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5 Ways You’ll Have Better Luck Recruiting Gen Z into the Trades

Retirements and lack of enthusiasm to enter the trades by Millennials means labor shortages. Tapping into traits of Generation Z can reverse that trend.

We are witnessing one of the biggest shifts in human capital in history. This has forced companies and collective industries to completely regroup and reevaluate strategy on how to recruit, retain, and, perhaps most importantly, engage the next generation of talent.

The skilled trades are undoubtedly one of the foremost examples of this crisis, as this recent NPR story noted, and struggles to engage Millennials since according to XYZ University data, 64% of Millennials said they wouldn’t even consider working in construction if you paid them $100,000 or more.

Let’s look at construction. The industry is projected to lose 1.1 million workers to retirement by 2024. The industry has recognized a growing, urgent need for succession planning, workforce development, and engagement among young professionals.

One way to combat this trend of retirements and labor shortages is to effectively engage the generation after Gen Y. Generation Z, born 1996 – 2009, is perhaps the best hope to breathe oxygen back into the skilled trades and reverse the trend of labor shortages and declining interest.

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There is a way to entice Gen Z into entering the skilled trades and it starts with perception. Our most recent Gen Z research findings discovered that 84% of students plan to attend college. This tells us that many in Gen Z have the perception that going to a traditional university is a more stable route and will lead to more success in the long term. To combat this trend, skilled-trades jobs need to be portrayed as a worthy alternative to college that will lead to an enriching and well-paying career.

Another finding the paper turned up was the most important thing to Gen Z in a job is salary. We are a very money-driven generation which can be attributed to the fact that we grew up during the recession. Sixty-six percent of us said that we value a job with financial stability over one we enjoy, which is a drastic change from Millennials and shows that we will look to the trades as a career option simply due to the financial opportunity. But, to pique the interest of Gen Z into the trades, it is important to emphasize the ‘high-paying’ aspect of jobs in the trades.

We also need to be provided with opportunities for mentorships and paid apprenticeships; many of which were rolled back because of the recession and need to be expanded to suit the young labor market.

It’s also important to utilize recruitment strategies to identify young workers as early in our careers as possible. And early no longer means college, but rather high school, and even middle school to some extent. The opportunity to do this is more prevalent than ever due to the growth of STEM programs and the trend of Gen Zs being farther along our career path than previous generations at this stage in our young lives. Take note, XYZ U has found only 3% of Gen Zs say that they haven’t given any thought to their career choice.

Another important trait to consider when recruiting Gen Z into the skilled trades is our tendency to become entrepreneurs. In our research, we discovered that 58% of Gen Zs want to start a business someday and that 14% already have. Careers in the trades can offer us a path to reach that goal. After the apprenticeship and skill development period, leadership development and succession planning can begin, while association leadership can offer business development for younger members.

Knowing and doing these five things about Generation Z can help attract us into the trades easier.

  1. ‍Change the perception and portray it as a worthy career choice.

  2. Emphasize the ‘high-paying’ salaries available as Zs seek financial security over job enjoyment.

  3. Offer mentorships and apprenticeships.

  4. Introduce and recruit early in primary schooling as students explore career choices.

  5. Highlight the entrepreneurial aspects of the trades.

Download “Ready or Not – Here Comes Z”, XYZ University’s white paper on Generation Z which analyzes workplace shifts likely to occur and tips on what your organization should be doing to prepare for Gen Z's arrival into the workforce.


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