Category: Gen Z

Untapped Talent: Shift Your Focus to High School Graduates

The workforce landscape is evolving, and with it, the requirements for filling in-demand jobs are changing. While a college degree has traditionally been the primary focus for many companies, a growing number of roles don’t require a four-year degree. This shift is leading us to an untapped talent pool: high school graduates. In this blog, we’ll explore the potential of high school graduates as a valuable resource for companies and how early engagement and awareness can open the door to mutually beneficial opportunities.

The Changing Face of In-Demand Jobs

The evolving job market is characterized by rapidly changing industries, driven by technological advancements and shifting business needs. Many of these new job opportunities are in sectors that require specific skills and expertise but don’t necessarily demand a four-year degree. Roles such as cybersecurity, healthcare, manufacturing, and many others can be successfully filled by individuals who have honed these skills through focused training and experience.

The Untapped Potential: High School Graduates

High school graduates represent a vast reservoir of untapped talent. They are at a crossroads, deciding their next steps, which often involve navigating through a maze of career choices and further education options. Many of these young adults have aptitudes and interests that align with the in-demand roles we discussed earlier.

Here are some compelling reasons why high school graduates are a valuable focus for companies:

  • Cost-Effective Talent: Hiring individuals straight out of high school can be cost-effective for companies. They can acquire and develop skills through alternative pathways like apprenticeships, online courses, or vocational training, avoiding the financial burden of a four-year degree.
  • Fresh Perspective: High school graduates bring fresh perspectives and are often eager to learn and adapt. They can provide a diverse range of experiences and insights that may not be present in a more traditional workforce.
  • Diverse Backgrounds: This pool of talent is diverse and can offer companies a unique blend of backgrounds and experiences, fostering innovation and adaptability.
  • Long-Term Investments: By focusing on high school graduates, companies have the opportunity to make long-term investments in their workforce. Early engagement can lead to loyal employees who grow with the company.

Early Engagement and Awareness

To harness the potential of high school graduates, companies can employ several strategies:

  • Early Career Awareness Programs: Companies can collaborate with schools to develop early career awareness programs. These initiatives introduce middle and high school students to various career options, emphasize the importance of skills, and shed light on accessible pathways to in-demand roles.
  • Engagement Through Technology: Leverage technology, such as mobile apps and gaming experiences from Skillionaire Games, to engage with youth in or out of school. These platforms provide opportunities for companies to spotlight their jobs and pathways early and allow youth to “try on” careers.
  • Partnerships with Educational Institutions: Forge partnerships with high schools, community colleges, and vocational training centers to create structured pathways for students to gain practical experience and relevant skills.
  • Apprenticeships and Internships: Offer apprenticeships and internships that high school-aged youth can access directly, including virtual gameplay. These opportunities can serve as a bridge to the workforce, allowing students to gain real-world experience while working toward full-time employment.

Filling the In-demand Jobs

High school graduates are a largely untapped talent pool that holds immense potential for companies looking to fill in-demand jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. By focusing on early engagement and awareness, companies can build relationships with high school students, introducing them to viable career paths and offering accessible, debt-free ways to attain the skills needed to thrive in the workforce. This not only benefits companies but also empowers young individuals with opportunities to jumpstart their careers without the weight of traditional higher education debt. In a rapidly changing job market, it’s time to recognize that talent can be found in diverse places, and the journey to a fulfilling career doesn’t always begin with a college degree.

Career Gaming: Not Your Parents’ Workforce Development Tactics

In an era of rapid technological advancement and evolving workforce dynamics, companies are constantly striving to innovate and stay ahead of the curve and their competition. However, one area where change has been slow to adapt is workforce development. As the newest workforce generation, Gen Z, enters the job market, it becomes increasingly crucial to engage them in a way that resonates with their digital-native behaviors. One innovative solution is career gaming, which allows Gen Z to explore careers in playful virtual environments, discover opportunities, and take control of their future in a fun and interactive way.

The Challenge of Engaging Gen Z

Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s, is the first generation to grow up with smartphones and constant connectivity. They have a unique set of values, expectations, and preferences when it comes to learning and career exploration. Traditional workforce development approaches, such as job fairs, videos and websites, often fall short in engaging this tech-savvy generation.

