As the parent of a child who is considered “Gen Z” as well as a child who is a “Gen Y” (also known as “millenials”) there are differences in the space of just 5 years between them. However, the landscape is dominated by the millennials. The workplace is salivating to push the millennials up the corporate ladder, while actively recruiting the young tech savants that will matriculate into markets around 2020. Generalizations and age brackets can be seen as follows.
The Gen Z group will be finishing college in the next year and will have grown up entirely immersed in technology and social media. These young adults will be in the vanguard of the new world. They will be coders, product testers, and front-line workers in retail and at startups. There is no way to replicate the savvy that they possess in these highly sought after areas.
The difference in Gen Y and Gen Z is subtle, but the difference with Gen Z is very notable. Millennials were at the forefront of smartphone technology, where apps and social connectivity were in their infancy. The iPhone had yet to come on the scene. The internet was not quite as ubiquitous then as it has been for Gen Z. They used MySpace, not Facebook. They never touched a smartphone. They barely had high-speed access in the home as elementary age kids, especially if they were outside of a metro area.
Gen Z will be the first generation to have known nothing but pervasive and constant connection. They will be an important part of helping business get a handle on where their resources should be allocated. The millennials are much more jaded to technology, and will be unable to produce the kind of thoughts that Gen Z has, regarding product innovation. Look for entrepreneurs to create start-ups in ways that would have been unrecognizable to the millennial.
With that said, will there always be a need for trade skills in the workplace? Is anyone considering a world without the blue collar worker, and the recent advent of the blue-collar millionaire? It is likely that there will be a melting of the two. Trade schools are coming back into vogue, as reality has set into academia, in that all kids don’t need to go to college. My guess is that in the foreseeable future, you are still going to call a plumber instead of a Gen Z kid who doesn’t even have to flush one anymore. Maybe this next young crowd may figure out ways to make the trades less needed.
Perhaps robotics and AI will make their way into the middle-American household. This notion is still a ways off. The workplace will morph back into what it looked like in the late 20th century. College will be for the intellectuals and researchers who are meant to be there. The percentage will echo that of circa 1970. The trades and what once were known as the technical skill crafts will also navigate their way back to numbers of the same era. The difference will lie in the fact that the Gen Z that will go down the college path in the game of life will create a new world at a much faster pace designed by them and for them. Where this will leave the rest of us is still to be determined.