Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Word to the Youth: Things Are Looking Up

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Word to the Youth: Things Are Looking Up

Article excerpt

The young people graduating from high school and college tend to be a worried lot. The economy isn't creating jobs at a fast-enough pace to absorb them easily.

But although they're getting a slow start, there's good reason to believe they'll do better in life than they currently expect. Some powerful economic trends are moving their way. The young adult generation today has:

Record-high levels of education. In 1993, 47 percent of the 18- to 24-year-olds had at least some higher education, compared with about 31 percent in 1980. Also, high school dropout rates are down.

Opportunities still look bleak for people with only a high school education. But after they find out how the world works, many of them will get more schooling voluntarily. Anthony Carnevale, chairman of the National Commission for Employment Policy, sees a big demand for "high school plus" - a high school degree plus a technical certificate or junior college.

More training in skills. Companies need a higher proportion of skilled workers. But the young labor force is much smaller than it was during the big baby boomer years. So employers have more incentive to train, says Labor Secretary Robert Reich. About 17 percent of all workers now get formal, on-the-job training, up from 11 percent 10 years ago.

Computer literacy is key. Workers who use computers earn 10 percent to 15 percent more than those who don't, reports Alan Krueger, professor of economics at Princeton. And young people are more computer-smart than their elders were.

A good work ethic. Like their Depression-era grandparents, young people are pricked by economic anxiety. Lisa Fricker, 28, a librarian for a New York state agency, first sought to teach in a junior college, then accepted work as a secretary while looking for a library job. "It was anything they'd pay me for," she says. "Our age group is open to just about anything. …

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