The Power of Career Gaming

Career gaming offers a compelling solution to this engagement challenge. Here’s how it’s transforming the talent development landscape:

  • Accessible and Engaging: Gen Z is already accustomed to spending time on their smartphones – 7+ hours a day. Career gaming brings career exploration directly to their devices, making it accessible from anywhere and engaging.
  • Interactive Learning: Games provide an interactive and immersive discovery experience. Gen Z can explore a wide range of careers by “trying them on” in a virtual environment, fostering a deeper understanding of what each job entails.
  • Discovery and Advocacy: Career games empower individuals to discover opportunities and pathways they might not have considered otherwise. As they navigate virtual careers, they can advocate for their own futures based on their discoveries during play.
  • Skill Development: Career games incorporate skill-building exercises relevant to specific professions, allowing players to acquire practical skills while having fun.
  • Player, Industry, and Mentor Interaction: Online career games facilitate player-to-industry interactions and connections through in-game mentoring, creating a support system and network for Gen Z to learn from and a way for Gen Z to connect with future employers.

The Future of Talent Engagement

As the job market continues to evolve, talent engagement and recruitment strategies must evolve too. Career gaming is not just a trend; it represents the future of workforce development. Companies that embrace this innovative approach are not only better positioned to attract and retain Gen Z talent but also to foster a workforce that is more informed, engaged, and capable.

Conclusion

Career gaming is revolutionizing the way companies engage with Gen Z and prepare them for the workforce. By meeting Gen Z where they are—on their phones and in playful virtual “internship/apprenticeship” environments—companies are ensuring that the talent pipeline remains vibrant and adaptable to the ever-changing demands of the job market. The future of talent engagement is exciting, interactive, and just a few taps away on your smartphone.

5 Reasons Why Younger is Better for Career Awareness

To fulfill the demands of our changing workforce, there’s been a lot of discussion about the optimal age to start engaging kids in a more comprehensive career discovery than the traditional doctor/lawyer norm in school. While ‘younger is better’ is arguably a unanimous sentiment globally, the controversy lies in allocating appropriate resources to support earlier (than high school) intervention, with a more balanced emphasis on our most in-demand careers and skills. But, unfortunately here in the U.S., employers need employees now, making investing in tomorrow’s workforce seemingly feudal in alleviating their immediate pain. And on the educator side, schools are still reeling from the lowest reading and math scores in decades, relegating the less pressing ‘career exploration’ to the back seat. 

Meanwhile, our talent pipelines continue to dwindle to a prospective 85 million talent deficit over the next five years, and poverty cycles continue to persist, despite there being enough people to fill those pipelines. Earlier awareness to these in-demand careers isn’t just one answer to closing this gap, it’s the only answer. 

So what is the most impactful age to initiate meaningful career exploration in order to move that needle? Research suggests (and we agree) middle school, even as early as eleven years old.

  1. Enhanced Cognitive Development: According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, children typically enter the Concrete Operational Stage at around 11-12 years old. He considered this stage a major turning point in a child’s life, because it marks the beginning of logical or operational thought when they start to think more abstractly and consider hypothetical scenarios. At this stage, kids are equipped to understand the complexity and variety of different careers, as their ability to reason and make decisions are strengthened. 
  1. Strengthened Decision-making: Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development emphasizes the Identity Versus Role Confusion stage starting at twelve. According to him, this is important to the process of forming a strong identity and developing a sense of direction in life. Exploring various career options during this age can facilitate the development of a coherent identity and future career goals. 
  1. Increased Career Satisfaction: Those of any age who actively engage in career exploration tend to experience higher levels of career satisfaction based on clear expectations. Exposure to various careers can facilitate in children those same results – a clearer alignment of their interests with their future academic pursuits. Research published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior confirms that early career exploration aids in reducing potential conflicts between aspirations and realities.
  1. Improved Academic Performance: Educational psychology researcher Diana Raufelder published a study in the Journal of Education and Work revealing that middle school students who engaged in career exploration activities showed improved academic motivation and achievement, as well as increased self-efficacy in their academic pursuits. It essentially sets off a ripple effect: When students understand the relevance of their studies to potential future careers, they become more motivated and focused on their education.
  1. Reduction in Stereotype Bias: Early exposure to different careers can also help challenge gender and racial stereotypes and biases related to specific occupations. Providing children with a variety of role models and career options can eradicate misconceptions about certain jobs before they’ve ever learned them – some much younger than eleven – opening up a broader range of opportunities and promoting more equitable career choices.

