Although they can’t cast their ballots in this year’s presidential election, teens ages 14-17 are paying attention to what the candidates are saying – and aren’t saying. A new national survey finds the presidential election is top-of-mind for today’s youth, and domestic issues top their list of concerns.
According to a new national survey conducted by Junior Achievement USA and Knowledge Networks, more than half of the teens surveyed (57 percent) think the candidates are more concerned with political gamesmanship than with listening to the needs of the people.
When teens were asked to rank the top three issues that were most important to them, they overwhelmingly said jobs (73 percent), the economy (72 percent) and education (64 percent). And two-out-of-three teens (66 percent) said they are worried about finding a job after they complete their education.
As we’ve seen in the presidential debates, there is strong interest in the candidates’ stances on how they plan to create an economic environment conducive to helping students pay for college and get good jobs. As the economy continues to recover, low-skill jobs are being eliminated and replaced by those that require more technical skill or post-secondary education. Individuals who lost their jobs may find it difficult to re-enter the workforce because they may no longer possess the knowledge and skills employers require.
JA programs address the “skills gap” that exists in today’s workforce, defined by The American Society of Training and Development as “a significant gap between an organization’s current capabilities and the skills it needs to achieve its goals.” Through participation in JA programs, students acquire the 21st-century skills that employers have identified as critical to employee success, such as teamwork, decision-making, problem-solving and critical thinking.
Remarkably, our survey also revealed that only 14 percent of teens said they would not vote (if they were old enough to vote) in the upcoming election. That number is far lower than the number of U.S. citizens who didn’t vote in the 2008 presidential election. A staggering 36 percent of the U.S. voting-age population did not vote in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
At Junior Achievement, we see each and every day that young people across our community want to be successful in their careers, and they often need the skills and positive role models to do so. In the 2011-2012 school year, we reached more than 10,550 students across Rhode Island. Junior Achievement’s network of volunteers provided those students with the skills and confidence to be hired for, and succeed in, the nearly 4 million jobs nationwide (according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics) that currently stand vacant, waiting for qualified applicants.
Teens are our future – in just a few years, they will make up a significant portion of the global workforce. They will be in charge of businesses and corporations, and they will be running for elected office. It is our responsibility at Junior Achievement to make sure that the next generation has the skills they need to be college- and career-ready.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, JA prepares today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce and equips them with skills that are critical to their successful participation in the global economy.
The survey was conducted online from Sept. 28-Oct. 12, 2012, and polled 753 teenagers between the ages of 14-17. For more detailed information on the survey results, go to www.ja.org. To find out how you can get involved with your local Junior Achievement office, go to http://jarhodeisland.org .•
Lee Lewis is president of Junior Achievement of Rhode Island.