Young people have long felt the pressure to go to school, get a degree and, ultimately, get a job their parents will be proud of. However studies are starting to reveal an ugly truth; the degree might not be worth it.

Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit organization located in Washington D.C., released a study at the end of January which found the unemployment rate to be at 15.8 percent for the age group between 18 and 29 across the nation.

In Idaho the numbers are similar; across the state the unemployment rate for individuals ages 16 through 19 is 24.2 percent and 12.9 percent for the ages 20 to 24 according to American FactFinder.

“The 18 to 21 age group is most affected,” said Alivia Metts, regional economist for the Boise region for the Department of Labor. “A lot of that is attributed to older workers taking the younger workers’ jobs; a lot of that is in retail.”

According to a study Metts conducted in 2012 the young workers beat out by the older generation is costing the youth their ‘first jobs’ making it difficult for 16 to 19 year olds to develop the soft skills needed down the road.

In the same study, Metts found that adolescents in that age bracket spent on average 26 weeks looking for work.

Even though the numbers look bleak Vickie Coale, associate director for Employment Relations, is optimistic.

In the last few years Coale hasn’t seen an increase in the number of students looking for work.

“We have students who come in for career counseling, or come in looking for work, but we don’t really see a number of students coming in saying they can’t find a job,” Coale said. “Our push is to let (students) know that a degree is not enough.”

In addition to a degree Coale encourages students to start networking early and pursue internship opportunities.

“Our big slogan right now is ‘make college count,’ Coale added.“That’s all part of getting students started early on.”

Students are starting to focus on their future, a future that leaves some students optimistic, and others worried.

Between 13 credits and a demanding part-time job freshman Leslie Boston-Hyde feels the pressure but is confident that her nursing major will give her security for the future.

“For me, I feel really secure because I know there will always be the demand for nurses, but I know that some fields are a little more shady. That’s always a gamble when you get into more specific fields,” she said.

Other students on campus feel graduation day fast approaching, many are concentrating on internships and finalizing their portfolios to make themselves more marketable to employers.

“My portfolio is pretty strong,” said Kyle Vandever a senior communication major and public relations certificate student. “I’m pretty sure I’ll have a job in a year! It may not be a dream job, but I’ll have one.”

For those recent graduates looking for work, the optimism is starting to fade.

“I don’t know if a BSU degree is enough,” Lela Work, Boise State alumna, said.

Work graduated in December 2013 with a bachelor of arts in environmental studies, and two minors in biology and sustainability, but she currently works as a driver at NAPA auto parts.

“I haven’t looked a ton for a job,” Work said. “I did an internship a while ago for fish and game for school and that has helped.”

Work will be returning to Idaho Fish and Game for the spring and summer seasons.

“It’s a seasonal job,” Work said. “I’m planning on getting laid off basically and then I’m planning on trying to go to AmeriCorps, but after 10 months or so I really need to go to grad school.”

Work said that a permanent job might not be around without a superior degree.

“If I could do it all over again I would definitely do more internships,” Work said.

Eryn Shay Johnson
Eryn Shay Johnson is the Assistant News Editor at the Arbiter. She currently studies communication at Boise State University. Johnson has a history in producing media content; she has produced content for The Post Register of Idaho Falls and The Times-News in Twin Falls. Her article “Good for the Soul: Group uses laughter as path to better health” was picked up by the Associated Press in July 2011. When she isn’t writing or studying Johnson spends time with her boyfriend, dog, and cat in their south Boise home.