 While thirteen is our magic number for initiating gamified awareness and access to local careers and opportunities –  specifically to under-served and underrepresented communities – in an ideal world:

  • elementary school should be reserved for career discovery;
  • middle school for awareness and planning;
  • high school for preparing. 

At what age do you start your job awareness and recruiting efforts?

Closing the Skills Gap in 2023: How is America doing?

This is skillsgapp’s third annual installment. 

Last year we reported that the skills gap took a big hit in 2022, in part due to the Great Recession, when a near-record high of 4.2 million US workers left their jobs voluntarily in November alone. High-growth industries like Cybersecurity/IT, Aerospace and Skilled Trades took the brunt of that workforce deficit, each seeking employees with specific skill sets in place in order to perpetuate an ambitious rebound pace as the constraints of the pandemic softened.

A new report suggests that the lingering effects of the Great Resignation and pandemic are still impacting the skills gap in 2023, however, with 69% of HR respondents reporting that their companies currently have a skills gap, reflecting an increase from 55% the year prior. This prevailing workforce shortage, elevated by supply chain limitations, is reducing operational efficiency and margins for manufacturers, specifically, who are still on track for a workforce shortage of 2.1 million over the next seven years, equating to a $1.2 trillion loss in revenue.

According to Deloitte’s 2023 Manufacturing Industry Outlook, addressing the tight labor market and workforce churn is expected to remain a top priority for manufacturers this year. Despite a record level of new hires, job openings in the industry are still hovering near all-time highs. Lack of employee development initiatives and resources for training are likely to blame as big culprits in the skills gap. Non-competitive compensation, inability to quickly adapt to technological change, and shifts in company strategies and product offerings were also noted as contributors. 

The biggest post-pandemic impact on the skills gap, however, is arguably the kinds of skills now needed to be employable in manufacturing. Surpassing previous years, the demand for soft skills rose for 48% of organizations surveyed, while 33% now need fewer hard skills. 

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, the biggest priority on hard skills training relates to analytics this year. Another report adds digital communication and project management to that list. The good news is those can be taught, along with technical skills. The bad news is those constantly change. Soft skills, by contrast, remain with a person throughout their career, and if they already have them, employers don’t have to train them. As a result, they can more easily hit the ground running and make valuable contributions to a company. 

According to a report by MAU Workforce Solutions, these are the most in-demand soft skills in manufacturing:

Top Five Soft Skills in Manufacturing for 2023:

1. Communication
Manufacturing employees are often seen as lone wolves, but no one is isolated when working in a thriving manufacturing plant. Collaboration, conflict mitigation, and effective communication are key in avoiding poor performance as well as unsafe working conditions. 

2. Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are important in any job, but are especially necessary for manufacturing where one person’s inability to work with others well can take down the entitre team’s performance. 

3. Timeliness
This skill seems simple, however, it’s lacking en masse. If deadlines aren’t met, it can cause huge delays in shipment, making this soft skill one of the most important in manufacturing. 

4. Adaptability/Problem-Solving
In an ideal world, machines run smoothly, parts that need assembly would always be pristine, and products would always be shipped on time. But in manufacturing, if it can go wrong it will, and at the worst time possible.

5. Attention to Detail
There are a lot of moving parts in manufacturing, so it’s important for employees to keep up with the details. Losing sight of the small stuff can lead to some dangerous situations.

From the pandemic to the Great Resignation and remote working, to economic and geopolitical uncertainty, the issues that have burdened industry are going nowhere in 2023. But with the 2M+ million workforce shortage looming overhead, none should be manufacturers’ top priority. Instead, according to Lisa Caldwell with EY, focusing on addressing a talent challenge unlike anything we’ve seen in the past should be priority #1.

What skill do you most value when hiring?

