Date of Award

3-2020

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation

Department

College of Aviation

Committee Chair

David Esser, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Michael E. Wiggins, Ed.D.

Second Committee Member

Soumia Ichoua, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Thomas S. Serwatka, Ph.D.

Abstract

Modern nations operate within a global economy, relying heavily on the aviation industry for efficient and effective transportation of passengers and goods. The Boeing 2018 Pilot and Technical Outlook Report indicated that over the next 20 years, the aviation industry will need almost two and a half million new aircrew and maintenance employees to meet anticipated global demand. The industry will also need engineers, aviation managers, and workers in other aviation and aerospace disciplines. Aviation and aerospace jobs require solid backgrounds in mathematics, science, and technology; the development of pre-college aviation / aerospace / engineering career education programs would presumably enhance student preparation in these areas and increase the workforce pipeline for the industry. The goal of this study was to identify and evaluate the underlying organizational factors of successful secondary aviation / aerospace / engineering career education programs, through application of measures traditionally associated with organizational theory.

Analysis of collected data involved exploratory factor analysis to identify underlying factors, confirmatory factor analysis to verify significant relationships between manifest variables and latent constructs and to ensure a good-fitting measurement model, and structural equation modeling to identify significant relationships between latent constructs and achieve the best-fitting model of these relationships for the collected data. Variables were Likert-scale responses to literature-based survey items associated with organizational vision, leadership, communication, collaboration, decision-making, flexibility, accountability, resource availability, motivation, and learning. Additionally, participants were invited to provide comments related to any of the survey items to explain or add detail to their response selection. These comments were reviewed both as they related to individual survey items and for detection of underlying themes. Participants in the study comprised stakeholders associated with career education programs in the disciplines of interest, including students, parents, alumni, school / program faculty and staff, industry members, and advisory board members.

Hypothesis testing results suggested that the most important factor in predicting success for an aviation / aerospace / engineering academy or program is personal motivation related to learning. Though other underlying factors, including leadership / collaborative environment, organizational accountability, and resource availability were clearly related to perceived program success, they appeared to have indirect relationships with success. It is also important to recognize that a paired qualitative analysis of participant comments generated themes that transcended survey item topics, and the identification of these themes supported the conclusions from hypothesis testing regarding underlying factors. Personal motivation was the most commonly recurring theme in comments, supporting the hypothesis testing result indicating its predictive strength for an organization’s success.

Understanding the constructs that are most closely related to an organization’s success, as they are perceived by its stakeholders, offers current program leaders and groups interested in creating new programs evidence they can use to design the frameworks for their programs. Anticipated workforce shortages warrant study of how to increase the number of candidates not only in post-secondary academic and training programs, but to shift recruiting earlier through implementation of quality secondary-level programs that are established on a foundation of research-based strategies for success.

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