I’ve been consulting for more than four decades. Twenty or 30 years ago, a hiring manager at a Fortune 500 company was much more willing to give, say, a dance major a chance. That manager would realize that such graduates were good at teamwork, acquiring new skills and practicing for long hours. Give them some corporate training and they become productive employees, was the thinking.
Now, because of a relentless focus on specialized skills, too many young people are missing out on a rite of passage: getting to a job on time, learning a craft, assuming responsibility, bringing home a paycheck. The unemployment rate for people age 20 to 24 ia 11 percent, compared with an overall rate is under 7 percent.
It’s not that they aren’t trying to find work. One problem is that young people are competing both with their peers and with experienced applicants willing to accept entry-level salaries.
Financially struggling boomers fill many of the jobs that young people once assumed would be theirs. And according to a recent poll, nearly half of workers 50 and older expect to retire later than they had previously thought.
Rather than waiting for educational institutions or the government to bridge this generation gap, employers should consider accepting some responsibility for introducing young people into the workforce. This could be the perfect time for companies to start pilot projects that enroll unskilled but promising people in corporate training programs.
Hiring managers who look beyond narrowly focused credentials might uncover something even more important: energetic workers who are determined to make a mark and help their companies succeed. And businesses that gain reputations for preparing young people to become productive employees are likely to have a competitive advantage as the economy recovers and older workers can afford to retire.