Better Manhood Skills: Education and Employment 

Today, it’s not just young adults from economically disadvantaged and minority backgrounds who are challenged in their education and employment. Even adult men need continual learning and strong vocational skills to stay relevant and thrive during tough economic times. In fact, every male, young and old, needs good education and strong vocational skills to help them achieve their full potential as a mature man.

Throughout this series on creating a roadmap for better manhood, I have suggested that we need to change the optics of today’s manhood since some people suggest men have “gone off the road.” There are too many immature males who misuse their masculinity. This may be a result of poor performance in school. It may be that a lack of education leads to fewer opportunities for a good career needed for personal and family stability. So why do men put so little emphasis on education and employment these days?

Males are Struggling at School and at Work 

According to this article in The Atlantic, young men are more likely to drop out of high school and are less likely to aspire to college than their female peers. Young men who are poor, live in a city, and are Black or Latino, are at even higher risk of unemployment than other demographics. Unemployed men also have dramatically higher rates of cancer, heart disease, car accidents, alcoholism, suicides, and drug-related fatalities. These are called “deaths of despair” and affect more men than women.

Richard V. Reeves, a British American scholar of inequality and social mobility, and a self-described “conscientious objector in the culture wars,” writes that boys are floundering at school and men are leaving work and failing to perform their paternal obligations. In his book, Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It, Reeves indicates the hardest hit are Black men. But also affected are males without college degrees. For both groups, their wages have fallen in real terms and their life expectancies have dropped significantly, and their families are fracturing at astonishing rates. 

In fact, over the last 50 years, fewer men have returned to work after each recession. In 1960, 97% of men of “prime-age” (between ages 25 and 54) were working. Today, about 1 in 9 prime-age men is neither working nor seeking work. This is roughly the same rate as in 1940 when America was recovering from the Great Depression, according to economist Nicholas Eberstadt’s recently reissued book, Men Without Work: Post-Pandemic Edition. Citing time-use studies from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about how Americans spend their days, Eberstadt reports that most of our free time is spent watching screens rather than doing household labor or caring for family members. Instead of socializing more, men without work are even less involved in their communities than those with jobs. Isolated men are less motivated and often sip into “toxic’ behaviors.  

The Need for Better Education Skills

Today’s young males need a range of skills to be successful in school, the workforce, and life. There are several factors that contribute to their failure specifically in education, particularly at the high school level. There’s a lack of engagement by boys, which causes disinterest and lower academic achievement. Young males from disadvantaged backgrounds often lack the necessary resources and support to succeed in school. Additionally, many families do not place enough importance on education, especially those of lower income and certain ethnicities. 

However, some experts believe boys are failing because the educational system is stacked against them. One is Dr. Michael Gurian, author of The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and in Life. Gurian proclaims there is a crisis in the education of boys in this country and presents several statistics about boys who: 

  • Get the majority of D’s and F’s.
  • Create 90% of the discipline problems.
  • Are 4x more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD and be medicated.
  • Account for 3 of 4 children diagnosed with learning disabilities.
  • Become 80% of all high school dropouts.
  • Make up less than 45% of the college population. 

Gurian says society and educational systems are stacked against the very way males are neurologically wired.

What’s the Fix? 

Dr. Gurian recent studies of brain science can help us understand how boys learn best. He believes that –while our modern educational system works for many children, particularly girls, it places constraints on a very normal and necessary experiential type of learning that boys need. He suggests several modifications that would benefit millions of children of all genders such as simple changes to the pace and tempo of the school day. These include incorporating several brief recesses throughout the day, devoting more time to physical education, and including more hands-on activities. These can help alleviate some of the natural restlessness of boys and harness their male energy in positive ways.

Gurian also says parents and teachers also need to become better educated about how boys and girls really are different, especially on the theory of “natural learning.” Gurian suggests that –just as we addressed the needs of girls over the past couple of decades that closed their achievement gaps in math and science, we must now turn our attention to our nation’s boys by taking equally deliberate steps to assure their success in school and in life. 

Better Skill Development

To assure more success in young males, here are several essential skills that come out of a good education and strong employment.

