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Teens Filling the Job Gap

Teens Filling the Job Gap

Today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal includes an article, “Wanted: Teenagers to Fill Open Jobs,” that explores how young people are taking jobs that were recently beyond their reach. They are achieving these results by being inquisitive and properly trained.

The issue at hand is historically low unemployment rates. We are in the midst of the “longest stretch of continuous job creation on record” and are at the point where employers with good jobs to offer are having trouble finding qualified workers.

Filling this gap are young people.

Indeed, the article notes, “The 12-month average unemployment rate for teens in March was 13.9%, the lowest year-round average since 2001 and about half that in 2010.”

Tim Blumentritt Dean CCPE KSU

Tim Blumentritt, interim dean, CCPE

There are historical trends at play as well. In the mid-1990s, over half of 16- to 19-year-olds were in the labor force. Today that figure is about 35%. Conversely, participation in conventional jobs like babysitting and lawn-mowing has declined in recent years while the number of teenagers working in fields like healthcare and data processing have approximately doubled from the 1990s.

This means that while far fewer high schoolers and college-age people are in the workforce, those that are have increasingly sophisticated jobs. The article tells of teenagers working at avionics firms, becoming machinists and gaining apprenticeships at Fortune 500 firms (all before they can buy a beer).

For example: “Maggie Burgess, 17, used to work as a nanny and lifeguard. Now a certified nursing assistant, she changes into turquoise scrubs after school for evening shifts at $11.95 an hour at Wissota Health. She works 25 hours some weeks. ‘Not a lot of high-school kids can say they work as a CNA,’ she said. ‘It’s something really special to me.’” Ms. Burgess plans on continuing her nursing education in the future.

To me, this article provides striking examples of how some young people are preparing for careers far more quickly than we might expect. They are not waiting to complete a bachelor’s degree before moving forward.

And they will benefit from it. For instance, Kennesaw State has a highly-regarded nursing program. It accepts fewer than 20% of the KSU sophomores who apply to the professional nursing program, which takes place in the junior and senior years. While the graduates of this program come out with fantastic job prospects, I have to believe that they would be even stronger candidates if they had the experience of working as a CNA, like Ms. Burgess in the WSJ article.

Professional education and experience can serve as a bridge from high school to college as well. A CNA program and hands-on experience gives a competitive edge for nursing school applicants. Real-world Professional Investigator training can complement a criminal justice degree. Technical education and expertise benefits a range of fields.

The same holds true for just about every profession. Experience and training matter, regardless of when or where they were achieved.

At KSU’s College of Continuing and Professional Education (CCPE), we firmly believe that education is a path to personal and professional success. We strive to be part of a person’s journey, wherever they want to go. Our certificate programs in fields like financial planning, culinary arts, cyber security and web design all have one core purpose: Provide people, regardless of their starting point, with a solid foundation for a prosperous career.

This WSJ article suggests those career options are increasingly open to everyone, not just those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees. We are quite happy to provide skilled people to the employers who need them.

This post was written by Dean Tim Blumentritt.

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