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Tobotron's avatar

Youth unemployment - what did we do wrong?

Asked by Tobotron (1313points) June 19th, 2011

I’ve been employed for the last 2yrs since I graduated but until I started my own business it wasn’t in a field of my choosing and I was working for near minimum wage with no sign of change on the horizon, (and not a statistic despite feeling like one).

Why are young workers seen as unsuitable candidates for quality employment?

I find this even more puzzling as I watch my old management stumble over projects incompetently, ask the young graduates to do much of their work and generally do a mediocre job – all while commanding a high wage and position title.

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12 Answers

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

I was with you until the last part, because unless you’re in the IT field it isn’t the older generation doing a mediocre job. Naturally there’s a learning curve in any new job and typically young people are at the bottom of the curve. Everyone is struggling from the lack of jobs. I really feel for college students today given the outrageous cost of tuition. One piece of advice I will give you though is that a little humility is a sign of good character. If you walk around thinking that you know more than those who have been doing your job for as long as you’ve been alive, then you’re not open to learning or being part of a team.

Even if we’re talking about an IT field where some older people are a disadvantage, you can’t knock the fact that they have gained skills through experience that are often transferable to any situation. What should happen to those older employees, anyway?

BarnacleBill's avatar

I understand what you mean. A lot of it stems from older people not being able to afford to retire, or being able to retire, when they normally would. Growing up, few of my parent’s friends were still working after age 60. Most retired around 55, and spent their time at the lake, working part-time, or just hanging out. This opened up jobs for younger people. Now, because there aren’t very many company pensions, people must continue to work. At age 55, I’m still paying for college for children. My friend just became a father again with his second and much younger wife. He has grandkids from his children from his first marriage who are 10 years old. He is also caring for his mother, whose money ran out about 5 years ago.

We can’t afford to get out the way for younger people.

Tobotron's avatar

Just to clarify I don’t think all management is poor as the persons I have always turned to when starting my business were older in their 50’s and their advice was near impeccable.

The older people I would target are those that climbed the ladder quickly during the golden years and now find themselves in positions there not able to handle. This actually makes up a large % of those people that didn’t partake in further education in the ~10yrs prior to the crash.

I just would like to know what happens to generations like mine? Are we expected to wait till our late 30’s before we can afford to start a family for example?

laureth's avatar

When the recession came, lots of people were outplaced (fired, laid off, downsized) from their jobs. This glut of available labor has driven down wages to the point where companies can pick up decent talent fairly cheaply, and they are still trying to cherry-pick the currently employed, too.

In an environment where a lot of experience (and a desperate work ethic) can be had for pennies on the dollar, a younger (fresh out of college, “wet behind the ears”) potential employee, even if s/he is willing to work for peanuts, still might not look like the best available buy for the money. Even in better times, employers value experience.

There are exceptions. IT is one of them. But as a whole, the “less than prime” candidates (the young, the old, the too-long-unemployed, the people who don’t have degrees, etc.) are easily picked over. Where did we go wrong? Whatever it was that made the economy crash. There are plenty of ideas about that, none of which are within the scope of this question. Let’s just hope we handle it better than Japan is handling their overly long crisis, where there’s a whole generation of under-40s who have never worked anything other than temp jobs.

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

@Tobotron I don’t think targeting one group based on a personal theory is going to fix the problem. The job market is in a state of meltdown. Generations both young and old are suffering. I’m 35, but I’m not going to walk around like sour grapes because older generations didn’t have to deal with the challenges we have today.

jerv's avatar

First off, all age groups are getting the shaft here. The thing is that employers want the maximum return for minimum money. That is why I am a Machinist II earning the wages of a Machine Operator. Now, we have a couple of young bucks in our shop who are average 20-somethings and they don’t have the skills to match someone who has a few years experience. And during the year I was out of work, I was passed over for a few machining jobs because there was a Machinist III with far more experience who was willing to work for Machinist I wages.

So basically @laureth is correct; the young are not ideal candidates in part because they are not the ideal candidate. Employers want someone highly skilled and desperate enough to feed their wife and kids that they will work for slave wages, not some inexperienced idealist.

BTW, I am in my late-30s and still can’t afford to start a family, and if I wanted to retire at age 70, I would need to save/invest about 60% of my income. Combine that with the general lack of upward mobility these days and you pretty much have a situation where only those born rich and a very small percentage of those who work hard will be able to have a good life; the rest of us are fucked and we better get used to it.

BarnacleBill's avatar

@Tobotron, depending on the field you’re talking about, don’t overvalue advanced education over experience, particularly in business. A lot of older people seeming to not be as “advanced” as younger people is sometimes a perception based upon how they leverage technology, and also an outcome of having managers who didn’t value training and advanced learning. I have been with my company for 8 years, and would benefit from access to advanced training in SharePoint Designer. Because my role doesn’t call for me to know SharePoint Designer, work won’t pay for it, and I have access to training that is PowerPoint based; it’s crap. In order to get the training I need, I would have to take vacation time, and pay to go to a week-long training session myself. Work will not reimburse for it. On the other hand, if my job had SharePoint Designer as a skill, I would have access to in-house training. But I don’t qualify for transferring into one of these roles, because they’re only filling them with people who already have experience.

