It was one of the most sobering stories that I have read in many, many moons.

Alana Semuels in her LA Times piece, “America Out of Work” argues that near double-digit unemployment directly impacting 14.9 million could become a long-standing condition in America. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/05/business/la-fi-america-unemployment-mainbar-20100905

“This is the new reality,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “In the past decade we’ve gone from the best labor market in our economic history to arguably one of the worst. It’s going to take years, if not decades, to completely recover from the fallout.”

The numbers are stark: To get the national unemployment rate back to 5%, where it was before the downturn, would require the economy to generate about 17 million jobs — or about 285,000 a month for five straight years — according to Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

“To appreciate the enormity of that employment hole, consider that U.S. employers have shed 283,000 jobs since May,” Semuels wrote in early September.

Before we tie a boulder around our collective waists, clutching our precious Led Zeppelin catalog to our chests, and throwing ourselves off a bridge, keep in mind that it was exactly one decade ago that forecasters under the influence of the Internet bubble were virtually guaranteeing the Dow Jones would hit 27,000. This past Friday, the NYSE surged 197 points to 10,860. So much for 27,000 at least any time soon.

What intrigues this commentator as I begin today my pursuit of a master’s degree in “Communication and Society” at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication is the pronounced difference in nomenclature between Eugene and the Silicon Valley.

Naturally I expected differences between the two cultures even though both are populated by very talented and highly educated people. In Eugene, I have heard in my short time substantial dialogue about “sustainability” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainability, “gender equality,” “public options,” “corporate social responsibility” and “marriage issues.” Nothing wrong with any of that.

During my 15 years in Silicon Valley particularly following the dot.com bust and right up to the present deep recession, the discussion focused on “fiduciary responsibility,” “expense controls,” “promoting profitability,” “driving revenues,” “expanding gross margin,” “ROI (Return on Investment)” and simply “survival.”

A question that I am going to personally explore in depth during the course of the next two years is whether our universities are preparing students to successfully transition from the priorities of the university campus to the mandates of the corporate world.

Semuels writes about the tremendous challenge that grads face, particularly in today’s economy: “But young workers are suffering too. In August, the unemployment rate for workers 16 to 24 was 18.1%.

“Research has shown that economic downturns can stunt the prospects of these new entrants to the job market for a decade or longer. Some college graduates unable to find jobs in their chosen fields are forced to trade down to lower-skilled, often temporary work. That translates into puny wages, missed opportunities and a slower climb up the career ladder.”

This is not a great time to be an out-of-work adult over the half-century mark, but it is also an incredibly challenging time for the graduating classes of the next few years. What the second group has as an advantage over the first is simply time and life expectancy. The real question is whether they are being properly prepared for the challenges of a rough economy, one that appears to be with us for years, if not (gasp) decades, to come.

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