6 Ways Millennials Can Actually Succeed in This Economy

ByLance Fuller

As I often read numerous articles about the economy and how it affects the millennial generation, I notice very few publications actually discuss how millennials can find and create opportunities and instead focus on how screwed they are. 

Don't get me wrong, it's tough out there. Right now the current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 7.5%, according to a May 2013 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

About 5.5 million young people ages 18 to 34 are currently unemployed, but this number only tells one side of the tape. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and later reported by PolicyMic, there are 12.1 million job-seekers who are counted in the BLS’s official unemployment figure, but this figure does not include the 8.6 million part-time workers who can’t get a full-time job or the 2.5 million “marginally attached” people who gave up looking for work.

So that leaves America with more than 23.2 million young people in this country who want full-time work but can’t find it accounting for 16% of the youth population.

If these numbers sound crushing, they are.

But there are numerous things that colleges and the government can do to make sure that this generation’s adult life isn’t thwarted before it begins.

What should be done?

Now’s the time to focus on solutions. It’s easy and irresponsible to contextualize all of these unemployment and underemployment figures and say, “here’s the problem, the sky is falling” and not offer any solutions.

Here are a few examples in no particular order on how we can help millennials from Venture for America, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Fix Young America.  

1. Encourage graduates to work at and create start-up companies.

Jeff Seligno of the Chronicle of Higher Education writes that we need more avenues to get college graduates placed in rising companies through programs like Venture for America. Modeled after Teach for America, Venture for America places graduates in start-up companies for two years in smaller cities like Las Vegas and Cincinnati across the country.

Andrew Yang, Venture for America’s founder, says that the program’s goal is to create 100,000 jobs by 2025, he told the New York Times. “If you send a Brown University graduate to Goldman Sachs, is that person going to create jobs?” Yang asked.

College graduates should also be encouraged to create startup companies without defaulting on their student loan payments, via student loan forgiveness through income-based repayment programs. The JOBS Act of 2012  is a step in the right direction as it allows entrepreneurs to use crowdfunding to raise early-stage capital that most wouldn’t get through a regular bank loan that requires collateral and credit history.

Right now only a handful of states have the Self-Employment Assistance Program that allows laid-off workers to collect unemployment benefits while they start a business.

In Portland, Oregon, the founders of Urban Airship took advantage of SEA after they were laid off from their software engineer jobs and each received around $10,000 over six months after submitting their business plan.

2. Colleges must improve career information given to students.

Colleges must provide better and more transparent employment and salary data of its recent graduates like St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

3. Colleges must provide more co-ops and immersive experiences.

Northeastern UniversityDrexel University, George Washington University, and Georgia Tech are leaders in the co-op movement, which places students in real, paying jobs during college.

Co-ops not only pay students, but they also ensure students get real-world work experience related to their chosen field.

4. Expand apprenticeship training to create more and better post high-school pathways.

Americans tend to romanticize an education as a four-year college degree, but the truth is college isn’t for everyone.

“By 2020, two out of every three jobs will require some sort of education after high school,” Seligno says. “What’s needed? More apprenticeships, public service, and other structured work environments.”

There are many post-graduate apprenticeship programs from culinary arts to technical trades that train people by combining work-based learning with classroom instruction in a unified program that leads to a recognized and valued occupational credential, Economist Robert Lehrman says.

Trainees earn money and produce a product while they learn and later graduate with a sense of pride and identity as a member of a craft.

In Austria, Germany, and Switzerland — countries with long histories of guilds and craft work — apprenticeships are so commonplace, they cover 55-70%  of all young people, which can help explain why youth unemployment rates are lower in those countries compared with the rest of Europe and the U.S., Lehrman says

5. Teach people how to learn programming languages and coding

Zach Sims, founder of website Codecademy, which teaches programming and coding for free, advocates for teaching computer programming languages nationally and creating partnerships with high schools, colleges, and local governments.

“There are a limited number of things you can do with an English degree,” Sims said. “Coding skills are such a clear path to employment, regardless of your background.”

6. Among other things...

A short list of other solutions to help get Millennials to work include:

-Supporting franchise ownership for veterans & youth

-Ways to create new “Silicon Valleys” throughout the U.S.

-Best practices for colleges to graduate more entrepreneurs

-Expanding Self-Employment Assistance (SEA)

-Increasing young founders’ access to capital

-Teaching entrepreneurship to ALL young Americans, including at-risk youth

Last year, the Youth Entrepreneurship Council (YEC) published the book #Fix Young America: How to rebuild our economy and put young Americans back to work (for good),  which covers several other proven solutions written by notable entrepreneurs, business people, and politicians that have helped young people find jobs.

This is just a start but hopefully a step in the right direction that ensures when we are in our 40s and 50s we can effectively lead this country and live a fruitful, prosperous life.

This blog post is reposted from April 3, 2013 on Lance Fuller's blog, Voices of a Lost Generation that addresses the economic hardships that millennials face through awareness, education, and social media. If the economy continues to struggle, millennials could become a generation lost to the impact of the Great Recession.