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Beyond the Headlines: It's Time to Stop Second Guessing Generation Y
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As we reported a few weeks ago, millennials now account for more of a third of the workforce, and are projected to comprise nearly half of all working Americans by 2020. Still, 66 percent feel misunderstood by older generations, according to our PreparedU survey. The media seem to be trying to help, though one millennial writer says all the constant second-guessing of millennial potential is actually doing his generation a major disservice, by harping on their sad state instead of surfacing solutions. And he’s right.
In a recent op-ed for The Seattle-Times, “Millennials Aren’t Lab Rats, So Stop Dissecting Us,” Raffi Wineburg points out that other generations aren’t doing his cohort any favors by constantly scrutinizing their very existence:
“Diagnosing us only muddies debate around policy solutions. And solutions are what we need. Millions of millennials, myself included, are working hard every day so that there will be no reason to apologize. . . . Eventually, I’ll find something, even if it’s underpaid or underappreciated. That’s OK. Like most millennials, I’m more interested in finding purposeful work than in making millions.”
Bentley’s PreparedU survey revealed that 78 percent of high-school students felt that it was the role of a university to provide job placement after graduation. Wineburg offers some additional suggestions, including reviving federal Youth Opportunity Grants, investing more in AmeriCorps and expanding the Registered Apprenticeship program (or at least bringing these three programs into the Internet age) as a way to place more millennials in solid employment.
Millennials may be having a rough time of it in terms of getting jobs and getting their lives “on track” when compared to having the same things at the same ages as generations past, but they do have sheer strength in numbers. According to Yahoo Finance, Gen Y will control $18 trillion of economic assets by 2018, despite their struggles — though they’re much more wary of the big banks and far less trustful of traditional investment markets and strategies than their parents.
Not all millennials are moving home or staying at their parents’ house, either, despite this assertion that they should. A survey by real estate website Trulia shows that millennials are buying more homes than you think — with an almost 1 percent rise in home ownership by 18- to 34-year-olds in 2013, and the number of young adults who head their households also rising that year back to the highest level it’s been since 2010. Gen Y is just so uncertain about the future, after the economic upheaval that has been their entire adult existence, that they’re “hoarding cash” (40 percent of millennials prefer it) and are “missing out on investment opportunities,” according to experts from Bankrate.com — “a real risk given the retirement burden they face.”
But young adults don’t seem to have the luxury of thinking about retirement right now, with the 18- to 24-year-old cohort facing a 15 percent unemployment rate. Despite the potentially heavy hit to their bottom line, and their job prospects, many recent Gen Y grads are willing to do whatever it takes, including internships, in hopes of one leading to a job. But many internships are only open to current college students. That’s a shame, since another Forbes story points out that there are at least five ways that interns provide value to businesses that executive teams can’t match, including but not limited to fresh eyes and ideas, being more tuned in to current trends, and an eagerness to impress.
Learn more about Bentley’s PreparedU Project, which examines challenges facing millennial workers, the companies that employ them and the colleges and universities that prepare them.
How can we better prepare millennials for work? We explored the key skills college grads are lacking, and potential solutions for filling those gaps.