Pew Report on Millennials: A Generation of Learners?

Trainer-teacher-learners who took the time to read the Pew Research Center’s fabulous new report (Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next) when it was released a few days ago found plenty of cause for joy.

The opening lines of the executive summary suggest that members of this group—born after 1980 and currently 18 to 29 years old—“are on track to become the most educated generation in American history,” and the wonderfully nuanced report helps the rest of us understand why this may come to pass.

This trend, according to those who produced Millennials, can easily be explained as one “driven largely by the demands of  a modern knowledge-based economy, but most likely accelerated in recent years by the millions of 20-somethings enrolling in graduate schools, colleges or community colleges in part because they can’t find a job” (pp. 2-3 of the full report).

The report is balanced enough to note that the situation for Millennials may still change: “Millennials have not yet matched the educational attainment of Gen Xers. So far, 19% are college graduated compared with 35% of Gen Xers. About four-in-ten Millennials are still in school,” and “30% of those not in school say they plan to go back to earn a college degree” (p. 40)—a situation which could evolve as Millennials face the same challenges many of their predecessors faced when trying to implement their best laid plans.

Obstacles they currently face include “too little money and too little time,” yet only “14% say they are not attending school because they don’t need more education” (p. 43). Their challenges have also been well documented in an article recently published in The Atlantic (“How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America”).

So what we’re seeing is a trainer-teacher-learner’s dream: a new group of employees and prospective employees attempting to enter the workforce with a firm recognition of and commitment to the importance of education; a highly educated and motivated group that remains optimistic in spite of some of the worst challenges to face young workers in decades; and a group that is going to keep the rest of us on our toes if we want to be able to serve them effectively to take advantage of all they appear to be willing to offer us and the organizations we support. It looks as if we, too, have challenges to which we must rise.

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