Skills that Work: A Toolkit for Millennials

January 24, 2012

It’s been said a hundred times over: young Americans’ futures are not in good shape right now.  The American Dream promised to so many of us has been turned upside down and spun around.  So, what do we do about it? 

Here’s a thought—open up the Skills That Work Toolkit from the youth-led organization Young Invincibles, and start making some good, informed plans.

The right data—and the smart use of it—is key to our individual futures and to the future of our country.

Released in conjunction with the launch of the Campaign for Young America, this toolkit is a snapshot of the status of young people, higher education and career paths in the United States, which draws its data from of half a dozen polls, studies and surveys.

The toolkit and the campaign are data-driven attempts to help "pave the way forward" for young workers and future workers of the Millennial generation (those born after 1982). They both offer useful information to help make decisions about career and schooling, including information on jobs in your geographic area and fields of interest, as well as the local cost of living.

Rory O'Sullivan, Young Invincibles Policy Director who oversaw much of the research and development for the project, says that the toolkit and campaign were born out of a similar project.  When doing research for the State of Young America report released in November, they learned in focus groups that many young people struggled to figure out the purpose of continuing school after high school.  Sparked by these challenges, Young Invincibles wanted to provide some guidance for young Americans questioning their future.

After some perusing of the toolkit, I see that's exactly what the it does. It's a resource we've long needed to help my generation, the Millennials, be as informed—and as creative—as possible in this new economic climate of high-tech interactivity, high education costs and high unemployment.

Here’s a look at what it entails. For each state, it lists, by percentage:

  • Brand new data showing who is unemployed, by percentage, of 25-34 year olds with high school degrees, associate degrees, and bachelor degrees
  • How many jobs in that state projected to require more than a high school diploma in 2018
  • Most popular majors, and the majors that had the best employment prospects in that state
  • Top growing jobs and occupations that require training or education after high school—including the projected number of job openings and the median salary for each position, and
  • Job resources and a glossary of occupations. 

It's a great wealth of information to have, and it's tailored just for us, which is a huge plus. Data, and the smart use of it, is key to our individual futures and the future of our country. However, says O'Sullivan, it's often difficult to come by. 

While some of the data is brand new--this toolkit is the first release of the state unemployment data for young people--much of the toolkit's numbers came from Census data and other polls that were already released, he explained, but almost impossible to find.  "We took all the data that is buried there on websites that’s not very accessible for young people and put it in in an easy to read sheet that with all the important facts up front."

So, what can we as young people do with this information?  O'Sullivan hopes it will help young people tailor their plans.  "It's not about telling young people, 'you should study this or that major.'  It's more about giving them the facts to they can make the best decision personally for them."

First of all, the data reiterates the increasing demand for higher education degrees in hiring.  If you’re on the fence about your higher education path, this guide may prove to be the tipping point.

If you've graduated and are looking ahead to the start of your career, the data in this toolkit could also be a consideration when you’re deciding where you're headed next.  One of the biggest questions recent grads face is, “where do I want to live?” For many, moving to a new town or city is one of the rites of passages of adulthood. Since this toolkit is organized by state, you can scope out the prospects of states (and the towns within them) to get a sense of what you would face.

For those of us who have a dream job we have pursued, or have always had their sights set on a certain city, the chart of growing jobs and occupations and their median salary in each state will definitely be helpful in determining the possibilities there.

To be warned, as numbers remain grim, it may prove to be more humbling than we would like (we are a generation of dreamers, after all!).  However, possibility remains--you might just have to go about it in a different way than you planned. In fact, that is what I think this toolkit is all about.

One caveat: this toolkit, wonderful as it is, isn't designed to stand in for real "human" research. It's always a good idea to do informational interviews, talk to fellow young people in your field, city, etc., to understand how the data in this toolkit manifests itself in real life.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the Campaign for Young America.  They will continue to gather, analyze, and share vital information that today’s Millennials can use to set on a path to success—whatever success means to you.

Get the full Toolkit.>>

Also check out the Get Covered toolkit, made by and for young people with all the answers about getting health care coverage.

Alison Beth Waldman, herself a Millennial, is editorial assistant with SparkAction. You can reach her at alison[@]


What's your career plan or concern? Weigh in below!

Alison Beth Waldman