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Is Education Gen Y’s Downfall?

Whatever else you want to say about Gen Y, you gotta give them credit for being educated. But, is that such a good thing? What do they have to show for their education? High Millennial unemployment rates and student loan debt ? This isn’t looking good.

Whatever else you want to say about Gen Y, you gotta give them credit for being educated. But, is that such a good thing? What do they have to show for their education? High Millennial unemployment rates and student loan debt ? This isn’t looking good.

Can’t we all be CEOs?

Gen Y grew up being told they could be anything they wanted to be. Seems like they all want to be CEOs, and a college degree, maybe a few of them, is the best way to get there, right?

The question for Gen Y does not seem to be, “is education worth the debt,” but rather, “should I go to college or just start my own business now?” It’s a completely new way of looking at work.

And maybe that’s OK, since so many Millennials have entrepreneurial tendencies. But start-ups aren’t keeping Gen Y from moving home. Thirteen percent of adults aged 18-29 are moving back home with their parents, and it’s not because their parents desperately need them for tech support.

What about all these job openings?

Meanwhile, jobs are going unfilled. Trade jobs. As of last year, even with high unemployment rates, there were as many as 3 million unfilled trade jobs. So, why aren’t more Millennials jumping into trade professions instead of moving home?

I recently lost the stylist who’s been doing my hair for a year. She’d gone to beauty school, paid for her license to practice, and then quickly realized she could make a lot more money waiting tables at the burger joint across the street from the salon. She left. “What’s the point,” she said, “of doing all that work and paying to stay certified when I can barely pay my rent?”

Is education Gen Y’s downfall?

Certainly, out of work and student loans is not a great position to be in for anyone. But does that mean education is a downfall?

I’d hate to say that education is anyone’s downfall. However, the proper education is key to success, success for both for employees and employers. And that education can come from anywhere. From a classroom or on the job training.

When I went to college, I was under the impression, probably because someone repeatedly told me, that I wasn’t there to learn how to do a job; I was there to learn how to learn. And knowing how to learn would prepare me for any job. That may be true, but someone hiring me would have to be interested in teaching me.

Make Gen Y’s education work for you.

Teaching employees how to do the jobs that need filling is exactly how Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is filling a need for nurses; they’re upskilling existing employees. They are identifying the skills they need their employees to have, and then connecting current employees, including cafeteria workers, to training programs that teach those skills.

Education is important. Education can lead to better incomes and higher level jobs. But it needs to be the right education, in the right place at the right time.

We can’t all be CEOs because someone needs to work at your start-up if you’re going to be successful. To get those employees, the best and most educated may need to be taught new skills that will help your organization succeed. And there needs to be incentives to work for you, otherwise, if they can make more money waiting tables, they will.

Bottom line, Millennials who have degrees and student loans know how to learn. If you can’t find a way to make that valuable for them, you’ll be hiring from a less educated talent pool. That’s not to anyone’s advantage.

Even if education IS the downfall of Millennials, it’s not likely that the optimistic generation will see it that way. This uber-educated generation will find a way to take what they’ve learned and put it to work somewhere, maybe their own company, and if you’re willing to do some training, maybe it’ll be yours.


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