As the construction workforce ages and the labor market remains tight, construction companies are having to make additional efforts to attract young people into the construction trades. When considering strategies for recruiting and engaging workers from the newly emerging “Generation Z,” contractors should be aware that today’s crop of young adults tend to have different life experiences than preceding generations, and might therefore have different motivations for entering the construction industry.
Born from 1995 onward, Generation Z will make up around 22% of the U.S. workforce by 2020. As they were in their early teens or younger when the financial crisis hit in 2008, many of these young people spent their formative years watching their parents struggle with layoffs, and their millennial siblings deal with the challenges of a tough job market and mounting student debt.
Because of these experiences, members of Generation Z are less likely than millennials to be blindly optimistic when weighing their future job prospects, and are more likely to be looking for practical ways to earn a living. Thus, members of Generation Z may be less interested in earning a for-year degree, and more interested in pursuing vocational training or entering the job market directly from high school— provided the jobs available to them offer financial stability and a career path.
A survey of young people born between 1996 and 2000 conducted by global research firm Universum in 2016 found that 47% of respondents said they would be willing to enter the job market straight from high school, and 60% said they want employers to provide education and training for jobs that do not require them to earn a college degree.
The survey also found that Generation Z have an entrepreneurial spirit, with more than half saying they would like to start their own business someday. Thus, construction companies that can provide young people with the skills and practices they need to start their own businesses later in life may be especially attractive to Generation Z.
It is also important to bear in mind that Generation Z are the first true digital natives, as most are unable to recall a time before information was obtained and job searches were performed primarily online. Before applying for a job, members of this generation may be expected to research the company’s website and social media channels for information not just on the organization’s compensation and benefits, but on its branding and messaging.
To recruit these young people, construction companies should consider offering opportunities for mentorships and paid apprenticeships, emphasizing the attractive pay scales of entry-level jobs and the opportunities for career and compensation growth over time. Some construction firms recruit by partnering with vocational schools and community colleges to provide students in construction-related fields with on-the-job experience that complements their coursework.
Generation Z are also likely to respond to different training techniques than preceding generations. They tend to be very comfortable learning through apps and videos on mobile devices, and can benefit from using digital tools to create their own interactive learning experiences. Once on the job, they will want to make optimal use of mobile and cloud-based construction management tools.
This generation of young people may be expected to recognize the value of steady employment and a company that rewards them for their loyalty. But at the same time, Generation Z workers are likely to be eager to learn about multiple roles across the organization in order to broaden their skillsets and expand their opportunities. By fostering a company culture in which they can develop and advance, construction firms should be able to persuade these young workers that they are gaining the experience required to succeed in a competitive and constantly evolving labor market.