The U.S. Department of Labor reported recently that the number of job openings in America exceeded 10 million. At the same time, more than 7 million who are eligible to work remain unemployed.
Lately, there has been considerable conversation around what’s happening in the nation’s workforce. This includes the so-called Great Resignation, where workers are quitting jobs, citing everything from pandemic-related burnout and lagging wages to a complete reassessment of what a job should be. It is natural to assume that this is a short-term issue that will work itself out over time as COVID-19 becomes more manageable and people get to the point where they must work to provide for themselves and their families.
However, there is a longer-term problem. Even before the pandemic, employers were struggling to find qualified workers. The difference between now and then is that record numbers of qualified professionals, mostly baby boomers, sped up plans to retire during the pandemic. There aren’t similarly skilled younger workers prepared to take their place. More than anything else, this reality could help explain why there are millions of job openings and so few who can fill them.
So, why aren’t today’s younger workers more inclined or better prepared for these jobs? While millennials are one of the most educated generations in history, a recent study found that their education failed to sufficiently cover critical skills — STEM, communication and problem solving, for example.
It shouldn’t be surprising that when our young people look to career role models, those role models come from something they know, like social media, and not engineering, for instance. Meanwhile, the top college majors as of 2021 still focus on needed professions like business, health care, engineering and education.
As a society, we need to do a better tying education to careers, so we don’t continue to see a huge disparity between those looking for jobs and employers looking for people. We need to help young people draw the connection between learning in school and its application to success outside of the classroom. This means helping students explore their interests, talents, and strengths and linking them to an educational or training pathway that results in the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies needed to find meaningful and rewarding careers.
This also means putting them in contact with successful professionals in their communities who can serve as role models to inspire them to be the next engineer, technician, educator, skilled tradesperson, or physician.
Learning experiences from Junior Achievement of Greater Fairfield County do just that. As the result of JA’s work and career readiness pathways …….