During a recent conference, some individuals were taking pride in bashing on younger generations. Adjectives and adverbs were flowing like a mountain stream after a few inches of rain. However, some older adults quickly joined me in the defense of our youth. Their point was that it was the senior generation's responsibility to mentor and guide them in a collaborative way through their life journey. Let’s discuss some of the advice that was noted in the conversations with the alpha seniors.
Granted, the younger generations often appear to be glued to technology. Providing them with the guidance concerning appropriate times and use of technology, and occasionally becoming distraction-proof, will be an important life skill. Being “in the moment” and learning face-to-face interpersonal skills will be differentiators for the next generation, many of whom rely on technology.
There was much discussion concerning the write-off of student debt and free college tuition. Good old-fashioned financial responsibility will be a life skill as a differentiator in personal, family and business finance. First, college or university education is not for everyone. Vocational and technical school programs will be critical for the agriculture industry.
My first question to leaders proposing the forgiveness of student debt and free college tuition is what about those who have diligently paid back those obligations? Second, how much of the student debt can be attributed to spring breaks and extracurricular activities? People must have “skin in the game” and accountability to appreciate the educational journey. There is no free lunch in life.
Next, three skills will be necessary for tomorrow’s youth as the landscape of society changes. First, younger generations will need to understand data and where to obtain it. Then, they will need to critically think about the information and not “check their brains” at the door. Finally, written, oral, nonverbal and face-to-face communication will be a differentiator.
Recently, I was asked to speak at a local farm business event. The agriculture teacher, with much passion, was frustrated by the school’s senior administrator’s attitude toward vocational education. I have observed this same frustration across the nation. Vocational education, 4-H and FFA are good programs that teach life skills and develop good attitudes. These programs develop the habits and skills that will quell some of the senior naysayers concerning our youth.
Dr. Kohl is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Kohl has traveled over 8 million miles throughout his professional career and has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA, and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,300 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension, and other popular publications.