Anthony Carnevale and his team at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce have released a report that analyzes labor market trends for both younger and older adults. Failure to Launch: Structural Shift and the New Lost Generation outlines how the modern economy has negatively impacted young people in the United States and why the country needs to upgrade the education and workforce training systems to align with the 21st century knowledge economy.
Findings from the report include:
- The labor force participation rate for 20–24 year olds is at its lowest level since 1972.
- Young men (18–29) in blue-collar jobs have declined from 54% to 36% in the last 30 years.
- In 1980, young men (18-29) made 85% of the mean wage; in 2012, they only earned 58%.
- Between 2000 and 2012, the number of men in their late 20s working full-time declined from 80% to 65%. The percentage of young men in their late 20s not working at all increased from 6% in 2000 to 15% in 2012.
- African-American young men have been affected the most by the struggling economy. In 2000, 65% of African-American young men were working full time, while only 48% were full-time employees in 2012.
- The white/African-American full-time employment gap grew from 6 percentage points to 14 percentage points between 2000 and 2012.
The authors argue that the traditional phases of education, work, and retirement are outdated. Instead, “the system has been replaced by an expectation of lifelong learning and the continuous upgrading of skills required to adapt to new workplace technologies and an evolving occupational structure.”
So, how does the country reverse this trend? Carnavale and his team believe, “The United States needs to find ways to enhance the productivity of its human capital development system.”
They recommend in part:
- Promoting transparency to ensure that students and their families fully understand the value proposition of education.
- Streamlining curricula to promote college affordability, completion, and the acquisition of competencies with labor market value.
The bottom line is that the education systems in this country cannot remain stuck in the 20th century. As the business community continues to innovate and adapt to a 21st century global economy, so must the education system. If not, these numbers are going to get a lot worse before they get better.