Rising junior Mandy Kreisberg had the following op-ed published in the Detroit Free Press:
(Quoted from the Detroit Free Press, see original here).
"Every month, the Labor Department reports the most recent unemployment statistics, and every month, political pundits discuss the state of economic recovery without ever mentioning young adults and the staggering rates of unemployment we currently face.
We are frequently labeled “Generation Y,” the “Millennials” or the “Me Me Me” generation, but in fact, we are “Generation Jobless.” It is time that policymakers and college officials take the issue of youth unemployment more seriously. The future of this country depends on it.
While news media coverage of U.S. unemployment rarely mentions it, unemployment has hit young adults the hardest of all age groups, with rates more than double those of the population as a whole. In April, the unemployment rate for young adults aged 16-24 was 12.8%, more than twice the national average of 6.3%. With so many long-term unemployed, recent graduates are routinely outcompeted in the job market by more experienced workers, which leaves young graduates to take jobs that don’t make use of their skills and don’t look particularly appealing on a résumé. In fact, less than half of the jobs landed by college graduates require a degree.
As a current undergraduate, I am scared of what lies ahead for me. I see people of my generation moving back in with their parents after graduation and taking unpaid internships because of stiff competition for jobs. Most unfortunate, I see students choosing majors based on their job market prospects rather than on genuine interest. The sad reality is that even the “best” degrees cannot make up for the fact that older generations with similar degrees and much more work experience are displacing us in the job market.
Anyone who has experienced unemployment can attest to the toll it takes on one’s integrity and confidence. However, these feelings of inadequacy have unique and long-lasting effects on young adults. Research indicates that young adults who experience prolonged unemployment suffer from poor mental and physical health and engage in higher rates of risky health behaviors, such as heavy drinking, compared to their employed counterparts.
The effects of unemployment on my generation will shape the future of this country, and it is imperative that policymakers and school officials consider solutions to our unique predicament. One of the more popular solutions we see is the flight back to school. Graduate school is no longer a place for the already-employed to refine their job skills; it is a place for our displaced youth to go in an effort to delay the inevitable plight of unemployment. However, with tuition prices increasing and student loans ballooning, other solutions must be considered.
What we need are more relationships between colleges and local employers. We can bridge the gap between education and work by including internships within the school system. By internships, I mean the chance to acquire job skills, not to retrieve coffee and make copies. Policymakers should provide tax incentives for companies that participate in these kinds of partnerships. We need the kind of experiential knowledge that can’t be gained from our textbooks, and that will make us competitive in the job market.
A great example of this is the cooperative education that Northeastern University provides for its students. Undergraduates participate in semesters of academic study as well as semesters of full-time employment in positions related to their fields and interests. It was through this program that my older sister was able to land a full-time teaching job straight out of college. Her first teaching job was at the school she had worked for during her time at Northeastern. Now, at 25, she is going into her fourth year as an elementary school teacher and is working on obtaining her doctorate in education at the alma mater that changed her life.
However, my sister’s experience is not at all representative of what we see happening for young adults today. If policymakers and school officials continue to ignore the predicament that American youth face with unemployment, what will the future of our society look like?"