Two Key Steps in Minimizing Attrition within Advanced Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry is plagued with one of the highest turnover rates of any U.S. industry. In fact, two in five manufacturing companies (43%) report an annual turnover rate of over 40%, while the average turnover rate in other sectors is just around 2.5%. The financial drain associated with this attrition is debilitating to a manufacturer’s bottom line, as training can start at $5,000 per hire, with an additional $1,500 per employee each year. Which means when that hire leaves, so does that investment. Of course, that’s only a portion of the drain. The production loss associated with that employee’s function needs to be factored into the deficit, as does the overworked staff temporarily tapped to fill in for that person, which can impact morale and perpetuate further attrition. And the bleeding doesn’t stop there, as hiring a replacement can cost, on average, $5,159 before the aforementioned training investment starts all over again. 

The disparity in exodus rates between advanced manufacturing and everyone else is complicated. ZipRecruiter reports an average annual salary of $76,318 in advanced manufacturing in California today, who simultaneously reports 1 million unemployed residents. Yet many of the 7,724 advanced manufacturing jobs listed on that site alone don’t require a four-year college degree, and, as we know, offer training. According to The Fabricator, however, one welder states that the lack of interest is about more than money, but earlier exposure to what these trades entail in middle and high students. “Let them discover the joy of running a bead or fabricating a catwalk or milling a hub as a kid. Or let them find out they hate it,” says Josh Welton. “Either way, you’re going to attract people who want to be where they are, instead of being everyone’s Plan B.”

This lack of exposure when it counts is directly correlated to the “dirty hands” stigma of advanced manufacturing, which – while shifting – still persists among parents and teachers today. Put frankly, the same sectors that keep us warm, fed, safe and well-traveled, are the same ones we put a less-than value on compared to a doctor or a lawyer. This is why so many employers are suffering from the ‘warm body syndrome.’ Out of sheer desperation to meet consumer demand, many are forced to recruit quantity over quality, accepting – and budgeting for –  a six-out-of-ten-left-standing workforce.

Consider these two steps in mitigating costly attrition: 

1. Optimize Candidate Sourcing

Not to be confused with recruiting, candidate sourcing is the process of searching for, identifying, and contacting potential candidates for roles you are recruiting for in the future. Recruiting happens after sourcing, and incorporates the screening, interviewing and evaluating elements of the recruitment process. This means that proactively searching for candidates, regardless of current vacancies, is paramount in keeping a talent pipeline full with workforce at the ready. 83% of companies report they already do this, however, advanced manufacturing wouldn’t be bracing themselves for 2.1million unfilled jobs by 2030 if this were being performed effectively. “HR departments need to essentially become hunters, running to find hires,” laments one recruiter, “until we can make the perception shift of hires running to us.” 

This is because traditional advertising through job banks and boards is not effective at reaching students who are not yet on the job market, but poised to choose a career path that could lead them right to you post-secondary. They are also not effective in reaching those who are already employed, but would not naturally think of manufacturing as a career. Today’s tight labor markets require more innovative and broad-reaching strategies that can both influence perception of these careers early on, as well as provide access to skills development that will make a future candidate employable, and interested. There are 65 million students about to hit the workforce over the next seven years. This scarce talent pipeline issue is not a people problem, but an awareness problem. Access to them is paramount in making the needle move for good.

2. Manage Candidate Expectations 

Misalignment of expectations accounts for 60% of turnover in advanced manufacturing. Which is why many employers offer Realistic Job Previews, or RJPs, that offer a realistic look into what a job is actually like – no sugar coating – showing both the positives and negatives. This provides a candidate a feel for what a typical day would look and feel like, the depth of knowledge and skills required, boundaries of their specific responsibilities, work schedule requirements, and the quality of work you’re looking for. While a trusted qualifier in candidacy, logistically and operationally, this is very expensive, especially when you factor the 40% who walk away. 

Allowing potential future candidates to “try on careers” in advanced manufacturing is spot on, however. Giving students access to the lexicon, the pathways and skills needed for them to decide for themselves, void of parent/teacher influence, provides them with the agency to intentionally pursue that career, providing you with a vetted pipeline. Doing this at scale means doing it digitally. 97% of Gen Z has access to a smartphone, where they spend seven hours a day. A digitally transformed approach to workforce development = high impact. 