Very often, older people fail to notice that business has changed until it’s too late. On the other hand, younger people often perceive that “now” is very different than before. Sound fundamental principles always apply. For example, much of the strategy and business fundamentals for social media are the same as doing business in the 1950’s and 1960’s; it’s public relations, relationship driven. From the 1980’s on, there has been a “push” mentality associated with marketing and communications—“I will tell you want I want you to know and what I think you need to know.” The transition back to conversational relationships and credibility seems new, but is really not.

jerv's avatar

@BarnacleBill For the type of stuff I have done most of my adult life, there isn’t much that education can do to help you even if you do manage to find it. Sure, you might be able to find a class that teaches you the difference between G2 and G3 or the theoretically ideal feed rate for putting a 3-edge 1½” coated carbide cutter into a hunk of Inconel, but you need experience to truly understand what using the wrong direction for circular interpolation can do or why using the calculated feed rate may result in you eating the cutting tool (after it comes through the safety glass and/or the door).

Many of my IT friends have similar complaints, Their company hires someone who has a fresh CompSci degree and a few MSCE/A+ certs but no real knowledge of how a database works or how to fulfill their boss’ needs/desires (which are often different from what the boss says) and thus cannot do nearly as good a job as their less educated but more experienced colleagues. How many 20-somethings have >5 years experience in any particular field? Most that do have that experience specifically because they decided against college in favor of work.

BTW, I know how you feel. My employer wont pay for me to learn SmartCAM; apparently they feel that my immediate supervisor (and only him) knowing it is good enough.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I should probably add that I graduated from college in 1980. The recession that year was as bad or worse than it is now, and there was double digit inflation. In the time period since then, I’ve experienced my retirement accounts being devalued by 50% twice.

ETpro's avatar

In the 1980s, corporatist pouring massive amounts of money into right-wing think tanks came up with an agenda to transition America out of manufacturing. Wages were high here. Free trade would give the corporate jet set here access to low labor costs offshore. Profits could often be shuffled to tax havens so even gargantuan earnings would leave the corporation tax free. The 1980s began tha age of the leveraged buy out. Private equity firms bought venerable old companies using massive leverage. They got laws rammed through Congress actually letting them loot the pension fund of a company BEFORE they bought it, and use that money as part of the collateral for the offer. Once purchased, they slashed jobs like a Cuisinart™ on high, shipping them off to China, India, the Philippines or Kuala Lumpur. Corporate costs dropped massively, and apparent profits skyrocketed. Before the massive debt they had taken on for the buyout could hit, they dumped the company stock and pocket 100% profit or more, leaving the debt for the damaged corporation to deal with.

These were the heyday of Junk Bond Kings like Michael Milken. Mit Romney, the great genius of business who knows something about jobs, did this. He founded a private equity company with $40 million in initial capital and turned 100% profit per year for 14 years, eliminating millions of good-paying American Jobs. He may know something about jobs, just not creating them—not here, anyway.

Lawmakers consoled themselves with the self talk that we were transitioning from the manufacturing economy to the information economy. It was no different, they said, than when we moved from the agricultural economy to the manufacturing one. But it was, in fact, VERY different. We never transitioned from an agricultural economy. Aside from feeding our own people, we are one of the worlds largest food exporters. We automated agriculture, we didn’t eliminate it. And it’s absurd to claim you are going to sell information on how to manufacture to countries who know how when you have given up the skill set decades ago.

The corporatists are spending nearly 4 billion dollars a year in Washington now lobbying to loot the rest of what the middle class of America has. If we do not stop them, they will turn this nation into a banana republic, with the billionaires and corporate jet setters owning all the nation’s wealth. They are all multinationals, so when they have extracted all they can steal here, they will move on to greener pastures.

Learn what’s going on. Get politically active. They have their dupes in the Tea Party working for them. It’s going to take an organized, informed electorate to really take our country back.

Pandora's avatar

I saw this when my daughter graduated out of college. She too had a hard time getting doors to open for her. She finished 4 years in two. She recently started a job that she really wanted. She is 26. It took 6 years of working from one job to another. First she worked an apprentise job for one year and she kept getting promised to be hired on as salary. She worked 60 to 80 hours for minimum wage, no medical benefits or any benefits. When you broke down her hours and what she got paid, it would average about 3–4 dollars an hour. . She had to have 3 roomates to make rent. She had to quit and come home. Then work at a chain store. The good jobs wouldn’t hire her because of her lack of work skills. Many of the lower wage jobs wouldn’t hire her because her education made her a risk. They figured she would leave and take the first job that could offer her more money. So she was fustrated on two points. She couldn’t get the experience for the better jobs because the lesser jobs wouldn’t hire her either.
You are going to have to do what she finally did. Apply for jobs further away from home, where there are more job opportunities. When she worked for the chain store she was able to transfer to an area that had more jobs available in her trade. Then once she lived in the area she was able to apply to many places until she got her foot in the door. Then from there she was finally able to show them how good her skills were and build that experience and finally, she was able to apply for her dream job and get it.
In short. You need to go where the jobs are. Origninally she wanted a job where we were living but her trade was in short demand with a lot of skilled workers who would be selected before her. Do a country search for your job skill and see where they have the most ads for it. The more job openings the better your chances. Especially if you move to the area. Employers like to know you are local and there will not be a wait for you to start working because you have to move. Especially if they are desperate to hire.

plethora's avatar

@Pandora In short. You need to go where the jobs are

This says it all. I rarely see this mentioned on threads such as this. Anyone that is not finding a job and has not gone where the jobs are is missing the very first requirement. This has always been the case, at least since WWII. I now own my business, and it is small but very adequate and challenging. But I would never have been able to go into business for myself (from banking) had I not left the place where I grew up and gone where the jobs were. Go where the jobs are and go as quickly as you can possibly get there. And you do not need to move there first, if you are willing to move immediately upon being hired.

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