Why can’t educated millennials find jobs?
Every once in a while, I’ll see some article that plays to or reprises a common motif: the Millennial generation (or Generation Y), despite being one of the most educated, liberal, diverse, and intriguing generations, is entering the job market to find that…there aren’t any jobs for them.
The conclusion? It must only be the fault of this terrible economy! Millennials are hosed through no fault of their own, but because of the eeeeevil recession.
But there is one thing that the articles usually touch upon, but rarely — if ever — do any of these articles address this elephant in the room.
Let’s look at one of the MSNBC’s exemplary vignettes:
…Just ask Michael Barreto.
Eleven months was all it took to bring him from post-graduation autonomy back to his parents’ home in Apple Valley, Calif.
Armed with an undergraduate degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine, and experience from an internship, the 23-year-old Barreto believed he had a better chance than many of his peers to find a job. But more than a year after graduation, Barreto is still struggling to find employment….
Compare and contrast with the first anecdote from Good’s article:
Like a lot of us, Stacks was given a fairly straightforward version of how his life would unfold: He would go to college and study something he found interesting, graduate, and get a decent job. For a while, things went pretty much according to plan. Stacks, who now is 27, went to the University of Virginia, not far from where he grew up, majoring in American Studies. He later enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Iowa, with the eventual goal of becoming a professor.
Flash forward to the fall of 2008, when the stock market crashed. There were never enough jobs for newly minted Ph.D.s to begin with, and now the likelihood of landing a tenure-track teaching position in the humanities was slim. Academia stopped looking like such a sure bet and Stacks grew disenchanted with his program. Even if he were to finish his doctorate, he reasoned, a job was in no way guaranteed to follow. He wondered, “How bad could it really be out there?” Turns out, it’s pretty bad.
Do you see what’s wrong in these?
I don’t know about you, but the thing that jumps out in both of these is the choices of major. What the heck is American Studies? I mean, at least, Mr. Stacks knew from the beginning that his probably place of employment with a degree like that would be back in a university.
But literary journalism as well. I mean, I don’t know if any of these people have been reading any sort of news, but journalism itself isn’t faring too well, so literary journalism shouldn’t exactly ring as the most career-oriented major. (I’m not denying that literary journalism brings a sort of beauty to non-fiction reporting.)
It seems to me that whenever I read articles like these, the common theme that is rarely addressed is that these fresh graduates generally *do* have such “fluffy” majors. Yet, instead of critiquing the attitudes about education that many millennials apparently have, these articles blame only the economy.
I’m sure that the economy definitely bears a non-negligible part of blame…but all I’m saying is many of my millennial brethren and sisters aren’t helping the case to take fluffy majors.
I have heard an educational philosophy, especially from “gifted and talented” students, that may be able to account for some of this. We have been raised to believe that college is about rounding us out as people. College is about exploring our interests and seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake. College is certainly not about vocational training, but in addition, looking at it as professional training is almost an intellectual faux pas. A shibboleth of the petite bourgeoisie.
I think what is happening now is that people are discovering that this attitude of looking at college simply won’t work for most people. It might be great for the elite and independently wealthy students who really don’t need to work for a living anyway, but it’s not so great for those people who simply aspire to someday be elite and/or independently wealthy.
And so we as a generation need to come to look more favorably on profession-focused education.
I would stop there, but the second thing I notice in most articles like this is the emphasis on the tremendous amount of debt that we millennials are getting ourselves into.
This is tough. College is just expensive, and there’s not a lot of cash to go around. But I think there are still some instances when people are thinking more idealistically than economically. I know several friends (once again, the gifted and talented honors sorts) who, having the choice between a well-funded scholarship package at a “non-elite” school and a loan-laded package at a more prestigious school picked the prestigious school. Why? Because prestigious schools are just better!
Now, in some majors, I could MAYBE see the case. But for your liberal arts degree, you don’t need to drown in debt if you can avoid it! And especially if what matters more is *grad* school, then why spend the premium on *undergrad*?