Among the six million educated young Americans who are unemployed, tens of thousands are Jewish boys and girls. Hardly a Jewish family over the destitute level does not maintain, or expects to do so, at least one child through college. Now, of the 2,000,000 graduates a year from colleges and high schools since 1930, only half have found positions.
The problem of educated youth without both hopeful work and fearless rest of mind in this world of plentiful abundance is a troublesome social question. Its extent is appalling. In Norwood, Mass., the Committee on Leisure Time recently made a survey of all graduates during the past five years. Of 750 high school graduates, 500 were found who had no jobs and no prospects of jobs. Syracuse, N. Y., found by census that, of about 30,000 persons between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four, over 14,900 were neither in school nor regularly employed.
NEW DEAL HASN’T AIDED YET
The New Deal thus far has proved unavailing, as did other efforts to meet the problems. Employers are inclined to hire experienced persons and usually reemploy those whom they have laid off. As they must pay minimum wages under the codes, they prefer to have trained people and not novices.
Of the educated youth who obtained places since the depression set in, it is estimated that only fifteen per cent did so through family influence or by entering the businesses of relatives. This avenue to a job, once a beaten track to employment, is in a time when business languishes a rather narrow lane.
CREATING NEW OCCUPATIONS BY INGENUITY
Our youth, first of all, has to have a clearer view of the new economic conditions and plan better their campaign to find work. Young people of that way of thinking have, more than ever, a chance to find jobs through personal initiative and ingenuity.
They see, for instance, that the idea of producing commodities was a bit overdone and that an effort to sell goods when there are more than enough merchants is beside the right way. There are people in this country, however, still willing and able to spend money for services that add to their own convenience and save them trouble. The resourceful youth, then, originates some new type of service.
Here are a few facts reported by a close student of the problem:
One young graduate, after besieging factories and stores for employment, established a window-cleaning business for residences in the suburban community in which he lived. Another contracted to furnish clothes lines and poles for the yards and to keep them in order. He had been trained as an engineer, but nobody would hire him, so he started an enterprise which filled a long-felt want.
Another started a dog-washing service in a community where there were many dogs of high pedigree, and soon found that he had a profitable job, and one which kept him constantly active.
These examples illustrate the line along which new occupations are developing.
THE VALUE OF “SELF-DEFLATION”
Students of the problem of help for educated unemployed believe that the colleges might well have lectures on the value of “self-deflation” as an aid in securing the right job for students after their graduations.
As a road to the all-essential job, such lectures could be given by men in industry and business who had had a varied and successful experience in making their careers. The difficulties of adjustment to a shifting scene in the Machine Age could be pointed outâ€”as well as the need for original and intensive thinking in order to put the new principles into practice.
Now, the college student is not to be blamed for getting an inflated idea of himself. This has been in tune with the spirit of the piping times of our post-war prosperity. The professors and alumni gave him an exaggerated idea of the “cash value” of education and of the “social value” of his association with this or that academic institution.
The college publications abound, even now, in the “success” stories of men who have won very great wealth and high position. But they do not feature those persons who have done fairly well and have steadily rendered service of one sort or another to the community.
For the young Jew the problem of adjustment to the new economic conditions is still more difficult. After all, his chance to be given a job in a corporation, at a time of severe discrimination, is very meagre. And yet the corporate form of business is spreading by leaps and bounds.
With the majority of educated people becoming salaried persons, the field of original service-occupations calls for energetic and resourceful men and women. It may easily become the most promising field for Jewish youth.
A young Jew, therefore, to attain the goal of a satisfying career, has to strive to recognize his peculiar oportunities. Let him face his own problems, make his own decisions, and meet all change in the field of occupations with a flexible and inventive mind.
Dr. Frank’s column appears in this space on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.