Start there.

Interested in learning how skillsgapp employs a two-step approach to minimizing turnover? Email us here.

Certifications v. Degrees: Experts Weigh In

According to qualifications assessor, Andrew Smith, the debate between the employable value of certifications versus diplomas is pointless, yet one that persists among industry year after year. On one hand, he argues, degrees are the foundation for a lifelong learning journey and supports career progression. Certifications, on the other hand, reflect more of a micro view of a person’s measurable aptitude within a skills-oriented domain. 

In other words:

Degrees = A good measure of a person’s long-term capability within a given discipline Certifications = a good measure of professional capability and immediate employability.

As we look at the current unfilled workforce crisis at hand, the valuation of either one is perhaps best quantified through the lens of simple math.

We don’t have a people problem in filling our workforce, but a skilled people problem, specifically within industries like healthcare, information technology, and advanced manufacturing, where Bachelor’s Degrees are not typically required for most jobs. For a competitive advantage in today’s immediate job market, certifications should have a huge leg up on the more traditional post-secondary pathways, including the fact that those assessments adapt to the workforce landscape typically faster than academic institutions do. 

As such, many high schools have implemented hands-on CTE programs that provide students with real-world experience in those industries right around them, offering internships and other work-based learning opportunities to help students gain experience right out of high school. But the extent to which they can do this varies depending on a variety of factors, such as the location of the school, the resources available, and the preferences of the students and families. 

So as the discussion surrounding which post-secondary path to take persists, does our skills gap. Indeed the percentage of high schools promoting more diverse post-secondary pathways is increasing as educators and policymakers recognize the importance of preparing students for a variety of career paths, but is it fast enough to make an impact when we need it most?

Are you considering hiring for skills versus degrees? We’d love to hear from you below!

“STEMINISM”: Women play a key role in filling the STEM Gap

According to Italian experimental particle physicist and first-ever woman General Director of CERN, Fabiola Gianotto, “Science has no passport, no gender, no race, no political party…science is universal and unifying.”  However, according to the American Association of University Women, women still make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with a particularly high gender gap in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering.

Gender Stereotypes

STEM fields are typically viewed as masculine, yet the concept of a “math brain” shows no cognitive biological differences between men and women. According to a study conducted by Stanford, boys from higher-income and predominantly white areas did perform significantly higher in math, even compared to girls attending those same schools. However, girls score higher than boys in math in lower-income, predominantly African American areas, which account for 25% of our school districts. Why the disparity? One administrator from a predominantly white district observes, “Teachers, who are predominantly women, may have math anxiety from their own childhood stigmas, and they assume girls need to work harder to achieve the same level as boys.” The response was different when the same question was asked of a predominantly African American elementary school. “We know that STEM fields tend to perpetuate male-dominated cultures that may not support women and minorities, but my students don’t yet. They just do their math.”

Underrepresentation in the Workforce

Girls have fewer role models to inspire their interest in STEM fields, seeing limited examples of female scientists and engineers in books, media and popular culture. There are even fewer Black women role models in math and science. Serita Acker, an internationally recognized creator of academic programs to increase underrepresented students in the STEM fields reports, “The last time I watched a movie or TV show about a person of color who was a scientist, engineer, or mathematician was ‘Hidden Figures’ and that came out in 2016.” Which is in part to blame for the fact that by the time students post-secondary, women are significantly underrepresented in STEM majors — in fact, only around 21% of engineering majors are women and only around 19% of computer and information science majors are women.

Did You Know?

  • Nearly 80% of the healthcare workforce are women, but only about 21% of health executives and board members are women, and only about a third of doctors.
  • 38% of women who major in computers work in computer fields, and only 24% of those who majored in engineering work in the engineering field.
  • Men in STEM’s annual salaries are nearly $15,000 higher per year than women 
  • Latina and Black women in STEM earn around $33,000 less than their male counterparts.
  • 11.5% of people employed in STEM fields were women of color, making up approximately one-third of all women in these fields. 
  • Only 19 of the 616 Nobel Prizes awarded between 1901 and 2019 in Physics, Science, Medicine and Physiology were awarded to women.

