The purpose of this study was to generate a theory that explained the beliefs and behaviors of participants from business, not-for-profit business, education, and government sectors when resolving the employability skills gap. Classical grounded theory was the inductive methodology applied to this study. The New North, an 18 county region located in northeast Wisconsin, was the targeted participant population of the study.
Parochial Dissonance was the emergent theory, derived through a constant comparative analysis of data that were extracted from interviews, focus groups, document reviews, and pertinent literature. Three domains of inquiry guided the research process: (1) what actions have participants taken to resolve the employability skills gap? (2) what were the causal conditions of the employability skills gap? and (3) what beliefs have participants expressed to resolve the employability skills gap?
Results of the study indicated a diverse range of beliefs and behaviors to resolve the employability skills gap, regardless of the participant's economic sector. Parochial Dissonance was the resultant core category representing the inherent tension manifested among participant beliefs and behaviors related to the emergent sub-categories of the study: education, training, acquisition, retention, influence, response, social, and cultural. Participants had a unique lens (parochial) with which they thought and acted upon when addressing the employability skills gap as their beliefs and actions were found to be consistently varied, disjointed, or non-harmonic (dissonance). The literature review provided data that both integrated with, and supported, the core category of parochial dissonance, adding to the theory's credibility and exclusiveness.
The study's approach to a regional analysis of the employability skills gap illustrated the level of parochialism and dissonance that has hindered harmonic collaboration among homogeneous and heterogeneous stakeholders of the New North. Collaboration was an identified action that was predicted to further maximize awareness, meaning, and development of a shared vision for reducing the employability skills gap. Implications of the research maintain that the employability skills gap is a complex social science issue for an expansive region as the New North, but rising in importance as human capital development is becoming a more significant factor in advancing local and regional economies.