Young and downtrodden

By Andrew Justus | 11/16/11 11:02pm

Somehow I happen to live with four roommates who are reasonably intelligent and appear on track to be productive members of society. Even though one of them decided to get hit by a car last year, they are all upstanding young men and seem like they will do well despite our troubled economy.

Unfortunately, many men are not so fortunate. In the Great Recession and subsequent slow-motion jobs recovery, young men such as myself and many others are disproportionately hard hit.

A Wall Street Journal article said young men today between 20 and 24 endure an unemployment rate of just over 22 percent, almost as high as the country as a whole during the Great Depression. Even for those with jobs, things are not so peachy. Since 1969, inflation adjusted earnings for a young high school-educated male have fallen 28 percent.

As a whole, young men find themselves ill-equipped to find work in our battered economy. Fewer of us graduate college compared to our female contemporaries and in the workplace, women our age without children out-earn us by eight percent, according to a study by Queen’s College in New York.

What do we do with the young and downtrodden men in our society who are without work and ill equipped to work? We can’t just write them off and say fend for yourselves lads, as a mass of poor and idle men floating around society has historically led to increased crime and crippled family lives. To lift these young men up to where they can positively contribute to society we need to make sure a that those not pursuing a college education have ample access to vocational training as part of the public school system.

Vocational training for things like automotive repair, plumbing, electrical work and other skilled trades will allow young men who elect to pursue that path in high school to be ready for more than simply flipping burgers and digging ditches. Skilled labor, that which requires some specialized training to perform, is important because it pays better than unskilled work like the aforementioned ditch digging and is usually more secure, since not just anybody is allowed to lay pipe or wire up a building.

Germany is a country where this school of thought is employed on a large scale and they reap the benefits of an abundance of men capable of skilled work. Some even say that Germany’s strong manufacturing sector is largely made possible by the high numbers of well trained men capable of skilled labor, an advantage that more than offsets their high cost of living.

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