The future of STEM is female.

With women representing just shy of half of today’s workforce, you don’t have to have a math brain to know that the current gender gap doesn’t add up. 

Here are a few easy ways for educators and parents to close it.

  1. Scale back focus on STEM as higher education conversation, as the journey to a career in STEM starts much younger for both genders. The early stages of education are crucial to a child’s development, and don’t always involve a book. One study found that simply having a lack of friends in a computing class can decrease the probability of a girl studying the subject by up to 33%
  1. Promote engagement in technology at a younger age, which will help allow girls’ interests to develop free of societal bias. Educational institutions and governing bodies should embrace initiatives for children to become both familiar with and gain hands-on experience with technology
  1. Highlight female industry voices. Or better yet, be one. That same study found that 73% of high school girls with inspirational teachers said they were interested in studying computing. This figure fell to 26% for those who did not have an inspiring role model. One way this can be achieved is by establishing mentorship programs to show how women navigate these industries while learning from real female experiences. By promoting female leaders within STEM of all races and cultural backgrounds, women will feel that the industry is more accessible to them, as they see women like themselves succeeding in it.

Who is your favorite female in STEM?

Winning at Workforce: Career and Pathway Awareness Starting in K-12 is the Competitive Advantage

In today’s ever-evolving labor market, there are more jobs available than ever for young adults to pick from depending on the type of career that best suits them. However, this is only possible if we start equipping young adults with the right tools earlier so they can better understand the wide range of careers available to them, and just as importantly, how they can access and prepare for them, especially careers within the in-demand fields of cybersecurity, manufacturing, and the life and health sciences. This will ensure the future workforce has the skills needed to remain competitive globally. 

The Benefits of Career Awareness and Pathway Access at an Earlier Age 

There are many benefits to starting early when it comes to career and pathway awareness. First, it helps young adults explore their passions as they understand more about the different types of jobs available. This leads to better decisions about which classes to take in high school, where to go to college or trade school, or whether college or trade school is even necessary for the desired career path.  

Additionally, it helps young adults develop confidence as they pursue their chosen field, be better prepared to answer questions about their chosen field or navigate job prospects without feeling lost or insecure. Finally, it gives students an advantage when entering the job market because employers know that these candidates have an understanding of what’s out there and are ready to hit the ground running from day one, minimizing costs associated with both training and attrition. It also leads to more diversity in the workforce since students from all backgrounds can benefit from career and pathway awareness in K-12. 

The Role of Technology in Career and Pathway Awareness 

One way to foster career and pathway awareness is by leveraging technology as part of the learning process. Technology can provide students with virtual experiences in different industries through videos, interactive games, or simulations that allow them to explore different roles from right where they are. This can help give them valuable insight into potential careers before they even enter college or join the workforce! Additionally, technology can provide teachers with resources, such as lesson plans or online courses designed to introduce students to different fields in engaging ways, while still following curriculum guidelines set out by their school district or state board of education. 

A Meaningful ROI

By introducing kids to various career paths earlier, we can create a generation of engaged learners who understand how their skills fit into the larger job market upon graduation—and employers will reap the rewards too. Utilizing technology as part of students’ learning process allows us to reach far beyond traditional methods used for teaching about careers; this helps us ensure that all students have equal access, regardless of background or location. As leaders in our organizations, it’s our duty to invest in these future generations now so that we create a well-rounded, sustainable workforce for tomorrow!

On a scale of  1 – 10, with 10 being the best, what score would you give your state, region or industry for your career and pathway awareness efforts with students in K-12?

What does Gen Z want from you in 2023?

By Kamber Parker, Founder & Young Professional Expert, The YoPro Know, LLC //

The main topic on every business leader’s mind right now is this:

How does Gen Z think and how will it impact my business? From how they work to how they spend, leaders want to know: what makes them tick and will it be positive or negative for their business?

Gen Z is made up of tweens, teens, and young adults who were born between 1996 and 2015. A wide spread, the Gen Z generation will make up more than half of the U.S. workforce with their millennial counterparts by 2030 (Jason Dorsey: Center For Generational Kinetics). What does this mean for businesses? It’s your job to understand their behaviors, their goals and desires, to create a successful space for them in the workplace.

