Young people trying to join the workforce these days are having a terrible time finding jobs. Those in the 18 to 29 age group face a grim 12 percent unemployment rate, which is actually 16 percent, since many have given up looking for a job and are no longer counted in the statistics.
It gets even worse: Only 43 percent of millennials (people born in the last 30 years) hold full-time jobs.
And even those who have jobs are taking positions for which they are overqualified. A full 53 percent with some type of college education are either unemployed or underemployed, filling jobs that are below their educational level. In other words, many who spent a lot of money on education are reduced to working at jobs where they say, “Do you want fries with that?”
Why are our young people having such a tough time holding down a good job?
The answer is that millennials are socially and emotionally unprepared to join the workforce. According to a recent survey of business leaders on their view of millennials conducted by Bentley University, a private college, the latest generation of American youth trying to enter the workforce not only lacks the skills to perform well in the workplace, but is missing the ethical and workplace habits essential to make them assets to businesses. In fact, most employers find the lack of social skills coupled with a poor attitude the main reason millennials are undesirable to hire.
“Soft skills” — punctuality, communication, teamwork — are equally important to business and corporations as the competence to write a business letter, or a program or work with a spreadsheet. It’s not that there are no job openings for millennials; it’s that companies don’t believe the young people are able to survive in a corporate environment where you have to show up on time and work well with others. The National Association of Employees and Colleges asked employers for their top ten priorities in hiring, and most said that teamwork, planning, critical thinking and the ability to prioritize work were more important than skills in math and science.
It’s not too difficult to find the reasons the 18 to 29 demographic has trouble thinking through and solving problems. The millennial generation grew up with the internet as part and parcel of their daily lives. That was by design. Schools in a rush to make sure their students wouldn’t be left behind in the technology revolution made huge investments to make sure every child had access to broadband internet. Knowing how to surf the internet for information became as important — if not more important — than fundamental math or writing skills.
That exposure and “always on” connectivity to the internet has backfired. The latest generation grew up with the belief that they could find the answer to every problem by Googling it. They also got used to the instant gratification of finding answers at broadband speed. To the always-connected generation, if the answer wasn’t there in the search results or in Wikipedia, no answer existed. There is little patience for taking disparate pieces of information and synthesizing them into original thought. Neither is there perceived to be a need to memorize factual information when the belief is that all information is accessible with a few clicks.
That attitude doesn’t translate well to businesses or corporations that are trying to find new solutions to problems.
It’s also little wonder why millennials can’t write or communicate effectively. With the advent of texting and Twitter — technology the millennials grew up with — this generation avoids writing anything of depth. The writing has to be quick and short, because texting has to have the responsiveness of a conversation. Emotions such as happiness or sadness are boiled down to a few different emoticons tapped or swiped on a screen. Writing, once an act that encouraged and required deeper thought and structure, now has become a primitive, fuzzy-minded form of communication. Condensing thought into a few abbreviated and misspelled words has produced condensed minds unable to formulate coherent thoughts.
This woeful lack of preparedness of young people to enter the workforce should be a shrill wakeup call to parents and educators as to how to introduce technology to children, and whether the use of the internet as a research tool in elementary and high schools is actually providing a damaging crutch that is crippling the ability of students to think critically on their own.
One generation already is showing the ill-effects of a technology overdose. It’s time to make sure the next one is spared a similar fate.