My New Book is Almost Ready!

Last year I wrote about how I was buckling down to finish the book I’ve been working on for a long time. Well, it was worth it: the book will be out next month!

It’s called Thriving in the 21st Century: Preparing Our Children For The New Economic Reality, and I wrote it to explain what has changed in our economy and what specific things we can do to help prepare our children for a world of work much different than the one we grew up in.

Here’s what it will say on the back cover:

Today’s children will reach adulthood in an economic environment unlike anything the world has ever seen. The 21st century global economy is powered by an increasing rate of technological change as well as growing foreign competition; both are contributing to the high U.S. unemployment rate and stagnating American wages. How can we as parents prepare our children for success in this growing maelstrom that many are now calling “the new normal”?

In Thriving in the 21st Century, Barbara Frank demonstrates that we must move beyond the common wisdom of the 20th century that emphasized a college diploma and lifelong employment with a large company as the only way to success. Instead, we need to set our children on a new path, one that will help them not just survive, but thrive in the 21st century.

In this book, you’ll learn:

  • The Seven Strengths your child will need to prosper in the 21st century, why they’re needed and how you can develop them in your children
  • The most efficient (and increasingly popular) way to give your child those Seven Strengths
  • Why public education has failed to prepare our children for the 21st century
  • How we can help our children become the lifelong learners needed in a rapidly changing global economy
  • The surprising truth about today’s colleges and universities
  • How economic change is affecting a variety of career areas, and which of them are projected to grow dramatically in the coming years.

This book is packed with ideas and resources for raising our children to become adults who respond proactively when faced with economic challenges, and who can prosper during times of great change. We can help our children reach young adulthood ready and able to tackle the future with all its challenges. And that, of course, is the key: we must prepare our children for the future…not the past.

The book’s website is There’s already a lot of information there, and more to come in the near future.

I hope you’ll find this book inspiring and informative.

Our Kids’ Competition for Future Jobs

When I hear that the unemployment rate is still going up, my immediate thought is for our kids and their future. We’ve been told that many of the jobs that were lost aren’t coming back due to technological change and offshoring. So how will our kids make a living? Will they have to deal with long periods of unemployment in their lives?

Those concerns are why I’ve written my new book, but talking to two of my children who are working adults has given me hope that things won’t be as bad as they seem. Both of them tell me that despite the high unemployment rate, it’s still hard to find good workers. They’ve expressed frustration with job applicants who barely speak during interviews and lazy new employees who spend their time texting instead of working. (These aren’t isolated incidences; they say it’s a pattern they see every day.)

These young employees have some ethical issues beyond laziness. One new employee borrowed a customer’s coupon during a transaction to get an additional discount on her own purchase. A self-identified Christian young man hired as a manager flunked his drug test.

As a result of experiences like these, my kids (who live in different states, by the way) think the high unemployment rate reflects a large number of incompetent people who can’t hold a job. That wouldn’t apply to several people over 40 I know who are among the long-term (2 years +) unemployed. But I think they’re having a hard time getting hired because they’re used to higher pay, and their age makes offering them health insurance a more expensive proposition. As for the younger people, maybe my kids are right.

In that case, we don’t have to worry as much about tough competition for our kids. If we raise them with moral character and a good work ethic along with the skills needed to compete in the 21st century, they should be ahead of most of their peers from the start.

Another Dirty Secret about College

There are some facts about colleges that deans of higher education would prefer that you not know.

In addition to the fact that half of all college students drop out before graduation, there’s the reality that most of the high-growth jobs of the future do not require a college degree.

This flies in the face of the common wisdom of the past 50 years that said you must have a college degree in order to get a decent job. That’s true in some career fields (who wants to be the patient of a neurosurgeon who hasn’t gone through college and medical school?) but it’s certainly not true for all fields.

The U.S. government makes projections about the growth (or lack of growth) in different career areas. You can find those numbers at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) website. Here’s the latest BLS projection of above average growth and above average wage occupations. It’s an interesting document. Note that the projected increases in job growth are for a ten-year period (2006-2016).

When reading it, keep in mind that a high percentage increase in a given career field doesn’t necessarily translate into a lot of jobs. Check the “Employment” column on the left side of the page for actual numbers (in the thousands).

For example, on the first page you’ll see that the rate of increase for “aircraft cargo handling supervisors” is a healthy 23.3%. But that only equals 1,000 new jobs over the next ten years. Not exactly a booming career field in a country of over 300 million people.

On the other hand, note that while the BLS projects there will only be 10.4% more truck drivers needed over the next ten years, that’s the equivalent of 193,000 new jobs.

Once you become familiar with the chart layout, note the “source of training” column on the right side of the page. Most of the jobs on the first few pages do not require a bachelor’s degree. As you go through the document, you’ll find more jobs that do require at least a four-year degree. There are quite a few.

However, only a few of them show the highest growth potential in both percentages and numbers. They include a variety of tech careers, social workers, jobs in education, and accountants. For those willing to earn more than just a bachelor’s degree, a career as a pharmacist, physician or surgeon would certainly be a growth area to consider.

Still, most of the above average growth jobs that require bachelor’s degrees don’t equal many jobs. For example, only 100 jobs per year nationwide are expected to open up for archivists, anthropologists and archaeologists, marine engineers and naval architects, and atmospheric and space scientists. So unless your child passionately desires to become one of those professionals, you might want to gently point him or her in another direction.

Since many of the degree-required careers have such low projected job numbers, today’s parents have to think seriously about whether a degree is even worth it, particularly if their children’s interests and abilities don’t necessarily fit with the jobs with the most openings and growth in the future.

Again, colleges and universities will not tell you that the degrees they offer do not necessarily translate into good jobs, especially in the working world of the 21st century. This is one area where parents and their teens really have to do the homework for themselves.

One Dirty Little Secret about College

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It’s become an expectation in our society that most everyone, homeschooled or not, literate or not, will attend college. Whether a young person’s bent leans toward book-learning or engine-rebuilding doesn’t seem to matter. The important thing, we’re told, is that they go to college.

There’s an entire empire based on helping parents and teachers help students get into college. There are books and classes available, professional help can be hired to lead you through the application process….it’s a huge industry in itself.

But there are a few dirty little secrets about college. One in particular is purposely suppressed by colleges and universities. For all the fuss about getting into a good college, for all the money that’s saved up from the time the student is a toddler, for all the home equity lines parents must tap into, the fact is that only half of all college students actually graduate! And this is nothing new; it’s been true for 30 years.

(I worked in my college dorm office in the late 1970s. I vividly recall that officials overbooked all of the dorms at the large university I attended because they knew students would begin dropping out the first week. They didn’t want to end up with empty rooms.)

There are many reasons for such a high college dropout rate, the primary ones being that students can’t hack it or can’t afford it. But the bottom line is, half of all students don’t make it through college.

Of course, when a student drops out of college, he still has to pay for the time he was there. If he borrowed money to pay tuition and room-and-board (increasingly likely), that money has to be repaid with interest. So while he doesn’t leave with a diploma, he may well leave with a parting gift (as the old tv game show hosts used to call the loser’s consolation prize) of years of debt burden.

College brochures and websites are slick and packed with information, but they sure don’t mention that high dropout rate, do they?