Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


King, Stephanie B.

Committee Member

Stumpf, Arthur D.

Committee Member

Davis, James E.

Committee Member

Wiseman, William M.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Community College Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Education


Department of Educational Leadership


The purpose of this study was to conduct qualitative interviews of 10 Human Resource Managers to determine their perceptions of the soft skills necessary for successful employment, to determine the primary causes of involuntary turnover, and to determine their perceptions of the proposed Smart Start Pathway to improve potential employee success and employment retention. 10 businesses located in a 9-county region in central Mississippi were purposively selected to participate in this study. 2 of the businesses were service sector employers, and 8 were manufacturers. Interviews were scheduled with the Human Resource Manager for each business, and the manager was supplied with a copy of the interview questions and a copy of the career pathway curriculum to review. Interviews were conducted, transcribed, and analyzed to determine results. Human Resource Managers revealed that communication skills and dependability were the most frequently cited soft skills important for employee success; the most frequently cited causes of employee dismissal were attendance, rule violations, and behavior problem; and finally, the managers interviewed were positive in their perceptions of the efficacy of the proposed career pathways model. The study showed that soft skills identified by Human Resource Managers and those skills contained in the training modules of the career pathway model are similar. The managers were in agreement that these skills might be better learned and retained at an earlier age than those who will be taking this training to enter the workforce. Additional research is recommended to quantify career pathways program outcomes upon implementation, to determine the causes of employee attendance issues, to determine the practices of employers who demonstrate low turnover rates, and to determine the viability of offering this training as part of the secondary education process.