Date of Award

Fall 12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Capital Development


Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Chair

Heather M. Annulis

Committee Chair Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 2

Cyndi H. Gaudet

Committee Member 2 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 3

Patricia P. Phillips

Committee Member 3 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 4

Dale L. Lunsford

Committee Member 4 Department

Human Capital Development


In today’s global economy, new workforce competencies are needed for success at both individual and societal levels. The new workforce skills extend beyond basic reading, writing, and arithmetic to include higher order processes such as critical thinking and problem solving. Technical job opportunities have grown by approximately 17%, yet the United States continues to decline in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Further, U.S. students earn average or below average test scores when compared to other developed countries. Researchers cite the need to incorporate the learning of workplace skills into secondary education curriculum, and advocates call for new teaching methodology and contextual experiences to enhance learning. A popular and expanding method for teaching students is the use of technical mentors to develop workforce skills. Education studies demonstrate learning is a social activity, and mentors can play a vital role in understanding and learning skills. The FIRST Robotics program relies heavily on mentor expertise for student instruction. This study uses FIRST Robotics teams as a population to investigate student perception of the effectiveness of mentors on the development of workforce skills. Findings show students perceive mentors have a positive effect on the development of workforce skills, and, furthermore, students’ perceptions of mentors impact student learning.