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Young and Jobless -- But the Future Still Beckons

NAM Youth Media Group, Commentary, Various Authors Posted: Oct 23, 2009

Editors Note: According to the U.S. Labor Department, the number of unemployed youth ages 16 to 24 years is at its highest since World War II at 53.4 percent. Despite the shrinking pool of job opportunities, young adults are enterprising and pragmatic about what they need, and hopeful about their futures.

Revolutionize the System

Beneficial jobs today are hard to come by for young people. I believe we need to establish a new job market that can adequately support employees and employer. As young people, one of the biggest issues we have to deal with is health care reform. We need jobs that can provide for us, whether that support is health insurance or life insurance. Because of my mom, I have the best health care insurance. I will be covered until I am 25 years old. The reason my mom can provide me with excellent health insurance is because she served over 20 years in the Navy. The way Im going to receive health care benefits for my family when Im older is through joining the Air Force Reserves as an enlisted health care officer. Being enlisted allows you can go right into the field without previous training. Once I graduate from a university, I will switch to an officer position in the Air Force Reserves. To become an officer in the reserves, you need at least a bachelors degree. I hope that I can stay long enough so that when I retire, I can support my kids, just like how my mom supports me now.

- Alexi Drier, 19

Higher Education Is Key

The chance of getting a job these days is really tough for those who dont have a college degree. Employers, for the most part, arent taking chances with people during this recession. Ill take a job wherever I can find one. Its hard to be picky when people are losing their jobs every day.

I'm currently attending California State University, East Bay in Hayward. The ailing economy has affected campus life. Book prices and tuition have increased. Some teachers have been forced to take days off without pay, and that leads to a heavy workload and classes over capacity.

My mom is currently unemployed. The government pays for everything and has been for as long as I can remember. My mom makes somewhere between $9,000 and $11,000 a year. My mother and I have gone through struggles together. She is the reason Im attempting to obtain a college degree. We didnt have everything we needed, but she always has food on the table and clothes to put on my back.

- Roland Ballard, 18

Being a Young Worker Is Hard, But Striving for My Daughter is a Must

As a 19-year-old female living in San Jose, it is very difficult to find a job. Due to the bad economy, young people are especially disadvantaged in the workplace. We have to compete with others who have more experience and are more qualified job candidates. For my friends and I, the most likely places to find work are minimum wage jobs, like fast food restaurants. And those arent great prospects.

Im currently not working. Ive been without work for almost a year. I decided to go back to school to study accounting since jobs in this industry are in demand. If I cant get a job right now (and Ive tried), I might as well strengthen my qualifications. Everyone has told me, Theres nothing wrong with gaining more knowledge, but now I finally understand that. I have a daughter to provide for and I dont have a high school diploma or a career. If I cant get a job now, the chances of me getting one in the future are slim, unless I get an education. In most colleges, the counselors help students find jobs with flexible schedules. I recently got my GED, and now Im working on a better future, not just for myself but for my daughter as well.

- Martha Batras, 19

Derailed by the Courts, But Rolling Again

It took me a little while to start to want to work, but once I saw the money I was making, things were shining in a whole new direction. I began to work as much as I could, just doing what I had to do until things took a slight turn downhill for me. I started getting hammered with court dates and all kinds of fines to pay because of a dumb decision made one night out with some friends. Luckily, with the help of my parents, Ive gotten by with just a few minor punishments. School became a big priority, and it was time I aimed for a diploma.

When I finished school, I noticed how hard it was to get a job. On top of that, many people I knew were getting laid off. I had a gap in me that needed to be filled, so I turned back to an old love: skateboarding. While everyone was holding onto jobs with firm grips, I hopped back on to the wooden plank to kill some stress. I started thinking this might be the way to go to make this art form I love into a vocation. I had no doubt in my mind that I could take this passion and turn it into a career with just a little time.

I have thought about college, and am still looking into it, even if I can make a career out of skating. In the meantime, while Im giving skating a shot, I can definitely see myself heading for a job at the mall. Well see if theyre hiring.

- Jim Osiakowski, 19

Not Trying to Make it Big, Just Trying to Stay Out of Debt

People from other places sometimes say all the big jobs are in the Silicon Valley, but I feel that statement is so untrue. I know better because I live here. Then again, I am not even trying to make it big. I am just trying to stay out of debt so that my credit and future are not ruined.

What makes finding a job hard, in addition to this ailing economy, is that most of the positions Ive looked into are taken. These positions that require years of experience and a college education, both of which I dont have. Even jobs I used to land, like customer service jobs, seem to require experience. Sometimes I work on the side, doing temporary clerical work for a family member.

If I could, I would create my own company. At this point, I am trying to make it as an artist and writer. I am surviving on Supplementary Security Income (SSI) because of health reasons. I dropped out of school for some time, but Im trying to go back and get that degree. That depends on if I qualify for financial aid after seven years of being in and out of school.

I feel horrible making less money than my parents at their age. My mom had a job as an assembler and now owns a house and a van, eventhough she does not work anymore. In addition to caring for me, she had my brother, Steve, and my sister, Karen, to provide for. I feel confident that I can do the same, but in life, you do not always know what is going to happen.

- Thuy Ngo, 22

Youth Need the Triple Threat Combo to Get Beyond the Entry Level Education, Experience, and Certification

Job openings are very limited in the Silicon Valley right now. Not all job openings are gone for good, but you have to find them, and these jobs may not be advertised in newspapers. For example, I just got a temporary job at a small grocery store by asking the owner if I could sweep the floors a few hours a week. He hadnt put out a help wanted sign, but I made it happen.

When people say that the job market is competitive for young people, there are some specific obstacles. Most jobs require education and experience both of which are hard to come by. If a young person does get past the education requirement, experience is the second half of the one-two punch. Employers have raised the bar with expected work experience, so working in a position for six months to a year no longer cuts it.

At 22, I am a healthy, strong, able-bodied person who is dependable and a fast learner. My job experience varies from dishwasher to prep cook to customer service to even a homeless shelter worker. My ideal job would be to provide resources such as housing, employment, financial assistance, and education for young people in need. When Im not working, I use services like local drop-in centers, churches and soup kitchens. If I really needed to, the last resort would be panhandling.

To get out of this cycle, going back to school is no longer optional. It is a must. There is no doubt about it. These days, to get a job, you need a triple threat combo: education, experience, and a field specific certification.

-Alex Gutierrez, 22

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Raised By My Mama

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