Are Young Workers the "Go Nowhere" Generation?

by Staff - Original publish date: May 8, 2012

Are Young Workers "Lost?"

A recent piece in the New York Times by Todd G. Buchholz and Victoria Buchholz calls 20-somethings the "go-nowhere generation" based on their statistical reluctance to relocate for work. They note, "The likelihood of 20-somethings moving to another state has dropped well over 40 percent since the 1980s, according to calculations based on Census Bureau data…According to the Pew Research Center, the proportion of young adults living at home nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008, before the Great Recession hit."

Whether or not you believe Millennials are sedentary or risk averse, the article includes research by economist Lisa B. Kahn of the Yale School of Management showing, "…those who graduated from college during a poor economy experienced a relative wage loss even 15 years after entering the work force."

Is this just a recipe for a "lost generation?"

How Do We Fix Young America?

Scott Gerber isn’t ready to give up. He founded the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), which is spearheading #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based campaign in partnership with dozens of organizations hoping to provide real, actionable solutions to chronic youth under- and unemployment, which, Gerber explains, is the worst it has been in 60 years. 

With the campaign, YEC and its partners are promoting entrepreneurship and, more broadly, entrepreneurial thinking and learning, as a long-lasting and scalable antidote to the problems keeping Millennials stuck. The organization has big goals and a roadmap with a target of, "Restoring the American dream, not just to Gen Y but to their children and their children’s children." Gerber explains most young people know about the problems, but not the solutions, and said "We need to start talking about answers -- not just issues."

In the following Q & A, Gerber explains the movement's plans, what they hope to accomplish, and how you can help.

Support Entrepreneurs

Q: How is #FixYoungAmerica going to achieve your goals?

Gerber: In two ways. First, a national outreach and crowd funding (which includes a mainstream media campaign, a 10-city bus tour in partnership with Young Invincibles, and ongoing virtual and live events); and two, the production of the #FixYoungAmerica book, which includes essays on rebuilding America’s entrepreneurial spirit by top leaders who hail from all sectors (from the U.S. Congress to community colleges to startup accelerators). The book is not a comprehensive list of solutions; in fact, the game plan is to continue collecting solutions as we go, and include the best as a digital addendum to the book.

What it is, however, is the start of a conversation about how we can better develop, support, and rally around the young Gen Y-ers who see the economic distress we’re in and want to resolve it, often by founding new companies of their own. More young Americans are starting companies now than ever before.

Stick to the Plan

Q: What are some of the answers #FixYoungAmerica is proposing?

Gerber: We're proposing several things such as:

  • Passing a common-sense student loan forgiveness program for young entrepreneurs through the Youth Entrepreneurship Act
  • Making franchise ownership more financially accessible and visible to young people, including our young veterans
  • Passing the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which includes a crowd funding bill that would simplify the regulations that currently make raising startup capital through crowd funding platforms challenging
  • Fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems at the community and city levels through community building, business plan competitions, and public-school initiatives like New York’s Academy for Software Engineering, startup accelerators and nonprofit initiatives
  • Creating more integrated, experiential entrepreneurship degree programs at colleges across the U.S.
  • Expanding Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) programs through the STARTUP Act, so ALL entrepreneurs can use unemployment insurance benefits as startup capital (at no extra cost to the government or taxpayers).

Now is the Time

Q: Why is now a good time for #FixYoungAmerica to launch?

Gerber: In a general election year, the national discourse almost always turns negative -- there’s an overwhelming focus on what’s not working. But it also presents a unique opportunity to reach a lot of people -- and that’s why we’re starting the movement right now.

#FixYoungAmerica’s goal is to get our solutions into the hands of the decision makers (among them nonprofit leaders, educators, politicians, ordinary citizens, C-level executives, and everyone else with a stake in keeping America competitive) who are best able to scale some of the programs and policies that are already working in this country -- like owner-entrepreneurship education, self-employment assistance programs, intrapreneurship and franchising -- that will help put young Americans back to work, faster.

How Can Ordinary Citizens Help?

Q: What can ordinary Americans -- parents, teachers, students, business owners, etc. -- do to #FixYoungAmerica in their own communities?

Gerber: We can all pitch in, in one way or another, to #FixYoungAmerica. That’s exactly what this campaign is about, and we encourage every American to do their part. Here are just a few starting points:

  • Encourage our teachers and K-12 school leaders to institute entrepreneurship programs and tech-enabled learning with a focus on hands-on, experiential learning (like those offered through Junior Achievement, FBLA, and many public and private schools already)
  • Teach our children to value independence, innovation and ownership -- these skills are valuable to all of us, whether as freelancers, contractors, startup founders or employees
  • Show young Americans the entrepreneurial work alternatives out there, like: applying to startup accelerators and competitions; working for startup companies after college; finding companies that offer intrapreneurial opportunities to employees; considering franchises as an alternative to an MBA or possibly even a BA; and finding low-cost entrepreneurship education through local community colleges

More Ways to Lend a Hand

Q: Anything else people can do?

Gerber: Offer young Americans ways to contribute to their own success (and yours) by:

  • Creating mentorship or internship programs in local businesses
  • Sponsoring business-plan competitions to create a local culture of entrepreneurship
  • Asking your senator or representative to support crowd funding legislation, self-employment assistance and the Youth Entrepreneurship Act, three of our campaign’s policy-related solutions aimed at helping young entrepreneurs finance new businesses
  • Starting an online platform to bring local entrepreneurs, investors and leaders together
  • Sharing our campaign (and your own solutions!), which you can do by visiting our website or by making a tax-deductible contribution. Donations will help us put a copy of our book in the hands of every politician, thought leader and decision maker in America, and part of your contribution will also be donated to programs for young entrepreneurs.