Muskens: Employers look for both education and work experience

Opting for low-skilled, low-paid jobs (can) lead to a life of chronic unemployment.

Every time people ask me what my son is up to and I reply that he is working full-time they tend to consider this good news.

Many of his friends are either unemployed, going to school, or they are what I would call under-employed; working at low paying part-time jobs.

My son’s job is probably not his future career but his wage is OK and he even gets benefits. Is he lucky? Based on statistics he probably is.

He’s getting the experience of working full-time, which gives him the opportunity to live on his own and pay his own bills—something a lot of young people are missing out on.

Today there are millions of young adults between the ages of 15 to 24 years who are unemployed and not in school. According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), if you looked at all of the first-world countries you would find 26 million unemployed young people. If you add in those from developing countries, you are looking at another 260 million youth.

To define this number on a global scale it’s important to know a few things.

There are some cultures where women do not work hence they come up as unemployed.

Another is that many young adults have contract-based jobs so they may get captured by statisticians who determine national unemployment rates.

In under-developed countries some youth work, mostly in agriculture, for their family and still get counted as unemployed.

But youth unemployment rates are still high and there are a number of fallouts from this. In rich countries there is the social net burden. Not only is that country paying out funds (unemployment insurance and welfare) to those without jobs, it’s also losing out on this labour resource. There are estimates coming out of Europe that the unemployed youth crisis bears an economic cost in the billions. High unemployment leads to slow economic growth.

This happens in Canada where we have an education/work mismatch—people without jobs because they don’t have the education to fill vacant positions, and employers with jobs who can’t find qualified workers.

The second fallout is the social cost. I’ve seen people in their 50s lose their jobs and never make it back into the labour market. Within about three years many lose the self-confidence it takes to go out and get a job. Some opt out of working; others look at lower paid part-time employment.

Imagine the same feeling someone aged 22 gets when they have never even had a full-time permanent job. They don’t have the background or knowledge of what it’s like to go to work. They don’t even have the mindset to know whether or not they are capable of holding a full-time job.

As a result, they tend to opt for low-skilled, low-paid jobs that provide little job security. Unfortunately it is this pattern that leads to a life of chronic unemployment.

My son will go back to school, but he has a resume that shows he has worked for the same employer since he was 16. There is a reason why employers ask for both education and experience in today’s job market.

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