Something amazing is happening with Gen Z: 61% of Gen Z who are still in high school and 43% of Gen Z who are in college say they would rather be entrepreneurs than employees when they graduate. This is a major shift from recent generations like the Baby Boomers, who were all about landing the perfect job right out of college and then riding it out to retirement.

There are a number of factors contributing to this shift, but one thing is clear: Gen Z is going to disrupt the college-to-career cycle for good.

The prospects in traditional jobs aren't looking very good to Gen Z. Unemployment is higher now than it was in 2000, and wages are lower than they were in 2000. These days, more than a third of the workforce are freelancers, a lifestyle that was once reserved for photographers and writers.

What's more, 79% of freelancers are doing it not because they have no other options, but because they say it is better than working a traditional job.

Educational attainment often looks different for entrepreneurial Gen Z

When you work for yourself, you set your own educational requirements and attainment goals. Maybe a four-year degree doesn't fit into your lifestyle, but learning incrementally on your own does. E-learning has come into play with many entrepreneurs, and there are even e-learning and program-based opportunities that target young entrepreneurs.

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship partners with organizations to teach young people entrepreneurial skills. According to NFTE, "To activate the entrepreneurial mindset in young people, NFTE's Pathway begins with igniting the imagination and takes students through the journey of creating and refining an original business concept.Students are guided by NFTE's expert entrepreneurial Teacher Corps, and supported by entrepreneurs and successful business people."

Students engage in projects and competitions to hone their entrepreneurial skills. As a result, more than half of program participants earn 50% more than their peers, and 25% have started at least one business.

College choices should be made with career options in mind

There have been plenty of high-profile college dropouts who ended up making it big, but not even Bill Gates recommends going that route.

According to a Harvard Pathways to Prosperity study, the United States has the highest dropout rate of any industrialized nation, even though "A disparity looms large in the United States between the career training most young people receive and the availability of well-paying employment. Just over half of 25-year-olds have any sort of postsecondary degree, but the vast majority of jobs -- including almost all of those that can sustain a family -- require a credential beyond a high school diploma."

The study cites the following problems with the current educational cycle:

  • Students go to college without a clear career path in mind.
  • Students choose majors without thinking of how it will fit into a career path.
  • Students graduate with an average of $25k in student loan debt and no employable skills.
  • Nearly 40% of students drop out before reaching graduation.

Vocational schools and other training programs can help to bridge this gap, as can intervening in college decisions to offer suggestions about the direction the economy may be headed.

In other words, just because the job you want looked good ten years ago doesn't mean it will still be around by the time you graduate.

Other countries have successful career pathways programs

The Harvard study continues, "In many European countries, companies aren't sitting back and then wringing their hands when kids want jobs but don't have the necessary skills. Instead, employers get in at the front end.

They define the standards, they help shape the programs, and most important, they provide paid internships or apprenticeships. U.S. employers don't invest much in training for anybody except their managers and executives."

Giving students a clear direction and solid advice on which to base their college and career decisions benefits the entire economy.

Until then, we are likely to continue to see high unemployment rates, high dropout rates, and students with college debt they can't afford to pay.

Entrepreneurship is the best possible path for many Gen Zers

Small businesses have continued to grow steadily in the United States over the last several decades, and by some estimates small businesses make up 99% of the economy.

Getting a college degree is still important even if you are planning to own your own business, but you have to make sure that your degree serves you and not just the student loan people.

Learn more about educational options and why Gen Z is skipping school from this infographic from Online Schools Center.

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