As the construction industry is seeking out its next generation of workers, Generation Z and the trades may be a perfect match.
Gen Z often refers to individuals born between 1995 and 2012. Gen Z makes up more than one third of the global population and is considered the largest generation to date — and its members are starting to make career choices.
David Stillman, a member of Generation X who co-founded Minneapolis-based GenZGuru with his Gen Z-age son Jonah, says Gen Z is rethinking the college path, with many unsure about spending the money on a degree.
“They’re seeing Millennials saddled with a lot of college debt, and they’re also not seeing all the benefits of having a four-year degree due to how expensive it is,” he says. “Gen Z is looking at other options, and trade school becomes really appealing. It’s a shorter path to a career and much more affordable.”
Swiss army knives
Gen Zers may not spend their entire careers in construction or other trades, but Stillman says it’s a great start for them. And, Gen Zers’ parents, often part of Generation X, are more open-minded about career paths as compared to Baby Boomers, who tended to focus on their Millennial children getting a college degree no matter what.
Side hustles—second jobs that bring in extra income and offer flexibility—are common among Gen Zers, and Stillman says this is another reason the generation is well-suited for construction.
“We might have Gen Zers that go work at a corporation during the day, but want to do sheetrocking, tiling or plumbing at night as their side hustle,” he says. “Job sites that have more flexible schedules could find an untapped workforce of Gen Zers who have a trade as a side hustle.”
Along with flexibility, Gen Zers are also hoping for careers that offer the ability to continue learning and, of course, a good salary. Stillman says they tend to be in “survival mode.”
“They have such an intense fear of missing out, known as ‘FOMO’, that they’re looking for multiple roles within one place of employment,” he says. “They’ll see no reason why they can’t be doing one thing on a job site one day but something completely different on another site the next. The more they can do, the less they’ll feel they’re missing out and the less likely they’ll be to look somewhere else.”
Go where they go
To recruit the next generation, Stillman says construction companies should get their attention as early as possible.
“Right now, Gen Z is daydreaming about a career,” he says. “I would recommend trying to get on their radars early enough that they consider a trade as a potential career option.”
Too often, industries wait to reach out to potential interns until they are graduating from high school or already in college. Stillman recommends courting younger high school students and educating them about the trades and the career opportunities that exist.
To reach the generation, Stillman urges recruiters to “go where they go,” and with Gen Zers that usually means social media. However, unlike older groups, Gen Z doesn’t use Facebook. Instead, they are more reachable on Instagram or Snapchat.
Messaging should center on the educational aspects of construction, as well as both the flexibility and promises of future employment it offers. Talking to Gen Zers can help business leaders ensure that they have the right messaging on the right platforms to best reach their generation.
“We tend to know how to recruit our own generation, but when it comes to connecting with a different generation, we haven’t taken off our own generational lens,” Stillman says. “So, I would say run [your message] by a lot of Gen Zers to get their input.”