The Tale of Two Labor Markets: The Millennial Generation
The “skills marketplace” is complex and rapidly changing; this contributes to an imbalance of supply and demand of labor and has different implications across various segments of the workforce. Arguably, the group most impacted by changes is the adult-youth workforce—as of June 2013, only 43.6 percent of those 18 to 29 years old were employed full-time, even as overall unemployment has improved to 6.1 percent. This performance is a significant milestone because six-and-a-half years after the Great Recession began the U.S. economy has finally surpassed its pre-crisis employment peak, and yet millions of young adults are struggling. Most worrisome, an unbundling of the youth-adult job market highlights this is not a single cohort, but instead among the most extreme example of “Haves” and “Have-Nots” among workforce peer groups.
Consider that at the high end of the young-adult employment market, there is a relentless need for advanced skills, such as engineering, to support “new economy” jobs. This shortage is now primarily a function of insufficient supply of talent. For example, studies have shown that the number of jobs available in the U.S. is directly related to advances made in science and engineering, yet, only about 4 percent of college graduates receive degrees in engineering or science. Moreover, according to Jeff Lawson, of Twilio, software-minded people who can master both the advanced technology and abstract thinking needed to innovate will be in constant demand. This reality is increasingly recognized, and the surge in interest among students and investors in tech boot camps reflects this persistent struggle among employers to hire qualified people for high-tech positions, and students eager for credentials who don’t come along with the extraordinary opportunity costs of college.