  1. Communication Skills: Learning how to articulate your thoughts clearly, listen actively, and engage in respectful and professional conversations.
  2. Critical Thinking: Developing the skills to analyze information, evaluate its validity and relevance, and make informed decisions. This involves logical reasoning, problem-solving, and the ability to think creatively.
  3. Time Management: Managing your time efficiently requires setting priorities, creating schedules, and organizing tasks effectively to meet deadlines. This skill helps you balance your responsibilities and achieve your goals.
  4. Adaptability and Flexibility: An ability to adapt to new situations and be flexible. This means being open to change, learning new skills, and adjusting to different environments.
  5. Teamwork and Collaboration: Having strong teamwork and collaboration skills helps you contribute effectively to group projects. You learn to cooperate with colleagues and build positive relationships through active listening, compromise, and effective conflict resolution.
  6. Resilience: Setbacks in your education, employment, and life are inevitable. Resilience allows you to bounce back from failures, learn from them, and persist in the face of adversity. It involves maintaining a positive mindset, managing stress, and developing coping strategies.
  7. Digital Literacy: It’s essential to have basic computer skills and be comfortable with technology. This includes proficiency in using productivity tools, online research, digital communication, and understanding online safety and privacy.
  8. Self-Motivation and Initiative: Taking ownership of your education and career requires self-motivation and the ability to take initiative. This involves setting goals, staying focused, and being proactive in seeking opportunities for personal and professional growth.
  9. Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence involves understanding and managing your emotions and effectively relating to others. It includes self-awareness, empathy, and the ability to build positive relationships. Emotional intelligence can improve communication, teamwork, and leadership skills.
  10. Continuous Learning: Lifelong learning is crucial in today’s rapidly changing world. Having a growth mindset and being open to learning new things. It allows you to stay updated, adapt to new technologies, and remain competitive in the job market.

Developing these skills come from next-level education courses, participating in extracurricular activities, joining professional networks, and seeking guidance or mentorship from experienced men.

The Benefits 

Research consistently demonstrates that strong skills play a significant role in the success and well-being of men. Here are some key benefits of a good education and strong vocational skills:  

  • Higher Earnings: Numerous studies show that individuals with higher levels of education and vocational skills secure better-paying jobs. They also enjoy more career advancement and earn higher wages overall.
  • Lower Unemployment Rates: Men with higher levels of education and vocational training are more likely to become employed. They also experience lower rates of unemployment. 
  • Enhanced Job Stability: A solid educational foundation and vocational skills contribute to increased job stability. Individuals with higher levels of education are less likely to face long-term unemployment. They are also better equipped to adapt to changes in the job market.
  • Improved Health Outcomes: Education and vocational skills have been linked to better health outcomes for men. They have access to better healthcare, have more health literacy, and generally live healthier lifestyle choices, leading to lower mortality rates and improved overall well-being.
  • Reduced Involvement in Criminal Activity: Studies show a strong correlation between education and reduced involvement in criminal behavior. 
  • Increased Civic Engagement: Education and vocational skills contribute to increased civic engagement and participation in community activities. Research suggests that those with higher levels of education tend to be more politically aware. They also participate in community organizations and engage in volunteer work that positively impacts their communities.
  • Personal Development and Self-Esteem: Education and vocational skills provide individuals with a sense of personal development higher self-esteem, sense of accomplishment, confidence, and self-worth. 

The bottom line is young males and even older men must put in the effort to become better educated and more employable. Don’t rely on others or blame the system for your poor skills. Learn by reading. Take courses that improve your vocational skills. Control your own destiny. You will become a better man when you are more educated and have stability in your employment. 

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GodBuddy Focus

In past years, I wrote about the difference between Being Good at Being a Man or Just Being a Good Man. But there is more to becoming a godly man.

When they were younger, I often told my three now-adult sons that life is pretty easy if you “work hard, treat people right, and always do the right thing.” This mantra also applies to managing your education and employment opportunities. When you work hard at school and work, treat your teachers and bosses right, and always do the right thing, you will enjoy the personal satisfaction and financial rewards of a good career.

That mantra also applies to becoming a godly man who practices continual learning by reading the Bible. He learns to work hard, especially at his faith (“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart…” Colossians 3:23-24). He learns how to treat others properly (“love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:40). And he always does the right thing by following God’s Commandments (“To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8). 

Having a good education and strong vocational skills help men achieve their potential and realize the personal benefits of a good career. But there are eternal benefits to becoming a godly man.

For discussion:

  • What level of education have you achieved? Have you considered continuing on or gaining extra vocational training? 
  • What was your first job? Who taught you about working hard? 
  • Read and discuss with a good friend or GodBuddy how the Bible verses above apply to your life.  

[Feature Photo by Ben White on Unsplash]

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