The unemployment rate for teenagers this March was more than 24 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a study by MacArthur Foundation codirector Cathy Davidson suggests that 65 percent of today’s grade school students will grow up to work in jobs that have not yet been invented.
How do we as a country prepare the next generation to join the workforce if there are not only too few jobs, but jobs that don’t yet exist?
If we can’t prepare kids for certainty, then we must prepare them for uncertainty. Students need to learn beyond the core subjects of language arts, math, and history. They also need to master skills, like creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and digital literacy—skills they need in order to be successful in the 21st century.
A couple years ago I started a company called Piggybackr, a website that teaches young people (K-20) how to fundraise for their teams, schools, and communities online—so they can raise more money while also learning 21st century skills.
A mother of a 9-year-old girl recently asked me, “How do we teach our kids to grow up to be innovative?”
The good news is kids increasingly want to grow up to become entrepreneurs and “bosses.” According to a 2011 Gallup Study, 77 percent of students grade 5-12 want to be their own boss, while 45 percent plan to start their own business. The challenge is that schools are not providing classes that equip students to create and innovate their own careers. Topics like personal finance, engineering, and entrepreneurship are missing.
While schools are slow to change, several organizations exist that train and equip young people for the future. Piggybackr is partnered with three organizations that empower young people to become social and business innovators.
One is Ashoka Youth Venture, a nonprofit whose mission is to make everyone a changemaker. The organization supports youth starting their own “ventures,” whether it be a student club or business, and gives them access to workshops, mentors, and tools to help change their communities. They operate in 17 countries and have supported youth-led organizations like GreenShields, a nonprofit that makes school buses more aerodynamic to save gas, and the Food Recovery Network, a student organization that recovers surplus food from college campuses and donates it to people in need.
Another is the BizWorld Foundation, founded in 1997 by venture capitalist Tim Draper to inspire children to be leaders. Bizworld provide programs and curriculum in business, entrepreneurship, and finance for teachers of K-8 students. Students learn how to start their own businesses, manage money, and invest. Eleven-year-old Leona and her sister Briana, both BizWorld alumni, went on to start Team Awesome with their friends Erik and Elise, an organization that explores the art and science of growing plants and food in the air without soil, using foggers.
There’s also Mobilize.org, a social movement that empowers and invests in millennials (those born between 1976 and 1996) to create and implement solutions to social problems. Mobilize.org has trained over 2,200 millennials (22,000 online) by convening, investing, and then mobilizing them in areas like Detroit and South Florida. One project was an annual walk in North Carolina to promote the importance of finishing college, and several others aimed to empower students at community colleges across the nation.
How do we prepare this next generation for the uncertain future? We can start by giving young people lessons in 21st century skills, the opportunity to learn and explore, and the ability to access the resources and capital they need. If we can’t prepare kids for certainty, then we must prepare them for uncertainty.
Global map image via Shutterstock\n