Yesterday, I wrote about an issue many adults are unaware of — one that will be problematic in our future unless we fix it: Youth unemployment. They’re the highest demographic of unemployed people in the nation and the world.
One of our chief problems is: Once we see we have a problem, we react in the wrong way. 2 common reactions are:
1. We assume the wrong things about these kids.
We presume they are un-ambitious slackers who have no passion. It may look like that on the outside, but it’s not true on the inside. Students actually want to invest their life in something that matters — but we’ve not prepared them to do so. Eventually, our wrong view of them becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They live up to (or down to) our assumptions.
2. We react by trying to make things easier.
Our second problem is we try to patch things up instead of make things right. Our government talks of doing something that will unwittingly hurt our kids. Youth were attracted to Obama’s 2008 campaign. However, a year after he took office, more young people are realizing that Obama’s minimum wage policies do not serve their best interest. On the president’s website, he says he plans to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour in 2011. That sounds great on paper. However, a federal mandated minimum wage prevents young people from obtaining entry-level positions and gaining valuable skills. As Economics 101 explains, businesses are de-motivated to hire inexperienced young workers if they are forced to pay them at least $7.25 an hour. As a result, a willing potential young worker may stay inexperienced and unemployed due to the government’s intervention. According to Joe Sabia, an associate professor in public policy at American University:
A 10% increase in minimum wage reduces retail employment by 1%, and reduces employment among young workers by 3.4%. Obama’s proposal would raise the federal minimum wage by over 30%, causing even greater job loss at a time when our economy can least afford it.
I have a better idea. Forget the minimum wage. Let’s get them ready for work. Let’s help them build a resume. Let’s extend internships to more high school and college students. (That’s what we do at Growing Leaders.) Let’s offer to meet with them in an informal mentoring relationship to furnish encouragement and insights on the best way to approach job interviews. Let’s cast a vision for them that they can make in the working world, even if they enter to serve not to make money (the money will follow). In fact, let’s invite some to join us and work for free, and in return we cultivate work skills they’ll need when they hunt for the “real” job later.
In the book, Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, I talk at length about steps we can take to help young people become the best version of themselves. You can find ideas and this book at: www.SaveTheirFutureNow.com.