In this post, we will cover just that. You earned their interest through gamification or innovative recruiting efforts (think: social media, moving away from the age-old job fairs), but now it’s time to figure out how to keep them engaged long-term.

Here are the top 3 things Gen Z wants from you in 2023.

  1. Stability. Gen Z is likely not going to be known as the “job-hopping” generation like their millennial counterparts, but there is a higher chance of them not being engaged in a post-pandemic world.
    • Pay them what they are worth. Many Gen Z-ers have watched their families experience previous recessions and witnessed the generation before them experience significant debt. They don’t want this, so if you can’t pay them a decent salary, you will not even be in the game next to your competitors.
    • Show them opportunities to grow. While you can’t give them a leadership role on day one, outline what their career trajectory can look like from the start. Setting expectations early on with help with building trust with your employees and team members, while setting them up for success.
    • Engage them through strong communication, education/training, and professional development. There is a plethora of information on this topic, but to learn more, visit our research here.
  2. Transparency. This is important to this generation because they have witnessed a very different world than some of us reading this grew up in. Most of them came of age during the pandemic, and as a result, they have experienced tension from something unprecedented in our society. They understand when company cultures are being transparent or not and when they recognize that, they leave.
    • Set expectations from day 1. When you are in the hiring process, ensure your recruiting communication is extremely clear.
    • Clear is kind. When talking about salary, benefits, time off, and work hours, be honest! 85% of the young professionals I’ve interviewed over the past 2 years say they have left a company because one of these expectations proved to be false about 6 to 9 months in.
    • Share vision and long-termplans for the company (depending on size, this can be challenging). Give them a sense of ownership and treat them like they will be there for a long time. Most companies don’t get this part right, but you CAN!
  3. Connectivity. While many want the opportunity to work from home – some time, not all the time – they still want to be connected.
    • If you have a hybrid schedule, encourage team members to all be in the office or site on the same day one day per week. This will create consistent face-time with peers and coworkers to build trust among the team.
    • If you only offer work-from-home, ensure there is still time to connect with each other in a meaningful way. Again, the pandemic resulted in less connectivity with other people and Gen Z does not want that. Consider coordinating lunch one day or a team-building exercise (I promise: Gen Z actually wants this these days!).
    • If you offer in-person work 100% and don’t have opportunities to give an at-home work structure, it’s important to note here that you will need to create some space for your Gen Z employees to provide flexibility. This looks different for everyone, but if you don’t offer it, they are more inclined to look for places that do.

Being intentional in your process can lead to thriving and retainable outcomes in your workforce. Take time to review and adapt your plans for 2023 to engage successfully with Gen Z.

Photo of Kamber Parker

About Kamber Parker: Kamber is the founder of The YoPro Know (2018), a platform designed to be the bridge between ambitious young professionals and the companies that wish to hire them and most importantly, retain them. Kamber has spent the last 5 years interviewing nearly 1,000 young professionals identifying their key struggles, successes, and ultimately, ways to make them more successful in the workplace. Her business offers consulting services for companies looking to increase young professional recruitment, retention, and engagement. She is a 40 Under Forty Recipient (2020), the Greenville Chamber Young Professional Of The Year recipient (2021), Jefferson Award Winner (2021), and Greenville Business Magazine’s Best & Brightest 35 and Under (2022). In her free time, she volunteers for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Board, Meals on Wheels, and is involved in the Greenville Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals group. You can find her at The Commons, on the Swamp Rabbit Trail running, or Soul Yoga!

America’s Workforce: In Need of a Rescue, or a Reset?

By Tina Zwolinski, Co-Founder and CEO, skillsgapp //

Long before the pandemic, there was a need to ‘reset’ the systems we have in place for preparing our future workforce with the critical skills needed to meet industry demand, specifically within advanced manufacturing. COVID recovery certainly sped up this conversation, and funding, but an actionable focus is still needed if we’re going to fill the ever-growing skills gap America currently faces.

Thinking earlier in the workforce pipeline should be priority one for all of us, including the policymakers who represent us. Focusing on in- and out-of-school development opportunities is imperative, but this can’t be left on the shoulders of educators alone. Silos need to be leveled in order to allow collaboratives to thrive in rethinking current workforce development initiatives. And those initiatives need to be a lot more innovative than the traditional websites, videos and career fairs.

