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With Degrees In Hand, Educators Question If Generation Z Are Ready for The Workforce

By Melissa Spellman
Fall Intern 2023
New Journal and Guide

Generation Z has become a symbol of change forming a new type of student and a new type of employee that has changed the dynamics of teacher-student interactions and challenges the traditions of the workforce. COVID turned the world upside down for millions of people around the world and Generation Z have become more concerned with not wasting time and with doing meaningful work. These new attitudes of passion and purpose over having skills and service have educators concerned about the readiness of Generation Z.

Based on a survey by Intelligent.com, a website dedicated to expert research and content integrity, educators say that Generation Z are not ready for the workplace. Generation Z or Gen Z is anyone born in the years of 1997 to 2012, ages 11 to 25. A survey of 228 current high school teachers and college professors reveals findings on how prepared Gen Zers are when it comes to entering the workforce.

According to the survey, one in three educators who have taught for 11 or more years say Gen Z is more difficult to work with. Half of educators are worried about being called out by Gen Z for saying the wrong thing. Fifty percent of educators say their Gen Z students have complained that classes are too hard. One in three educators cite poor work ethic as the top reason Gen Z students are unprepared for the workforce.

One Gen Z student agreed with some of these findings. “I think the Gen Zers are harder to teach. I think today’s students are bored and teachers need new ways of teaching. And I don’t believe we have poor work ethic. We just don’t want to work at jobs we hate,” said a sophomore at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake.

Norfolk State University, Junior Tierra Hooper had a different take on Gen Z. “We are not harder to teach we just have more distractions like tiktok and other social media vying for our attention. COVID was a setback academically for many students who needed that in person experience. Coming out of COVID back into the schools was an adjustment for students and educators. I don’t think the challenges Gen Zers face makes us less prepared for the workforce,” said Hooper.

Diane Gayeski, a Professor of Strategic Communication at Ithaca College, says, “Students who lost a few years of high school or college to COVID missed out on some important skill and confidence-building activities such as internships, travel, and club participation.” Gayeski explained that the COVID years have altered the attitudes of many people, including Gen Z, towards work which is reflected in the overwhelming resignations and decline in available front-line workers in retail, hospitality, education, and healthcare.

“Gen Z is idealistic, and they are not afraid of hard work – they just don’t want to spend their time and energy supporting causes that are not aligned with their values or on tasks that they feel are just ‘busy work.’ They have been told to guard their physical and mental health, and they are doing so,” said Gayeski.

When presented these findings to a class of Gen Zers at Norfolk State University, students had a consensus. Students agreed that COVID had a negative effect on high school freshman because the school year was cut short, sophomore year was all online, and by the time they became juniors and seniors they missed out on vital social skill building and felt less prepared academically. Students shared that their physical and mental health is more important to them when it comes to choosing a career path. Unlike the generations before them their happiness is more important than loyalty to a company. Although Gen Zers are cut from a different cloth there are many upsides to this new breed of student and employee.

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Teachers have many things they like about teaching Gen Z. Educators who responded to the survey say Gen Z students are fun, have a good sense of humor, and keep them current on popular culture. These students are outspoken and are always ready to take in new information. Also, Gen Zers are tech savvy and bring fresh new perspectives.

Self-care, physical, and mental health are more valued among Gen Z and the workplace can benefit from this new type of worker. Gayseki says that these new attitudes will cause traditional managerial styles to adjust but it will ultimately improve the workplace.

However, Gen Z will require more coaching in how to interact on the phone and face to face as well as more computer training since they primarily use apps to interact and cloud-based tools such as Google Suite, explained Gayeski. Yet, Gen Z are “for the most part, flexible, efficient, empathetic, and goal-driven if they are presented with authentic challenges and can see that they are making a difference,” Gayeski added.

Survey respondents who did not consider their students very prepared to enter the working world believe that Gen Zers’ lack of preparation include 62% work ethic, 49% emotional intelligence, and 56% communication skills. Other comments include the lack of “general common sense” in addition to having been too sheltered and ill equipped with the perseverance to handle conflict with reason.

Gen Z is likely to introduce a new wave in what the work-life balance looks like. Traditional concepts of the workforce such as working 9 to 5, playing your position, company loyalty for 20 to 40 years, and retiring are not the concepts Gen Z ascribe to. This new worker combats traditions by choosing employment that is meaningful, maintaining self-care, and not being afraid to shift career paths at any moment.

Gen Z students will need to improve their social skills, computer skills, and their ability to cope with adversity. However, their spirit, passion, and mindfulness bring with it a hopefulness that will change the dynamics of the workforce for the better.

(Facts taken from survey conducted by intelligent.com)

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