According to a recent government study approximately 2.4 million college graduates are unemployed. Records show that this is the highest unemployment rate for people with a bachelors degree or higher since 1970. This is quite discouraging for many college graduates who are taught that the key to success & obtaining a good job depends on receiving a college education. I’m certainly not undermining the importance of a college degree & I would encourage any young person to pursue some form of higher education. However, I am suggesting that a college degree is NOT ENOUGH. To thrive in this economy, there are certain skills required, and unfortunately the traditional education system is not adequately providing our children with these skills. Here are some of the critical skills that are often overlooked:
1) Entrepreneurship: Everyone does not need to be an entrepreneur. However, it is an important survival skill to thrive in this economy. The traditional education system provides our children with the skills needed to be prepared for job opportunities; but in many cases it does not adequately teach children how to create their own opportunities. It is important to teach our children entrepreneurial skills, just in case a job opportunity is not immediately presented to them, or just in case they get laid off from a job. You do not have to wait around for someone to offer you an opportunity. You can take the skills that you have obtained and CREATE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITY through entrepreneurship.
2) Thinking outside of the box: This is another skill that is not emphasized enough with the traditional education system. Over the past few years, we’ve noticed that you have to stand out to get hired. Job hunters are seeking employment in unconventional ways such as video resumes, billboards & creating websites to get noticed by employers. Many employers have stacks of resumes piled on their desks, and if you don’t stand out or think outside of the box, your resume may simply get lost in the abyss of the pile stacked a mile high on an employer’s desk. I believe that standardized exams stifle children from thinking outside of the box. At the moment, this is the best tool that we have to measure the learning abilities of children nationwide; and it is the only tool that we have available at the moment to ensure that children are on grade level. This puts pressure on teachers and administrators to ensure that their students are prepared for the standardized exams. The disadvantage is that it does not leave much room for curriculums that encourage creativity & thinking outside of the box.
3) Identifying your passion & purpose in life: With cookie cutter curriculums, the traditional education system usually does not nurture the unique gifts & talents within children. Most people who are incredibly successful will tell you that they love their career because it is their passion. The traditional school of thought is to simply get an education to obtain a “good job”. Well many people who have followed this pattern end up with a job that they dread going to every morning. Sometimes, you may need to suck it up, and stay at a job that you hate to pay the bills. However, I bet that all of those people would love to have the opportunity to pay the bills by doing work that they are passionate about. Work should feel like play when you are pursuing your passion. Many people who pursue their passion in life excel due to that hunger and drive that comes from doing what you love.
Years ago when I selected a career in Social Work, I was discouraged to do so by some professors & family members because I was told that I would not “make money in that field”. Well, they were right, but I continued to pursue my passion any way. Years later, when I felt that my skills and value were worth more than the salary available to me from employers, I branched out to start my own business that grew rapidly.
When we are preparing our children for the future it is important to investigate their unique gifts, talents & passion. We will then be able to help them identify & prepare for career or business opportunities that they will naturally excel at. Of course prosperity requires hard work & dedication, but as I stated before, when you are doing what you love, hard work comes with a sense of satisfaction & fulfillment.
I’ve worked in schools as a Social Worker & School Counselor for many years, so I can testify to the fact that many educators are doing the best that they can to educate our children. However, with the current structures in place, there are many limitations. As adults we need to begin thinking outside of the box to adequately prepare our children for a world that mandates creativity & innovation to excel in life!
Tamara Shirer is the founder & CEO of Born For Greatness Youth Empowerment Resources. Prior to that, she spent 11 years working as a Child/Adolescent Social Worker and School Counselor. For more information about Born For Greatness Youth Empowerment Resources, visit: www.BFG-youth.com