A 2019 study by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program reveals some important data about the current state of employment in the US. The study was done nationally, so these are lessons that should be taken to heart by employers everywhere.
Several points in the study show the traditional path to economic maturity is breaking down. Today, fewer young people are following the high school to college to career track. Many have never held a job at all. And the lack of higher education is becoming a barrier to employment for young people.
Employment figures for young people continue to trend negatively. For 16- to 24-year-olds, the labor force participation declined from 65.5% in 1996 to 55.2% in 2016. It is projected to drop to 52.5% by 2026.
Martha Ross, the report’s lead author and Brookings fellow said, “The country does itself no favors by confining millions of young people to the margins of the labor market and economic mainstream, even as many employers say they can’t find the workers they need. We must challenge ‘business as usual’ practices in education and the labor market that leave so many behind, and instead treat all young people as assets who can contribute to our collective future.”
The good news is, many unemployed Gen Z’ers do want to work. Over 40% of 18-24 year old high school grads are seeking employment. That number jumps for young people with education beyond high school, where 72% of ages 18-21 are seeking jobs. This equals millions of people making over one-third of the total workforce. Those in the business community should look at this as an opportunity to help themselves and in turn meet society’s needs.
Many business owners around Lake Norman are looking for people to fill open positions in their companies. The tendency is to seek experienced workers to jump right in to the jobs. The challenge is there simply are not enough of those individuals available. The labor pool is drying up, especially for very specialized and highly trained roles. And this is a trend that most industries will not be able to wait out and see reversed. It is a long-term issue, so long as the economy remains strong.
One answer to the lack of employees and job applicants is to see young people as a large and diverse talent pool who are available and ready to work. Employers may have to change how they think about hiring, but the upsides are great. Young workers have energy, creativity, and aptitude for the technology that fuels so many modern industries. They come ready to learn and be molded into the employees companies need right now.
In Part 2, we’ll discuss how employers can adjust their recruiting mindset and processes to find great employees in places they may never have thought to look before.
In Part 3, we’ll discuss the importance of onboarding, training, and incentivizing employees to keep them working and growing.
David Koster is the owner and principle consultant of Team Learning Services. He has 30 years experience in the education and learning industry.