Young, Talented, Jobless

As local business owners, we are constantly faced with the need to find new employee talent, since turnover remains a challenge. In the medical profession, we lament the fact that our employees need to have a special skill set, both in technical and human terms, and that skill set is sorely lacking in today’s youth. Especially in the Coachella Valley, where education scores rank our students near the bottom in the country.

However, it is a worldwide phenomenon. Young people are disgruntled because they cannot find good jobs, even with college degrees, and employers are disheartened that young people are not qualified to fill the many jobs available. According to recent McKinsey and Company worldwide survey, nearly 75 million would be workers between the age of 15 and 24 are unemployed, and the International Labor Organization expects this 13% to rise, to perhaps as high as 85 million by the year 2020. Of those youths employed, 45% are working in jobs that had nothing to do with their education, and half of those workers view their jobs to be temporary. In short, too many young people lack employable skills in a world that has too few skilled workers.

The problem is further exacerbated by a tremendous disconnect between educators and employers. In the McKinsey survey, nearly 70% of employers felt that students were ill-prepared for today’s jobs, even at the entry level; nearly 70% of educators believe that they are doing a good job of preparing their students for the job market. I’m reminded of the story of the New York University student who spent over $200,000 to study medieval English poetry, and then could only find a job as a barista, the income from which came nowhere near paying her student loans. Don’t get me wrong—I have nothing against studying poetry; I’ve even published some myself. But even the smallest of small businessmen would think long and hard about the cost-effectiveness of that expensive of an education to acquire a skill set that is in low demand. Where were her parents, teachers and guidance counselors? More importantly, was the university simply coaxing her along a self-destructive path in order to get the student loan income? Everyone involved had mis-aligned incentives.

Unfortunately, in a rapidly changing business world, I think that is it up to the small businesses to fend for themselves. It is not cost-effective to train entry level employees in the basic skills they need to be successful, only to have half of them fail to develop. At STAR Orthopaedics, we have aggressively taken medical assistant and nursing students into student rotations. This allows us to groom them and determine whether they have what it takes to be employed in the future, while getting a little free help. Although we cannot hire all of the good ones, we help place them and stay in touch with them, so that when we have openings, we have been able to hire from a known group of applicants with a known skill set and demeanor. Other large corporations have started to develop similar programs with universities, offering summer internships and creating large networks of job placement services among themselves.

I think the true future solution would be to create business high schools and colleges, that aren’t bound by old rules of certain liberal arts credits, certain science credits, etc. Instead, they would focus on developing skill sets for specific jobs, and add some overall rounding secondarily. After all, the end-goal of getting a good education is to get a good job. The good jobs are out there; we just need to create the good education for our youth.

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