David Trinko: Pondering the young and the jobless

Feb. 3—In no way do I wish to say all young people are lazy or unmotivated. I've met plenty of industrious people from every generation.

But I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard this stat: As many as one in six people ages 18 to 24 are neither in school nor working, according to a Lightcast survey.

John Trott, the executive director of the Greater Ohio Workforce Board, shared this recently at the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast. He shared a lot of interesting numbers that make you think about the future of the workforce, which you can see online at bit.ly/3SqbbCd.

Fortunately, they're also gathering numbers on how to fix this, with the Center for Marketing and Opinion Research's 2023 Emerging Workforce Survey. The answers surprised me a bit.

Perhaps they surprised me because they didn't surprise me at all. While I'm a few generations past this incoming workforce, many of their answers are similar to ones I'd provide.

People working part-time would prefer to be working full-time, with 61% of them saying so. More than two-thirds of them say they have more than one job. The bulk, 71%, say the freelance work is just a side job, though. It seems like the gig economy might not be as much of a choice as a necessity for some of them.

There's also some interesting feedback on the remote work phenomenon. The perception is everyone wants to work from home, right? The reality is more traditional. Only 32% want to work from home. Another 51% would prefer to never work from home, with 17% wanting some work-from-home opportunities.

For what it's worth, I agree with them on this. I greatly prefer working from inside the office. I find it easier to plug and unplug my brain into my work mode when I'm in that different environment. The small-talk and discussions about what we're doing help me keep a balanced world view. It's also just too dangerous for me to be too close to the snacks in the kitchen at home.

The young workers' goals for working aren't much different from mine, either. Primarily, they want to make enough money to support a family, with 83% giving it a high rating of importance. It was also the top one for the most important goal in people's lives.

Next on the goal ranking was having a good family life (75%), having a job you enjoy (70%) and being successful at work (71%). Finding purpose and meaning in life came in at 67%.

Making a lot of money ranked all the way down at sixth.

We need to stop acting like this new generation wants something so unusual. They want the same things every generation wants, including stability, a reliable paycheck and a little bit of respect.

Of course I'm concerned that one in six young adults doesn't work right now. They are literally historically high rates, and they barely make sense with 1,791 jobs within 10 miles of Lima listed Friday afternoon on OhioMeansJobs's listings.

Anecdotally, I've heard young workers expecting to earn the same amount as their parents and live in homes similar to the ones in their childhood. That's a bit unrealistic, since both of those were the reward for about a decade's worth of work. We can't just keep raising the rates of pay, either, since that eventually increases the cost of everything and drives inflation.

The best we can really do is teach a good work ethic to those who need to hear about it. It's not something you talk about; you have to show them through your actions.

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See past columns by David Trinko at LimaOhio.com/tag/trinko.

David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at dtrinko@limanews.com or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.