The growing trend that a degree is not seen as the be-all and end-all as their grand parents did has been on the ball for some years, not least billionaire miner and Federal Member of Parliament Clive Palmer, as I detailed recently, in a recent speech at the University of Queensland.
The question is, how much is a degree worth? For some things like teaching, science, mathematics, research, a degree is an obvious. But in a whole range of other areas, a degree is being questioned as the best path way to business success.
For Christians who are bent on serving the Lord in mission, they undertake the equivalent of a degree in bible college studies, much of it associated with languages and cultural studies, as one would imagine as relevance to them. Most ministers generally have a secular degree and then study for a divinity (theology) degree as there is an emphasis today of not entering the cloisters of the church until having at least five years work force experience.
Young adults who are Christians have in their DNA from the teaching of the Scriptures, there's the added dimension of wondering what God thinks of their choices and if their decisions are part of God's will for them.
Today, these young adults are pioneering the reinvention of many concepts, including the concept of career. They are paving a new way of approaching work, holding out for a work-life mix that integrates how they play and work.
An older view
Parents, who were drummed by their parents, and them by their baby boomer parents and them by their pre WWII war parents have had a high view of the degree-to-job disparity. A good job and a degree are not mutually exclusive. Far from it.
Recent research as revealed in the January Barna report state that only about one-third of Millennials believe universities "have my best interests at heart," that's nearly twice as many as Gen-Xers (15%) and four times as many as Boomers (8%). The Millennials is this current group of young people in their teens and up to those coming out of their school years. Some call them the IT generation.
Considering most Millennials remain optimistic about someday achieving that "dream job"—52% believe it's within reach in the next five years—they seem to believe a degree might pay off at some point.
All is in the light of some many of these high schoolers into IT and developing Apps for this and that and the other have become millionaires – there are stories every week on this young person or another, all making good. A degree is hardly an important part of their pathway, it just might get in the way.
Another part of the problem with the degree path is job hunting. There are fewer jobs available today for those in their early to mid twenties who after 3-4 years of study earning a degree and getting a half decent job.
The current economic climate is not that a happy hunting ground for these twenty-somethings. In the US, the unemployment rate of 18- to 31-year-olds in 2012 was 13%. Even those young adults who are college educated are struggling to find employment; the rate of unemployment of twenty-somethings who hold a BA degree or higher jumped from 7.7% in 2007 to 13.3% in just five years.
I've noticed this same trend with our young writers coming out of university in both Australia and New Zealand. Given these kinds of statistics similar in both Australia and New Zealand, it would be easy in this depressed job market for Millennials to become extremely nervous about their financial situations and cynical about work.
What is not surprising due to the nature of hopeful youth, Millennials remain optimistic about their future prospects. In addition to the majority who believe they'll get their dream job, nine in 10 Millennials (88%) believe they currently have enough money or will eventually meet their long-term financial goals.
Even among the unemployed and financially strapped, 75% believe they will someday have enough money. They are more optimistic about their economic future than older generations. While 55% of Americans over fifty-five believe young people will have a worse life than their parents, fewer than half of Millennials agree.
More than work
In America, only 31% would say career is central to their identity, listing it lower than any other factors except technology. The same % is similar here, and this coincides with the idea that one might not even need a degree to succeed as illustrated by those in IT doing so well as teenagers.
Millennials are viewing their twenties as a time to explore their career options so they can find a job that will provide that sense of meaning and fulfillment. This may be a little confounding to their parents. Two-thirds of Boomers say "starting your career" is crucial in your twenties, while only half of Millennials agree.
Millennials are expressing views that suggest they don't want a job merely for the sake of a salary. Moreover they are willing to wait to find the right job. Some may interpret this willingness to wait as a sign of courage, while others may view it as colossal irresponsibility. The Barna report states that having grown up in an era where parents and teachers were constantly telling them they could "be whatever you want to be," many Millennials see this decision as their prerogative, even if it means having to live off unemployment benefits or parental assistance.
One of the things our young writers have expressed and the Barna report has also identified, is that the Millennials want regular feedback and expect to be praised when they do a good job. They also want to work in a stimulating atmosphere, where they can release their creative passions. For many who are older, these characteristics and expectations make the Millennials a challenge to work with.
The feed-back issue is certainly a high priority for our young writers. This primarily focuses on "comments from others" as statistics need to be analysed carefully and this demands time and reflection.
Statistics show Millennials just assume they will have multiple career changes. Gone are the days when an entry-level employee could expect to remain with one employer throughout his or her career. While the average worker today remains at his or her job for 4.4 years, Millennials generally expect to remain at a job for less than three years.
Overall, cultivating an entrepreneurial culture among young adults around the world appears to be the current focus by the Millennials. This is also reflected in the entrance levels to evangelical bible colleges where career and money is not a primary concern, but other things have taken precedence.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html