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Darcy J. Harland


Workplace requirements are vastly different from the past due to rapid changes in technology and globalization, and they require graduates to have well-developed 21st-century skills and innovation strategies. The problem addressed in this study was the lack of understanding of how 21st-century skills that alumni learned through academic extracurricular experiences informed their early career and workforce readiness. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how Destination Imagination (DI) alumni perceived that the 21st-century skills they learned as part of their academic extracurricular experiences informed their early career readiness. The study was grounded by the 3 constructs of work ethic, innovation, and career readiness found in Rojewski and Hill's career-technical and workforce education framework. Using a basic qualitative methodology and semistructured interviews, the research questions explored the perceptions of 11 adult DI alumni with 3 or more years of experience and up to 4 years in the workforce. The qualitative interview data were analyzed in two cycles of emergent coding based on the framework. The key finding was that DI alumni perceived their experiences developed a wide variety of skills desired by employers necessary for successful entry into the workforce. Specifically, these skills included teamwork, communication, innovation, critical thinking, creative problem-solving, initiative, and life-long learning. The results of this study may contribute to positive social change by providing administrators, teachers, and parents insight into the potential of academic extracurricular activities to enhance student skills, thereby decreasing the performance expectation gap between graduates and employers.

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