The US Census describes “Generation Z” as people born from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. It may surprise you to know that 39% of today’s workforce consists of Gen-Z individuals. Gen-Z workers as a group have certain similar characteristics and interests:
- Skeptical. Their parents may have lost jobs due to recessions.
- Desire for physical and mental health.
- Value good relationships.
- Getting ahead in life and honing skills.
- Importance of income.
- Job security. This may be more important to them than a college degree.
Looking at it from the Gen-Z perspective, the career pendulum may be swinging back toward jobs that don’t require college – perhaps involving specialized training and professional certificates. Gen-Z workers seem to be increasingly interested in the benefits of hard work: having an honorable career, contributing value to society and having a plan for eventual retirement.
Gen-Z students face a number of gatekeepers driven by stereotypes (e.g. teachers and well-meaning parents) who continue to steer them in the direction of getting a college degree. Unfortunately, not everyone who enters school will even graduate, let alone go to college. An increasing number of high school graduates bounce around from job to job for ten years or more before deciding on a career interest. According to Associated General Contractors of California, the average age of a new apprentice is 28, even though there are plentiful jobs in construction.
The industry’s challenge is to focus on how Gen-Z workers can find their way to construction jobs. There are things about the industry that are unique and need to be showcased. Lucrative jobs exist, as well as real opportunities to start at the bottom of a trade and end up in top management. There are opportunities right now in construction, with the number of unfilled jobs hovering in the hundreds of thousands.
Meanwhile, the industry has many workers who are proud of the work they perform every day. They strive to impact something bigger than themselves. They work to give back to a society that allows them the freedom to earn a living doing work that gives them fulfillment. This ability has resulted in workers who are authentic and have genuine humility.
Unfortunately, in the past few decades, the industry has primarily marketed to itself. The conversations have been the same for decades, resulting in slow changes.
The outreach that is needed to reach Gen-Z workers needs to be something other than the same old pitch. Marketing efforts need to be intentional and represent lifestyle brands that resonate with the new audiences. Changes in the economy will also change the dialog. Companies need to consider what they value going forward, then position themselves to talk to the generation they are trying to reach. They need to be genuine and authentic.
Once a company attracts people, it also needs to enact strategies to keep them. Those strategies need to include nurturing a culture with values that align with Gen-Z workers.
Tune in to Bridging the Gap Podcast episode 198 to hear more about ways to attract and keep Gen-Z workers in your construction company.