There has been a shift in our culture and how we perceive today’s job seekers. Two groups in particular are being mischaracterized: millennials and trade/vocational school students. It’s not clear how this started, but many people hold a low opinion of millennials. Forbes notes that the oldest millennials, born in 1981 according to Pew Research Center, just hit undeniable adulthood. And, at age 35, they should have it together.

Yet research and the media alike paint Generation Y as lost, poor, heavily in debt, apolitical and unemployed.

This is grossly unfair, according to Steve Lindner, CEO of The Workplace Group, who appeared on my Made in America radio show, and who disputed some common misperceptions that millennials are “lazy.”

According to Lindner, this misperception stems from the fact that today’s millennials take a much different approach to their job hunt. They use the Internet to gain insights into prospective employers to get a better feel for the type of culture a company has – an important consideration. They want to be doing meaningful work, and take a very sophisticated approach to their career search.

Forbes points out that among the demographics for millennials, the youngest millennials are 10 years old and not eligible for full-time work. Then you have to take into account 40 percent of 18-24 year olds are in college. Articles citing massive millennial unemployment rates sidestep this statistic.

Finally, while unemployment may be high for recent college grads, multiple studies show that the unemployment rate for older millennials is the same as the rest of the nation.

We can’t continue to define today’s young people with old fashioned standards.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 5 percent of 25-34 year olds are unemployed. Meanwhile, the median salary for Americans between 28 and 36 is $48,000, and 14 percent earn over $100,000. Pew reports that weekly earnings for millennials ages 18-34 have increased since 2012.

So while too many young people in this group are living back at home (In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living in their parents’ home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household), there are many underlying issues.

Yes, too many college kids took courses that had no path to a career, but a case can be made for employers to look past the courses they took and take a fresh look at the environment they create for their workers. In today’s workforce, employers need to evolve their approach to hiring; paying more attention to the workplace experience.

This is a message that the general population should take into account so they recognize and appreciate the potential of new college graduates, and not just see them as “lazy” because they haven’t found the right job.

And while we take a fresh look at kids that attended a traditional college, as a society we must also strongly consider the young people who attended vocational and trade schools.

In The Spotlight

I recently gave the commencement address at a vocational high school in New Jersey where a recent graduate was in near tears because her peers looked down on her because she was attending a vocational school instead of attending a traditional high school. That is heartbreaking. Our culture no longer respects the tradesmen and women that built this country and ensure that the things we depend on continue to operate as they were designed.

It may change the minds of people who look down their noses at people attending vocational or trade schools when you consider that research has found that the average bachelor’s degree in the United States costs $127,000! Not only that, but nearly 70 percent of students take out loans to help pay for school.

According to the study, over 20 percent of students with loans owe more than $50,000 and 5.6 percent owe more than $100,000 at the end, not including the added cost of accrued interest.

On the other hand, because trade school only takes an average of two years to complete versus four, that amounts to an additional two years of income for the trade school graduate, or $71,440. Factor in another $70,000 in costs for the many students who take an extra year to graduate from college, and trade school grads can be over $140,000 ahead at the get-go, making up for over 12 years of difference in income.

I operate several manufacturing plants across the U.S. and I have a really hard time finding workers with skills in computer design and manufacturing, machinists and tool and die markers. These are high paying jobs that go unfilled because there is such a stigma about attending vocational or trade school.

Attitudes have to change. We can’t continue to define today’s young people with old fashioned standards that we continue to apply to today’s workers. This is a new era with new workers that require new considerations.

America needs a trained workforce, as well as workforce that finds fulfillment in their careers. We must create a culture of acceptance that spurs our young work force to pursue the American Dream.

In essence, we have to meld the success of the past (trade schools) with the new reality of millennials. There is a place for both of them in our workforce but we must be creative to bring out the best in every young person who yearns to contribute to our economy and to a brighter future.


Neal Asbury
About The Author Neal Asbury [Full Bio]
Neal Asbury, chief executive of The Legacy Companies, has published over 200 articles on global trade issues, writes for Newsmax, and is the author of Conscientious Equity. He frequently appears on cable news programs and hosts the nationally syndicated talk radio show Made In America.

Neal Asbury's Made In America

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