Generation (wh)y?

Campus Confidential Book

An ‘entitled’ generation of grads fail to launch in the working world

Andrea Keelan

Some would argue that young adults have a sense of entitlement, and that’s exactly the suggestion by two Canadian authors in their book “Campus Confidential: 100 Startling Things You Don’t Know About Canadian Universities.”

Generation Y, people born between 1980 and 2000, were told growing up that they could be anything they wanted, they just had to believe in themselves, stand up for what they know is right and never give up.

Has this translated into entitlement in the classroom and the world? Or did Gen Y-ers believe what their parents and teachers said and now are finding it impossible to succeed no matter how hard they try?

According to Campus Confidential, Generation Y’s sense of entitlement isn’t totally negative. This group is assertive, confident and not easily intimidated by adults and professors. But, the book also claims this generation expects material well-being and an easy passage through university and work.

I think that there are too many students in university, many of whom would be better waiting a few years before starting, going directly to a college/career program, or signing up for an apprenticeship. – Ken S. Coates, co author of Campus Confidential: 100 startling things you don’t know about Canadian

The fact that many students now attend university because they feel it’s necessary for obtaining a great job and earning a good wage is a troubling idea for Ken Coates, one of the authors of the book and a professor at the University of Waterloo.

“Attending university is not the same as absorbing what universities have to offer. It is not about time served. It is about learning, and loving to learn. That is the real value of a university– and in any discipline,” said Coates.

Although universities were created with education, not jobs, in mind, the harsh reality of the current economic and social climate is that a university degree is becoming a necessity for a good career.

With a university degree not carrying the same weight as it did in previous generations, students and recent graduates are finding that for all the work they put in at university, their job opportunities after graduation are insufficient.

In early 2011, local labour board Workforce WindsorEssex reported that Windsor’s unemployment rate was holding at 10.8 percent, the highest unemployment rate in Canada. which translates to approximately 19,000 unemployed citizens last year.

Campus Confidential Book

Uncertainty over job availability has led to a mindset within Generation Y that entrepreneurship is more stable than full-time employment. In other words, this generation would rather start their own businesses than work for a company that could possibly lay them off, or only offer a one-year contract.

“Youth in many ways are competing with their own parents and grandparents for work,” explained Donna Marentette, executive director of Workforce WindsorEssex.

Many of the Baby Boomers are choosing to work longer and forego retirement, which means not giving up their jobs to make room in the workforce for young people. While many of the Boomers found jobs soon after they finished secondary or post-secondary school, Gen Y-ers are not as fortunate.

Maureen Regier is a Windsor resident who graduated from Carleton University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a minor in English language and literature.

“I’ve been out of school for three and a half years, and I am just now getting full-time work in my field. Maybe I have been a little picky; I really wanted a job in Windsor. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t applied for jobs else where in Ontario,” said Regier.
“Even now I’m not really considered full-time even though I am getting full-time hours. I work nights, weekends and travel about an hour to and from work twice a week to make up my 38-hour work week.”

“And I didn’t just fall into this job. I started as a freelancer, [and] while freelancing I applied for too many jobs to count and barely got any call backs.”

Regier’s story is all too common nowadays. When peers acquire a position in their field or full-time hours at some place other than Tim Horton’s, it almost seems like it’s luck at this point.

The feelings that Generation Y might have about trying their best and doing whatever they can to succeed is not inline with what Coates has found. “The research shows that the expectations [of Generation Y] show up in terms of material goods, general financial situation and ease of progressing through careers.”

While a university degree may seem like a huge stepping stone for this generation in terms of entering a career in their field and earning a decent wage, Coates argues that universities may not be the right choice for everyone. “Young people face many challenges. A large number of them are up to the task and will do well.

“But as we argue in the book, I think that there are too many students in university, many of whom would be better waiting a few years before starting, going directly to a college/career program, or signing up for an apprenticeship.”

“Universities are great places for students who love to learn, are curious about the world, are devoted to their studies and who have strong basic skills (reading, writing, math, etc). Universities do not work very well for students without most of these attributes.

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