A bright future for Young Adults How do we avoid a lost generation of those who don’t take higher education?

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Is Modern History Repeating itself?

This is a question Ive asked myself a few times recently.

Partly because I have nieces and nephews who will grow up and start to think about what the future holds for them.

Partly because I’ve read and watched some great stories about what is possible for young adults who leave education in high school and partly because the economic turmoil we are seeing now is going to make it harder for these folks to get a job.

When we see numbers like 30m unemployed in the US, it shows how saturated the job market is.

The real risk is that young adults today without a higher education become a lost generation, like so many were in the recessions in the late 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s.

s there really a risk?

In my opinion there is a real risk that this will happen for several reasons:

  • Developed economies have largely moved away from engineering and manufacturing, they are consumer societies, there is less skilled trade work available and so less opportunities for young adults to build a trade skill.
  • There is no education back up plan for these young adults, many don’t want to go into higher education, yet they receive the same education as those who do, this doesn’t provide them with the life and vocational skills they need to make a successful start in the adult world.
  • There is a gap developing between those with higher education and those without, often times those without are being restricted to the service industry and/or minimum wage type jobs.
  • Many of these young adults are ushered towards college, where they pursue a qualification in something random that wont help them in the job market, and that’s because they were not interested in higher education in the first place. A certificate in email protocol for example does not a higher education make.
  • The unemployment rate for 16–24 year old (Classed as those not in education or employment) hovers around the 25 — to 30% range.

That’s unlikely to improve if we continue to tackle the issue in the same way that we always have done, its not effective.

Modern history has shown us that, there are folks that are only now in their 40’s and 50’s recovering from the same issues which directly affected them in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Possible solutions?

This is the good news there is, and its relatively simple on the surface, but perhaps more complex in its execution.

The education system is almost entirely geared towards preparing us for higher education.

The problem is it’s a one size fits all solution that tires to fit many different shapes through a round hole.

By the time we are 14 and we start to prepare for life after school we know what the path is going to be in terms of when our fulltime education is going to end.

This is a point where divergence is possible and this is where the shortcomings in the system come into play today.

So many young adults as I said before leave the education system at 16 with a few random exam qualifications but few life skills and even fewer vocational skills.

The lucky few get that opportunity of a trade and vocational training through apprenticeship schemes.

Overall however there is a missed opportunity in the education system where those skills could be developed at 14 at school, along with some essential life skills like financial literacy.

The benefits

The benefits to those young adults, businesses, the economy and society are huge, some of the highlights are:

  • It places less pressure on the education system. If you take a young adult who isn’t interested in trigonometry and algebra for example, but is interested in say plumbing or electrical. The school goes from having someone who is disengaged and potentially disruptive, to having someone interested and engaged in what they are doing. That same young adult gets a reason to get up in the morning, they are motivated, they gain confidence and they learn a set of skills that actually help them to be ready for the working world.
  • These young adults then become much more appealing to businesses. They have started their education in their vocation have some trade skills, have some life skills, coupled with confidence and motivation they can immediately be of some use to the business and the training cost/burden is greatly reduced which is the advantage to the business.
  • More people engaged in construction, energy, engineering and manufacturing is great for the economy because there are generally well apid job so tax revenue increases, but also because there jobs add to GDP.
  • Society benefits, because the benefit burden is less and the social impact of having our young adults unemployed is reduced. These folks have bundles of curiosity and energy, if that’s not channeled into meaningful work, it gets channeled elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

Does all of this mean that business gets someone who is the full package and ready to go and that overnight millions of skilled jobs for young adults will be created?

Well no of course not, in the way those same businesses don’t get that from their graduate hires.

What they do get is someone who is on the right path, knows the requirements of the job and the basic skills required and that in itself boosts business and the economy helping to create those jobs over a sustained period of time.

It’s a big swing in the way education is delivered but if you look at the numbers of young adults leaving school today they are either lifelessly dropping into the gig economy with no prospects cycling for a delivery service for example or dropping into college with no clear aim or the unemployment line.

We could and should be doing more to prepare those folks for a bright future outside of education.

It’s possible we just need to think outside the box and pivot to what works for those who are ever more quickly becoming a lost generation.


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