In Journal of Vocational Education Research 29:1 (2004) pp.67-81
This study explores the relationship between students and adults in the school and business environment during a US job shadowing programme. In particular, the credibility and message frequency of the adults who were being shadowed were analysed in relation to the perceptions of a sample of female high school students taking part in job shadowing. A key finding was the importance of the credibility of the adult, for example students were more likely to perceive programme participation as useful if adults had a high credibility with the students. Furthermore, student confidence in their abilities to be successful in a particular job were positively correlated with message frequency from these credible adults.
The main purpose of the study was to explore the impact of job shadowing on students’ perceptions of programme usefulness and their self-confidence in their abilities to be successful in the workplace. The impact of such job shadowing schemes on school-to-work transitions and future career development in the US have been evaluated in many forms in recent literature; this study fills a gap by concentrating on student reactions to these programmes. The conceptual framework used for this study is the Elaboration Likelihood Model, which stipulates that temporal attitudinal changes during a programme or process have long-term implications on behaviour change. The hypothesis tested was based on this model: because the contact between the adult and student was of a short duration during the job shadowing programme, student beliefs and attitudes would be related to the frequency of message about careers and the credibility of the adult according to the student.
The sample used in this study were female high school students in an urban area who participated in a ‘Take Your Daughter to Work’ programme, which was intended to offer female students from lower socio-economic backgrounds access to a professional workplace by matching adults with students who were interested in participating. Two surveys were distributed to these students; the first was completed three weeks before the day of the job shadowing programme and the second was completed four days after the site visits, both taken in the classroom. 80 students were included in the analysis having completed both questionnaires. The areas measured were students’ self-confidence, the usefulness of the programme to students’ careers, the credibility of their adult mentor, and the frequency of job-related messages by the adult. Hierarchical regression models were used to analyse the data.
A key finding was that even such a short-term interaction with adults in the workplace can be ‘instrumental’ in a student’s self-confidence in their abilities for a successful career; these outcomes related to the credibility of the adult the student shadowed as well as frequency of message relating to jobs and careers. This has implications for many school-to-work programmes in relation to shaping student attitudes towards work and further implementation of these programmes may prove an attractive way for employers to engage with schools, given the short-term, high impact nature of job shadowing.
The main limitation of the study was generalising beyond the sample size. Another limitation was the fact that only the students’ perceptions were self-reported without corroborating this with the perceptions of the adults, which further research may wish to explore further.
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