A recent CBC news story asked the question, “Why Are So Many of Canada’s Young People Out of Work?” The unemployment rate for individuals under 24 is 14 per cent and has been rising steadily. But that’s not the worst part. Those that are working are often under-utilized. Based on data from Statistics Canada, one in four young Canadians with a university degree is employed in a job that doesn't require a university degree. So, after spending four years in a post-secondary institution and carrying $28,000 in student loan debt, the best that Brianna or Barkley can hope for is a job at Starbucks.
What went wrong?
Unfortunately, we can’t blame the government. Or the collapse of the world economy in 2008. Or even everyone’s favourite whipping horse – climate change. When it comes right down to it, the responsibility is shared by three groups. Educational institutions, employers, and parents.
The assumption has always been that a university education is the golden ticket to a life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams. That may have been true at one time but it isn’t now. In Canada, more than 75 per cent of individuals under 30 have received some kind of education after high school. In a supply and demand economy the minute you have too much of anything, it decreases in value.
Does that mean young people shouldn’t attend University? Of course not. But they better be sure they know what it will and won’t do for them. Students need to know exactly what debt they will incur, how long it will take to pay off that debt, and if there are more relevant education options available for them.
That means that high school counsellors have to be far more creative in exposing young people to different career choices and do a better job of communicating the pros and cons of each further education choice.
It also means that parents have to pay closer attention to the skills, abilities, aptitudes, loves, hates, study habits and life dreams of their teenage children. If educators aren’t doing their part to educate students about life after high school, parents must intervene. And the sooner the better.
Employers, overwhelmed with job candidates waving all kinds of diplomas and degrees, have made the problem worse by continuing to ask for more and more education. Why not get the most bang for their buck? Unfortunately, they are only creating an unhappy, under utilized, petulant workforce. In many cases, the employer doesn’t need more university-educated applicants - what they really want is someone with knowledge about the way a business operates, computer literacy, marketing skills, and technical ability.
As parents, we’ve made the situation worse by raising our children to believe that they are “entitled.” We haven’t done a very good job of preparing them for the real world because we know about the real world – and we want to protect them from that as long as possible. So we decorate their bedrooms in pink ruffles and call them Princesses, or lavish them with snowmobiles and $60,000 trucks, crippling them with unrealistic expectations about the world that awaits them.
It is a sad state of affairs when young people at the beginning of their adult lives face such doom and gloom. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right. No wonder they hide out in their parents’ basements playing video games until they’re 30. It’s one thing to suspect that an entire generation is under-utilized but to have it confirmed by statistics is depressing. We’ve created the problem, now let’s get off our backsides and fix it. We owe our children that.
For the CBC news story: Click Here.