A Call for Collaboration  

The innovation and collaboration I’m calling for, one that can have the greatest impact, will ultimately be forged between education, industry, and government. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Secretary Cardona recently shared a vision on improving our education system by promoting newly accessible pathways through higher education, inevitably leading, it was argued, to successful careers. This involves reimagining the connection between K-12, higher education, and the workforce by in part collaborating to a greater degree with the Department of Labor and Department of Commerce, to invest in career preparation programs that meet the needs of today’s economy. 

This is exactly the kind of collaboration, from the federal to state level, that needs to be replicated – one working in harmony for a successful reset. While much of the funding from the America Rescue Plan appears to be focused on post-secondary education, which is needed, there is also a great need for workforce development-oriented programming in elementary, middle, and high schools; this is mission-critical if we are going to get a chance to impact post-secondary success.

Leveraging Technology 

In late 2020, a survey of Gen Z (ages 19-24) was conducted by Ernst & Young, in collaboration with JA Worldwide, where students were asked “how the education system could be improved” – 59% of Gen Z respondents suggested that there should be more focus placed on real-life work; 57% said there should be more focus on professional mentorship. This actionable intelligence reveals a generational demographic that values true-to-life work experiences as a means for them to embrace the changing working world. With technology, they are already able to navigate a lot on their own. And with the right, innovative tools, they could even advocate for their own futures if they are connected to pathways into these careers. 

The up-and-coming workforce craves career awareness and ultimately, guided access to pathways and industry. Technology is the answer. Funding is needed to support broader CTE programming, in-class career learning driven by industry, and funding supported by the government. There also needs to be an open-minded approach to trying new approaches with novel technology, both in and out of the classroom, as this is a digital generation that learns best via immersive experiences and by doing things with their hands.

Earlier this year, during a Congress-led Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development Subcommittee hearing, Eric Fanning, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), stated that there are several ways in which Congress could address America’s workforce challenges – One way is investing more in STEM education. Fanning then asked Congress to “think differently” about “…establishing a program where activities conducted by contractors to support STEM education be considered as allowable community service activities, for the purposes of determining the allowability of cost on a government contract.” 

Fanning agrees that reaching students and families earlier on regarding career exploration and pathway access, even in elementary school, could make a tremendous impact. 

Let’s face it – our youth are on their phones for up to 7 hours a day – providing engaging and yes, educational tools that they can use in and out of school on those phones would be a big step in the right direction in setting up, from the classroom to the household, modules spotlighting career pathways.

Dedicated  focus on the under-served 

After-school programming provides a key actionable area of focus with an opportunity to engage the under-served, particularly in career awareness and pathway access.  There is currently a bill in Congress, the Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2021, that, if passed, could provide much-needed momentum for the reset I’m calling for, from Washington and across the country.  Approval of this bill will impact the most needed, the underserved, which would then have a dynamic and correlative impact on filling our skills gap.

2022-era Public-private-partnerships (PPP) between the federal government, industry and State by State academia will move the needle for our next generation. The most cost-effective and efficient means to broker positive disruption in our workforce’s development is no question, through technological innovation.

As students move up the pipeline, closer to entering a workforce already afflicted by ‘Great Resignation’, one that now direly needs them, access to apprenticeships and career pathways rectifies our broken workforce supply chain, forming a singular bridge to connect students into our economy and in doing so, boosting our economy, with vigor.

Let’s think differently about the age that we start career awareness, alongside the tools and technology we embrace – in and out of school – and allow for the funding of innovative initiatives that can close the skills gap and connect youth, especially the underserved, to their own life-changing careers. 

But more importantly, let’s together ‘hit reset’, by moving on some of these conversations that are before Congress right now, so that workforce and skills gaps can shift from a state of challenge to solution.

Any additional solutions or ideas for an effective “reset” of America’s workforce plan?

  • Discover ways to engage with your workforce pipeline earlier
  • Scale career awareness and pathway access, especially for the underserved
  • Gain a competitive advantage for recruitment supported by meaningful data