With 2022 over, the US workforce is only getting older. In fact, we can expect to see massive growth in the numbers of senior citizens in the labor pool as large amounts of the population reach this milestone. Usually, this would mean that many jobs would open up and become available to younger individuals as they age. However, the economy of today is nothing like what it was ten, twenty, or especially even thirty years ago.
For many young people, especially those in the so-called “millennial” generation, finding work is no easy task. Developing a career is even harder. As the most educated generation ever, a college degree alone is no longer a guarantee of a job. Even degrees in the “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) fields are no longer the job-winner it once was. In fact, only half of all STEM degree graduates enter the job market related to their degree.
Increased competition, the threat of workforce automation, and more—these are all factors complicating employment for the children of tomorrow. With that in mind, what can the parents of today do to prepare them for the trials ahead? There are many ways we can equip young people with the skills to succeed, even as circumstances change.
The traditional college pathway isn’t mandatory
There is an increasing sense that for today’s young people, a college may not be the best choice. Tuition continues to rise year over year, driving students towards loans. An overwhelming number of graduates leave college carrying tens of thousands of dollars in debt. This drags down their ability to succeed over the long term. As a result, a re-evaluation of the traditional 4-year university is necessary. It’s time to dispense with the idea that everyone must have a bachelor’s degree.
In reality, there are many other educational pathways to career success. Many community colleges offer practical certificate courses, for example. These classes equip students with skills they can immediately apply in a field like business or communications. Even many computer science skills can come through a community college experience. Trade schools, which teach skills related to critical manufacturing or maintenance fields, are also a good idea. There was once a much larger emphasis on practical knowledge and trades and those jobs still exist. With many older skilled employees retiring due to old age, now is the perfect time for the next generation to step in to fill their role.
Almost any experience is a good experience
Many millennials enter the job market with a lack of hard experience but a belief in their abilities. While a self-assured attitude is helpful, employers must be able to look to some record of one’s ability. Therefore, it’s essential to encourage young people to begin developing job experience early. A summer job was once a rite of passage for many teenagers. Today, they seem less and less popular. Providing these opportunities is crucial for developing practical knowledge of the new economy demands.
It is also important to emphasize to young people the value of work. No one is “too good” for any job — especially when they don’t have a job at all. Sometimes, experience comes from working a tough job, even for a short while. It builds important traits like perseverance and teaches skills that one can then apply in a future career.
Communication skills are more important than ever
In a typical job today, communication might be the single most crucial component to success. Efforts are rarely one-man ventures today; instead, collaboration is the name of the game. That is true everywhere from the sciences to computer programming and business sales. Everyone must operate on the same page, working in harmony.
Thus, young people need exposure to diverse people and environments and to the importance of problem-solving. In fact, it’s been shown that diversity encourages collaborative thinking and the generation of healthy ideas. That’s vital to succeed in a changing economic climate like today’s.
Critical thinking leads to valuable problem solving
We face a constant bombardment of news and information at all times today. With the Internet and social media, there is always something available. With so many distractions, we must encourage young people to do more than accepting what appears before them. Critical thinking comes in many forms — from weighing the bias of a news article to solving problems of logistics. The ability to uncover unique solutions or to harmonize lots of disparate information is a trait highly valued in today’s economy. It also leads young workers to innovate. When you always look for ways to improve and solve challenges, you are valuable to employers.
Persistence must be a part of one’s skills
The numbers on the economy are clear: it’s tough to land a job for many young people, even with an aging workforce. Giving up at the first sign of failure is not an option, even if it means settling temporarily for a lesser position. How can we develop this skill, though? Providing more challenges for children through activities and learning is a part of the first step. Development through active exploration of one’s abilities is critical to success. A discussion of every response to failure is critical, too. Does your child feel they aren’t equipped for a traditional college education? That’s OK — but it doesn’t mean giving up on education altogether. We must encourage our children to find pathways to persist in their efforts.
Preparing for the future economy
At times, equipping your child with the right skills can seem like a tough challenge. It’s true that the job market is tight today even for many adults. However, as the US continues to shift towards services and away from manufacturing, the skills and strategies outlined above can prove useful. Remember that not everyone needs to travel the road to a college degree; there will always be a need to call upon carpenters, electricians, mechanics, and more. There are still viable career paths out there, and room for those with the motivation to succeed. How will you approach teaching these values to your children?