Across Vermont, a new trend has been taking hold that could stem the exodus of young people from our graying state. But if we are not mindful and proactive, the growing number of Millennials stepping up and taking action could devolve into a missed opportunity.
All generations have personalities. The Millennials — the American teens and 20-somethings — have begun to forge theirs. According to the Pew Research Center, this generation is confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.
By that description, we are seeing Millennials leading charges in Vermont — be it running for office, starting businesses, joining boards, or simply speaking out. They are at the center of our tech hubs and proving to be the next generation of our creative economies. Their civic involvement is welcome.
What differentiates this crop of young people is defined by the demands society has placed on us all. Millennials have just adapted better.
“They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. They’re less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history. Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation,” according to a recent Pew Research Center report.
Census figures have shown that while Vermont’s population has hovered around 625,000, there has been a slight increase in recent years in young people buying homes and setting up shop around Vermont. Most of them have done so around Chittenden County, but data show marked increases around central Vermont, Rutland, Springfield and Brattleboro.
In fact, local chambers of commerce and downtown associations have begun to recognize Millennials and are holding them up as examples. The Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce devoted the keynote address at its annual meeting to local Millennials.
This is a generation to be accepted, celebrated and encouraged.
Studies show they embrace multiple modes of self-expression. Three-quarters have created a profile on a social networking site like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. One in five has posted a video of themselves online. They are tech-savvy.
Millennials’ education trend is driven largely by the demands of a modern knowledge-based economy, but most likely accelerated in recent years by the millions of 20-somethings enrolling in graduate schools, colleges or community colleges in part because they can’t find a job. Among 18- to 24-year-olds a record share — 39.6 percent — was enrolled in college as of 2010, according to census data.
They get along well with their parents. Looking back at their teenage years, Millennials report having had fewer spats with parents than older adults say they had with their own parents when they were growing up. And now, hard times have kept a significant share of adult Millennials and their parents under the same roof. Yet Millennials seem to respect their elders.
Only about six in 10 Millennials were raised by both parents — a smaller share than was the case with older generations. In weighing their own life priorities, Millennials place parenthood and marriage far above career and financial success. But they aren’t rushing to the altar. Just one in five is married now, half the share of their parents’ generation at the same stage of life. About a third are parents, according to the Pew Research survey.
“Whether as a by-product of protective parents, the age of terrorism or a media culture that focuses on dangers, they cast a wary eye on human nature. Two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” when dealing with people. Yet they are less skeptical than their elders of government. More so than other generations, they believe government should do more to solve problems, the survey stated.
Despite struggling to find jobs in the teeth of a recession, about nine in 10 either say they currently have enough money or that they will eventually meet their long-term financial goals. But jobs remain hard to come by.
To be sure, Millennials are the most likely of any generation today to self-identify as liberals; they are less supportive than their elders of an assertive national security policy and more supportive of a progressive domestic social agenda.
Yet they are effective around Vermont. Millennials must be encouraged to take part in the process of setting goals and building the state’s future — fiscally and through its ongoing development. Gov. Peter Shumlin and his administration have reached out to Millennials, but we all must. While this generation is seemingly tolerant and adaptable, if we do not embrace it and its energy, Vermont will suffer in the long term. In many ways, the state’s future depends on it
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