To Millennials, with Love

It seems like every day brings with it a new report, news article, or media release on the economic and educational status of the Millennial generation. Today was one such momentous date, bringing with it several new sources of data. I’m pleased to say that one of these articles was based on research conducted by Dr. Markus Moos (School of Planning) at the University of Waterloo.

Dr. Moos published this study, which reports on a 25-year income trend for individuals aged 25 to 34, in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (Carrick, November 2013). His research disputes the popular conceptualization of Millennials as a coddled, spoiled generation with delayed wage growth because of higher levels of education (including amongst presumed minority populations like women) (Carrick, November 2013). According to Dr. Moos’ recent publication, young people are being negatively “affected by an increasing emphasis by employers on temporary or contract work instead of permanent full-time jobs […] even people working in low-paying service jobs like slinging burgers or coffee” (Carrick, November 2013). In the long run, pension plans and retirement savings will become a distant dream for the Millennial generation (Carrick, November 2013).

In the realm of education and job training, the drive to maintain or increase institutional relevance in producing workers continues at a steady pace. In their Fall General Assembly, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) approved changes to the Student Success, Ancillary Fees, and A Comprehensive Access Strategy policy papers (OUSA, November 26th, 2013). The Student Success policy paper is relevant here as it “includes new recommendations regarding the need for universities to develop and employ learning outcome measures at the course, program and institutional levels to reflect the skills competencies students gain throughout the course of pursuing their degree” (OUSA, November 26th, 2013). It is wonderful to see third-party watchdogs rallying universities to stay accountable to their student bodies.

Yesterday, the government of Canada released statistics on post-secondary enrollment between 2011 and 2012 (see the full Statistics Canada report here). The document reports that “almost 2 million students were enrolled in Canadian post-secondary institutions during the academic year 2011/2012 […] three fields of study accounted for nearly one-half of total enrolment: the humanities (18.3%); business, management and public administration (17.6%); and social and behavioural sciences and law (13.0%)” (Statistics Canada, November 27th, 2013). However, the top university degrees for guaranteed employment after graduation currently include dentistry, forestry, optometry, veterinary medicine, medicine, and pharmacy (Workopolis, November 28th, 2013). Enrollment in trades and apprenticeship program has increased over the past two or three years for certain colleges, hinting at a growing interest in practical, hands-on careers (e.g. Okanagan College: Public Affairs, November 28th, 2013).

Education doesn’t have to be a waste of effort, nor does the search for a paying job. In these recent reports I can see young people’s economic struggles and financial woes coming out in the numbers; but I do sense that society is shifting in the right direction. Educational institutions everywhere are sitting up and taking notice, reorienting or reevaluating long-established policies to better cater to student needs. Students are starting to alter their career, lifestyle, and income expectations (see this article, or this video series, for proof).

Thus, despite the grim forecasts and predictions, I feel that many of these recent articles sign off “To Millennials, with Love”, because the stigma and assumptions towards our work habits and career choices are shifting*. A sense of solidarity with Millennials is growing; our economic well-being undoubtedly affects society at large. I only hope that these positive forces continue into the future.

*This recent video published on Upworthy does not agree with my perspective, however.

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