theories brings together (a) the traditional economic foundation of how organizations make determinations regarding who and when to invest in the skill development of individuals, or whether the investments should be made by the individuals themselves (human capital theory), (b) what interventions can be utilized to develop skills and how policy should be used to promote those interventions (national human resource development), and (c) how these elements are brought together to formulate policy (Kingdon, 2003).

Using an iterative survey methodology called a Policy Delphi this study obtained a compendium of viewpoints from the diverse perspectives of the stakeholders represented and identified 94 specific policy recommendations. There are five barriers to skill development (transportation, education, access to information, families and first-generation issues, and hopes, dreams and fears) and four barriers to accessing legal employment opportunities (knowledge of jobs available, employability skills, a lack of having credentials and experience, and the behavior and practices of employers). There are three facilitators to skill development (attaining higher education credentials, the importance of advising, and motivation) and five facilitators to employment (work authorization, bilingual proficiency, educational credentials, internships, and mentoring). These barriers and facilitators led to the identification of 94 policy recommendations which were ranked by desirability, importance, and feasibility/likelihood. Greater than 80% of the policy recommendations were desirable or very desirable and all 94 recommendations were important or very important. However, out of the 94 recommendations there is only a moderate belief that any of the policy suggestions are feasible or likely to be addressed despite their desirability or importance. Beyond the rhetoric surrounding immigration and who is and is not desirable to be a part of the U.S. workforce, there is a more nuanced and subdued element that emerged through this study that is more salient than any others, and that is the issue of addressing social inequalities on a broad scale.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Chapman, Diane D.
School: North Carolina State University
Department: Educational Research and Policy Analysis
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 78/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Adult education, Higher education
Keywords: DACA, Employment skills, National human resource development, Policy delphi, Undocumented
Publication Number: 10610663
ISBN: 978-1-369-85546-3
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