"I always knew who they were. They didn't have to tell me. After just a brief conversation it became obvious. These were brilliant people."
Some of the most successful people of my generation, the Baby Boomers (born 1946-'64), did not attend college. They worked their way up within organizations and companies. There was a path for us, however narrow, but it was an available option and many traveled it successfully. It was a simpler time.
Many of my friends enlisted in the Armed Forces after High School (70s) and from there went on to college under the G.I. Bill. Then there were guys like myself who got involved in the trades. It was at a time when being a tradesman was a respectable profession. It was an honest day's work, everyday. Americans appreciated the building trades and those who chose the career. My friends and I were proud of our blue collars and we wore them like a badge of honor. We were there to continue the work our fathers and grandfathers had started. We were building America.
The 80's was a great time to be in the building trades. The "Building Boom" was a housing boom and the construction of housing developments and condominiums was plentiful. In addition to Excavators, Concrete Companies, Carpenters, Electricians, Plumbers, HVAC Technicians, Masons, Roofers, Painters, Plasterers, Landscapers, etc... there were Insulators and Cleaners; companies that swept houses clean after the rough construction was complete. There were no shortages of good-paying construction jobs. Blue collar America was working hard and being well compensated for its efforts.
When the "Building Boom" finally crashed in the early 90s, many flocked to the technology industry where they found their job salvation. The "Technology Boom" offered great wages and benefits, something the construction industry didn't offer its non-union workforce. Technology was an attractive industry. It was cleaner, less physically demanding, offered training and a promising future. Some experts believe this shift is responsible for the shortage of skilled workers in the building trades that still exists in today's job market.
After the Housing Industry made a recovery in the mid to late 90s, the economy showed good signs. The purchase of new homes and cars were on the rise, two important commodities in an American economy. For a while there was reason for optimism. Then the housing crash of 2008 led to a full-blown recession. Unemployment and foreclosures were high, while hope for an economic recovery was at an all-time low. Parents of children born in the late eighties-early nineties struggled to remain optimistic, even if only for their kids.
Non-service and non-construction job requirements began to include four years of college and post-baby boomers were forced into making decisions. No longer was it "Should I go to college, into industry, the armed forces, or the trades?" It was all about reach schools and safety schools. Without a military draft to delay the process, these decisions had to come during junior and senior years in High School. There was a lot of pressure put on these 17, 18 and 19 year old "kids", more than any other generation before them.
Enter the education and banking institutions who were more than happy to offer their assistance during this dilemma. It was a supply and demand situation and knowing the competition for acceptance would tighten, Colleges and Universities raised their tuition and banks/finance institutions were ready and waiting to take full advantage. It became a feeding frenzy for them, and a time of confusion for parents and children who were forced to make financial decisions that would impact their entire lives.
Wealthy families who could afford to pay these increased tuitions did so without hesitation, but for middle America and the working class, post-secondary education had become a high-stakes game. Would these "kids" be able to get jobs after graduation to pay their student loans?
Baby Boomers were more than happy to see their offspring enter into secondary education, some hoping their children would become the first in their families to earn a college degree. We all took the shiny bait, letting how proud we were for our kids cloud the debt waiting at the end of this artificial rainbow.
When it finally happened, it was obvious that not all entry level jobs paid well and a good portion of those who had college loans were forced to return home and live frugal lives in order to pay their insurmountable debt. The path these Millennials (born 1982-'04) were advised to take was, at the very least, misleading. This generation is by far the most educated we have ever seen in the United States, but being born into recession plagued times has limited their opportunities.
Their frustration is evident in their willingness to place blame on educational and banking institutions, the government, and their parents, who they believe all failed them. Their attitudes may seem arrogant at times, high-brow, pompous, and extremely angry, but not without good reason. After all, the generation with the most education, hopes for the brightest futures and the highest student loans ended up with limited opportunities and decreasing wages.
If there was indeed hope for them it would make discussing it more amicable. But it appears that in their main earning years, a large percentage of highly-educated Millenials will remain opportunity-disadvantaged.
The most difficult part for the Millenials is that they are some of the most brilliant people of our times, and they're not shy about it, but they have been limited in their opportunities to both utilize and cash in on that brilliance.
For those hard-working Millenials who are fortunate enough to have landed on their feet and in their chosen professions, the problem becomes their obsession with success. Many Millenials, in an effort to secure their positions, overwork themselves, taking too little time to unwind, and as a result, find themselves stressed and experiencing job burnout prematurely. This may be what is fueling their anger towards a system that they believe has not rewarded them, but has failed them miserably.
A majority of highly-educated Millenials show no indication of wanting two of the key pieces of the once highly sought-after "American Dream", home and family, but according to a recent Pew survey, have instead opted for "achieving financial security" and "being debt free".
Whether they're searching for a job in their chosen career or overworking themselves in it, some while paying off hefty student loans, highly-educated Millenials are finding very little sympathy...