Forty years ago, a college degree was enough to virtually guarantee a job after graduation. Recently, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce published a study, “The Uncertain Pathway from Youth to a Good Job.” Among other things, it says, “Over the past several decades, the pathway to a good job has become longer and more challenging for young adults to navigate.” Today’s young workers don’t achieve a “good job” until their 30th birthday. Older baby boomers were able to get a good job in their 20s. How can we as parents help our children position themselves to shorten this longer ramp up to a good job? How does career-thinking play into the solution?
What is a “good job”?
“A good job pays at least $35,000 per year and $57,000 at the median for young workers (ages 25 to 35) nationwide, with adjustments based on cost-of-living differences among states,” according to the study.
To achieve this good job, the trend towards having some postsecondary education and work experience is becoming more necessary. “Among older millennials in the labor force, 80% of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher had a good job at age 35, compared with 56% of those with some college or an associate’s degree, 42% of those with only a high school diploma, and 26% of those with less than a high school diploma.”
For those students with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 60% of them had a good job by their 25th birthday. As parents of college-bound students, this statistic is kind of scary. Yes, 60% is great! But are we prepared for 4 out of 10 of our children to still be searching for a good job at 25? We kind of expect all of them to get a good job straight out of college.
Why is it taking longer?
Georgetown CEW’s study goes deeper into the reasons for this delay in reaching a good job. Among the reasons are:
- The global economy is very different from the economy of the past requiring different technological skills.
- This changing economy requires that employers find workers with more advanced educations and credentials.
These increased educational requirements lengthen the time between high school graduation and reaching that good job status. Today’s young adults also need more high-quality work experience.
- Post-secondary education costs are rising.
- Students have limited access to high-quality work-based learning.
- They lack access to comprehensive counseling and career navigation services.
What can be done to help students reach that good job quicker?
Let’s look at each of the key problem areas.
1) Costs are rising.
As parents, we can’t do much to change that. However, we do need to be aware of how much college costs. How do we plan to pay for all four years? What is the right financial fit for our family? Keep in mind that a high price does not guarantee a higher quality. Be sure to take advantage of our paying for college blogs and family programming to get a solid understanding of college financing.
2) High-quality work-based learning
Work-based learning (WBL) can include things like apprenticeships, co-ops, internships, mentorships, and on-the-job training. These types of experiences allow students to learn about careers. Students build connections. WBL leads to higher rates of employment and shortens that distance to a good job.
WBL can happen in high school as well with STEM, academies, career tech, and mentorship programs. However, not all high schools are as successful as others in crafting strong programs. Programs must ensure “that students see the connections between their coursework and the work-based learning experience, requiring reflection, and incorporating a culminating activity.” Career technical schools are restricted in the number of students they can serve.
These are challenges to be addressed by the states and the school districts. However, parents can seek out opportunities and understand what is available. They can help their students consider programs that might fit their skills and interests.
3) Counseling and career navigation services
Today’s school counselors are overburdened. “The American School Counselor Association recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of 250 to 1 in elementary and secondary schools, but the current national average is almost 70 percent higher, at 424 to 1.138.”
When the ratio is this high, we have to adjust our expectations. High school counselors are strapped with a lot of responsibilities and a large caseload. They do have resources about careers, but they’re not going to be able to spend a lot of one-on-one time with our kids. If we know this going in, we can adjust and take on more of the career planning work as a family.
In college, career services are often separate from academic advisors. Academic advisors are more likely to provide guidance about a major rather than a proposed career. Not enough college students seek out the assistance provided by their university’s career services department.
The report notes that the primary sources of career information for students are their family and their social peers. As you can imagine, a child’s friends/social peers are not exactly a reliable source of clear and correct career information. Parents are limited to what they know and have experience with.
Career thinking needs to be part of the support provided to our children.
“When they are making decisions about their education-to-career pathways, young people would benefit from having a trusted source who could provide (1) transparent information about the likely labor-market outcomes of various education and career pathways and (2) assistance and support in interpreting that information.”
The report would like to see a formal career counseling program for every child starting in middle school and continuing through post-secondary education. Wouldn’t that be great?!
What can be done now?
At The Core has recognized for years the disconnect between the need for career exploration for our children and the actual amount and kind of instruction they receive.
The report says, “Effective career navigation could begin with a process of self-reflection combined with exploration of occupations, guided by a competent career navigation professional.”
Yes! We have a tool for that—Guided Self Assessment. Since 2012, our team of professionals has had the honor of working with students grades 10 and up as they reflected on their own strengths, interests, skills, and values. Our in-depth one-on-one process identifies a wide range of careers for further exploration and guides students in how to do that research including getting started with informational interviews with career professionals.
(Students in the grades 7, 8, and 9 can start to understand self assessment and career exploration in our Heads Up! workshop.)
We help our students connect who they are and what they want to the wide world of careers that might be a good fit for them. We help them understand how to get from where they are to where they want to be. That understanding will help shorten their path to a good job by focusing and refining their thinking. We hope you’ll learn more about Guided Self Assessment in a free 30-minute family meeting.
Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, “The Uncertain Pathway from Youth to a Good Job” and “How Limits to Educational Affordability, Work-Based Learning, and Career Counseling Impede Progress toward Good Jobs”, 2022