As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, current and freshly college graduated students are experiencing struggles finding work.
But this is not to suggest that the job market is struggling. In fact, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate was at approximately 3.5% at the end of 2019.
So what is this socio-economic strain that seems to be affecting so many people today?
Young people are facing a workforce more cutthroat and demanding than ever before.
There are many possible factors contributing to why millennials and those from Gen Z alike are having more trouble than past generations.
As technology progresses, there are many fields that have been fully or partially taken over by automation. In economics alone, financial analysts as well as other types of data interpreters on Wall Street have almost been completely ousted by the effects of artificial intelligence.
The typical timeline of the school-to-workforce transition for young adults is also not what it was 20 years ago. For our parents, a college degree could guarantee a stable job right after graduation. Not to mention they were able to obtain said degree and often finish school debt-free if they took home a part-time salary.
We can see how the success of previous generations has created a domino effect with the younger generations. Our parents and mentors insisted the only foreseeable plan after high school was to go to college, get a degree and get a high-paying job.
This push to pursue higher education is highlighted by the Census Bureau, which reports that in 1940, only 4.6% of the population claimed they possessed a four-year degree. In 2017, 21% of Americans were able to graduate with a four-year degree.
Due to the increase in the number of college graduates, it should seem that a higher percentage of young adults and teens are being hired, but this is not the case. With an abundance of college degrees out there just waiting to be plucked from the application pool, the job market has gotten increasingly competitive. Employers are looking for more experienced candidates over ones who are merely well educated.
A study conducted by Northeastern University gives helpful insight into what employers in today’s job market are really looking for. The report states, “while 65% of jobs require postsecondary education, managers still consider internships, employment during college, and volunteer experience more important than GPA or relevant coursework.”
An impressive academic career and tangible experiences are considered necessary to just get your foot in the door with an employer, even for entry level jobs and current college students seeking real world experience.
Just this past semester, I myself attempted to get a job to help out with the costs of college while building my resume. Even though I worked numerous jobs throughout high school, all of them were considered “under the table” and would not be considered as true experience by a future employer.
This whole process was so ridiculous to me. I felt very frustrated. I was willing to put in the hard work, but the opportunities are simply not what they were.
Internships are a possible solution, but there is a downside.
Unpaid internships are opportunities that offer useful real world experience that directly applies to your field. Internships allow you to build connections and network with professionals.
Regardless of the advantages, unpaid work experience provides young adults, these positions are often exploitative and unrealistic in tandem with the skyrocketing costs of a college degree.
Under the guise of providing skill development in a field of your choice, employers gain tons of free labor. These internships, while advertised as a useful tool in climbing the corporate ladder, actually further the class divide. There’s no way I would have been able to accept an unpaid internship, whilst supporting myself through college. The same is true for many other students.
Even though statistics report our unemployment rate is sustaining record lows, the job market is actually becoming increasingly selective of who is hired and who is not. As automation continues to develop and education becomes a necessary checkmark on a resume, it is important that we reevaluate how this is affecting young adults and teens with little to no experience.
We need to transform the workplace to make it conducive to the economic issues facing today’s young workers.
Aidan Skillingstad is a freshman studying English. Follow him on Twitter @skillingajs.