Most of them tried some college, either at the community college level or nearby state school. But, for a variety of reasons, college never quite took. Most of them have some type of low pay, non-career building job and most are still living at home.
We call them The Lost Boys.
There are three main points to this article:
(1) to suggest why this trend is occurring
(2) to suggest the need to prevent your teenage boy from becoming one of these Lost Boys and
(3) to suggest the need for action if you have a not-quite adult child in this situation.
Initially, it is helpful to understand how this situation arose. There have always been young adults who did not excel in school and who were not really suited for college. In general, these are the boys who are more physically than scholastically oriented.
During the years of the draft, many of those men would wind up in the army. Unlike those who were eager to get done with their duty, a good number of them would stay in the army. Others, having matured during their army days, would transition into the civilian workforce.
Given our then strong manufacturing sector, many of these men, army or not, could find themselves gainfully employed in solid blue collar jobs. In the summer before I headed off to college, I worked as a shipper on an assembly line. While the guys in the union did not have glamorous jobs, they made reasonably good money, had a steady job, and community. They also could take pride in doing various aspects of the work on the line.
The combination of a volunteer army and well known slide in our manufacturing sector has decimated the standard possibilities for many of these young men.
But, the blue collar work force was not the only place for these action-oriented men to head. Even through the late 20th century, there were solid white collar jobs for those who did not finish college.
There were jobs on Wall St., for those on the floor of the exchange. Stock brokers and other sales jobs did not always require a college degree.
This has changed. Most every large organization requires college degrees for its white collar work force. A college diploma is a simple barrier to entry and a way to sort through thousands of applicants.
What formally was a large separation between those who finished high school and those who did not have a high school degree has shifted to a large separation between those who finished college and those that do not have a college degree.
Indeed, there is no longer a radical difference between someone who finished high school and never attended college and someone who dropped out of college. In both cases, employment prospects are extremely limited.
In terms of the points to consider as a parent, those who become Lost Boys do not emerge suddenly at 18. The tracks of their trail are obvious straight through high school. If they are not interested in school and have grades that will prevent meaningful college choices, then they are on path to wind up on a dead end career track unless you intervene as early as possible. Such intervention could be in many forms such as overseeing their homework, visiting colleges, as well as employing any other inspirational strategy designed to increase motivation.
For those who are already in the situation, massive action is required – NOW.
Those who dug the hole that put them in a rut do not naturally dig themselves out. Intervene as aggressively as possible. Meet with counselors if needed. Do something. Anything. A few years of going nowhere at a pivotal moment in the transformation to adulthood can lead to very challenging circumstances thereafter.