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December 2013 Brief: Volume 20, Number 35

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Take Your Child (Parents) to Work Day


by Deborah D. Thornton



Take Your Child to Work Day isn’t until next April (the 24th for those of us parents who plan long-term), but it has actually been suggested that the reverse might be more helpful: Take Your Parents to Work Day.[1]


The modern workplace is changing rapidly and many parents (35 percent) have no idea what their grown children actually do. As a result of not knowing what it is their children do, the parents also can’t provide guidance and mentorship, though they are interested and willing to help (50 percent).[2] Unfortunately as the jobless recession drags on, many of these same young workers are either underemployed or unemployed. They need their parents’ connections and support more than ever.


This gap in relationships and knowledge about what work is, what jobs are available, and what skills are needed has been found to have a significant influence on educational and career decision-making. A study of rural high school seniors, graduating college students, and employed young adults done by the Pennsylvania State University Extension Service shows that affluent parents and their family members have more input and influence in their children’s career decision-making.[3] Their high school guidance and community relationships, while relevant, were of less importance. These young people were also more goal-oriented.


Lower-income and non-college-bound students reported the reverse: that their parents were not key parts of their decision-making, and were less likely to give them guidance. It was reported that “We don’t talk about it at home.”[4] These students relied on their school to help them “figure it out” and on knowing what jobs were readily available in their communities. These students also considered what they thought they were “good” at, based upon high school experience. In general their career decision-making and planning was more passive.


The college-bound were focused on the possibilities which would result from a degree. They viewed college as the “first step” towards adulthood and a career. In contrast, the non-college-bound were expected to be adults after receiving their high school diploma. Additional training or vocational-technical education needed to lead directly to a job.


Most of these direct-to-work students wanted to remain in their communities, in their neighborhoods. They wanted to be close to Mom, Dad, and family. A critical factor is whether or not they perceived the community as having jobs for them. If there were jobs for these rural young people, they would stay. Their perception of job availability and quality was critical to their location decision-making.


As a result of a lack of parental involvement and support, coupled with uncertainty about results, many of these young people postponed career decision-making and “settled” for less challenging careers and lower aspirations.


Though this study was of rural Pennsylvania, the same issues are present in Iowa. We have rural areas with continuing population loss and few jobs. Our young people – potential families and taxpayers – are looking elsewhere for work.


A recent Pew Research report adds to this idea, as only 11 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds reported considering their current job a “career.”[5] Additionally, only 54 percent of these young people are employed, the lowest number since the federal government began collecting data. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a changing workplace. Over the next seven years, scientific and technical consulting and computer systems jobs are expected to grow by over 50 percent. These are good-paying jobs, requiring educated, focused, and skilled workers. Some of these jobs are not likely to be found in rural Iowa.


Other jobs more likely to be found are elder-care workers, nurse practitioners, and phlebotomists.[6] Yet others, which have been hyped by the environmental industry, are wind-turbine technicians and solar-photovoltaic installers. However, these jobs employ fewer than 5,000 nationwide.[7] Even with many wind turbines, there aren’t likely to be many permanent jobs.


The connection between our young people and their family, school, and community in understanding job and career options and in finding those opportunities is critical if we are to grow our communities and our state. Our high school guidance counselors need to especially reach out to the non-college students and help them to consider solid job options and more aggressive career paths. As parents we need to be sure they know what we do and how they can enter our world, in our communities. Additionally, we need to know what our grown children are actually doing in their work so we can help them. Teamwork is essential.


So, make your child take you to their work, today. Especially if they live and work outside of Iowa. Then maybe you can figure out how to lure them home for more than Christmas dinner.


[1] “LinkedIn Bring in Your Parents Day: An initiative to help your parents finally understand what it is you do,” September 12, 2012, <> accessed on November 11, 2013.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Natalie M. Ferry, “Factors Influencing Career Choices of Adolescents and Young Adults in Rural Pennsylvania,” Journal of Extension, June 2006, Vol. 44, No. 3, Pennsylvania State Cooperative Extension Service, <> accessed on November 11, 2013.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “Young, Underemployed and Optimistic,” Pew Research, Social & Demographic Trends, February 9, 2012, <> accessed on November 12, 2013.
[6] Megan Casserly, “10 Jobs That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago,” Forbes, May 11, 2012, <> accessed November 12, 2013.
[7] “Occupational Employment and Wages,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2012, <> accessed on November 12, 2013.



Deborah D. Thornton is a Research Analyst with Public Interest Institute, Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Contact her at


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used:"Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.




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