Generation Z, Gen Z, Zoomers, iGen, or Centennials – young people born between roughly 1995 – 2012 – have been described as the first digital native generation, possessing an ‘intuitive’ relationship with technology.
The oldest Zoomers are now 26, have grown up with technology such as smartphones, VR, AI and social media, and regard it as completely normal and natural, unlike previous generations, Millennials and Gen X for example, who adopted technology relatively later in their lives. Douglas Adams’ famous ‘rules’ that describe our reactions to technology in relation to our age exemplify this perfectly.
It’s been suggested, therefore, that the inherent skills that these young people possess be harnessed to solve the inevitable digital skills gap that awaits us. Can they be our digital saviours?
Much research has already been conducted on Gen Z – despite their tender years. A quick snapshot of Zoomers shows us that:
Many Gen Zers say that they would like a career in tech but are unsure about how to accomplish that or even what such a career would entail. The solution to this partly lies in schools and with employers, but despite young people’s desire to be taught more about the tech industry, the education system hasn’t caught up yet, suggesting that a more robust training and support system is required.
Gen Z has the potential to occupy almost half of the digital workforce over the next five years, but studies have shown that only 13 per cent of young people actively plan to pursue a career in tech over the next five years. Coding, data analytics and cloud computing were the most popular prospective specialisms.
Tech decision makers are optimistic of Gen Z’s ability to solve our digital skills shortage but acknowledge the role that education and early employees play in encouraging and nurturing this innate talent, given that over half of those Zoomers surveyed in a recent report say that a career in tech is ‘complicated’ and just under half have low confidence in their own abilities, especially young women.
The answer to this conundrum is complicated but could be helped by more collaboration between businesses and schools. At the moment only half of businesses involve themselves with schools in order to attract Gen Z tech talent, especially those from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds. However, more are becoming aware of this gap and plan to collaborate more fully in the future to increase both tech opportunities and social mobility.
Businesses are also starting to appreciate the importance of early career programmes, with increasing numbers of apprenticeships being offered. Worryingly, however, many businesses say that they are unable to offer Gen Z any tech training because of a lack of resources, and almost a third of tech leaders saying that, even if the resources were in place, they did not know how to train them properly – induction and programme development being cited as the most common barriers.
To avoid a future digital skills deficit and to encourage Gen Z into the tech workplace, employers must be creative. Collaboration with education is only the starting point and tech talent from across the entire educational spectrum, including arts and the humanities, must be nurtured and harnessed – although this is clearly a matter for the Department of Education to take forward with the industry.
Employers must also embrace social media to encourage young people to consider a career in tech, emphasising the range of digital skills that a rapidly developing society needs to move into the future, drive economic growth and tackle the global challenges we all face.
The generation preceding Zoomers, Millennials, laid the foundation for employees’ changing expectations of the workplace. Employers must now build on that and make it their priority to understand exactly what Gen Z want from the world of work. Gen Z are driven by personal values, the desire for growth, company ethics and collaborative working methods so it’s vital that companies tap into that mindset and deliver a culture that reflects these values back at them. It’s up to businesses to demonstrate that they have confidence in our young people’s importance to the future of the sector, not merely by offering attractive salaries, but also by listening to them and acting upon what they want and need.
If you’re looking to make the right hire for your business, whilst minimising risk and maximising effectiveness, get in touch with JIE Search.