Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Helping the 'Lost Generation'

The young adult children of baby boomers, the so-called echo-boomers, are going to suffer the most from the current recession and will also suffer the longest. The Financial Times calls them the 'new lost generation, ' the Associated Press uses 'boomerang kids'.
Whatever they are called, young adults aged between 18 and 29 are in trouble. Jobs are scarce and older Americans are holding on to the ones they have longer. Among 16 to 24 year olds, less than half are currently employed, according to an article by the AP. The FT put unemployment among 20 to 24 year olds in the US at 15.6% last month and for 16 to 19 year-olds it hit 27.6%.
Things are so bad that after college, instead of heading to the big city and their own apartments, they are headed right back home to Mom and Dad. A study released by the Pew Research Center shows that the number of young adults living alone has declined to levels not seen since the recessions of 1982 and 2001. About 20 million people between 18 and 34 live at home with their parents - almost 30% of that age group, said the study.
So what can be done to help the 'lost generation' while it sits in its collective bedroom and applies for job after job? Further education is always an alternative, but it is expensive. And we could end up with a hugely over-educated set of echo-boomers with no actual job skills. Learning a trade is another. But most American trade schools are only offering 'degree programs' where the kids waste a disproportionate amount of time on so-called 'core' courses such as basic math, English and psychology.
Perhaps the answer lies in our business community. Businesses have cut staff to the bone since the credit crisis, and few are looking to hire anytime soon. Why not hire some of the boomerang kids to learn some real job skills? If businesses offered internships - even unpaid - they might just find that their young employees are just what they need going forward. If more young adults could go out to work every day and learn how to interact in a business setting, they would have some much-needed experience upon which to one day base a career. Perhaps the financial services industry could set aside a little bit of money from the bonus pool and start such a program. It would be ground-breaking.

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