Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Susan Gooden


Entering the labor force is noted as one of the most significant role transitions of young adulthood. Multiple studies find that a significant portion of the nation’s young adult population has not been able to make this critical role transition successfully. The purpose of this dissertation is to identify factors that help out-of-school youth make a successful transition to postsecondary education and employment. The study analyzes data collected from a cohort of out-of-school youth who participated in employment and training programs operated in the state under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in Southside Virginia. The primary research question is why are some out-of-school youth with barriers to education and employment able to succeed in the job market, while others who face similar barriers are unable to obtain occupational skills credentials and/or employment? The findings of this study suggest that out-of-school youth with barriers to education and employment are able to succeed in postsecondary education as well as the job market when they have access to social capital in the form of personal support and connections to individuals who the youth perceive to be willing to offer assistance in times of crisis. The findings convey the idea that out-of-school youth who do manage to obtain education and employment success are those who have a higher propensity to seek out and utilize the resources available in the communities they live in. Study findings also lead to the conclusion that out-of-school youth who make good use of resources available to them are able to do so as a result of enhanced levels of leadership skills and abilities.


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Date of Submission

May 2011