We talk a lot about career and life readiness here at NC3T. Given the desperate need from industry for capable workers, a lot of time we, and our local/state/national partners hone in immediately on the career part of that phrase. Personally, however, I’m actually a lot more concerned about the “life” part.
Admittedly, data is very hard to come by. I have yet to see wide-ranging, scientifically rigorous research on the skills that students used to be taught in the home but are no longer taught. It is my distinct sense based on macro data, anecdotal reports, and personal observation that the things my parents taught me, and that their parents taught them, are too often not being passed along in the home.
As one example, a survey of Baby Boomers and Millennials found that clothing repair and maintenance skills, ranging from sewing on buttons to doing laundry, are being lost through the generations. Further, Millennials spend less time cooking and eat out more frequently, than their older counterparts. And not only are students less likely to learn these skills at home, they’re also less likely to learn them in school, considering that enrollment in Family/Consumer Science classes declined 38% between 2002-2012.
I don’t say any of this to assign blame; there are lots of reasons these trends are happening, and I hardly know enough to explain them with any level of confidence. But the reality is that young people are less able to care for themselves than were their parents, and that’s a great concern.
It matters to employers: People who cannot maintain their cars are more likely to have those cars break down, and people who spend a great deal on clothes and meals, as opposed to repairing clothes and cooking for themselves, are less likely to be financially stable. (And we’ll set aside the issue of teaching young people about money management, which is another critical skill also in decline.)
But it’s more than just an employer issue. These young people are going to be our neighbors, and we rely on them to be members of our communities who care for themselves and maintain their homes. And many of them are going to become parents at some point, making self-care and self-reliance, not to mention solid child-rearing skills, of critical importance.
I don’t have a pat answer to this challenge: I certainly don’t think this is just one more area that we ask schools to be responsible for. But it does worry me – and I’m very interested in continuing to learn on this topic and hopefully find solutions along the way.
Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.