Why the Trades Industry Needs Gen Z, and Vice Versa

The first generation to not know life without the internet is now entering the workforce. There are many myths and assumptions made about Gen Z regarding their positions in the workforce, such as laziness, know-it-alls, and they’re ‘job hoppers’. However, that’s an incredibly false generalization, and unfortunately it plays into physically hard work industries such as the trades. With the average construction worker being 42 and inspector at 58, our industry has less than 20 years to recruit upcoming talent before we’re any shorter staffed. First, who is Gen Z? Gen Z are those born between 1997 and 2012, making them 10 to 25 years old this year. Millennials are often confused with Gen Z as they precede Gen Z from 1981-1996. This difference is also highly debated amongst ’90’s babies’ as there’s a negative connotation associated with Gen Z.  However, Gen Z kids have experienced some infamous events all before adulthood, which has truly shaped the way they perceive and navigate the world. Many assume them to be ‘addicted to technology’ but fail to realize they are also the first generation to live in a completely tech driven society. Everything now is accessible online, and schools are now prioritizing computer skills over others due to the workforce going digital.

So why are Gen Z-ers not finding more interest in trades? It starts with our school curriculums. Shop class used to be extremely popular throughout the 70’s and 80’s but began losing traction once the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 was enacted. This act had backlash from many students as it depicted students to be workers and not as individuals. It also influenced shop class being avoided completely as it created the assumption that students who had a harder time understanding other subjects would attend shop, which is false in every way imaginable. By 2012, Los Angeles Unified School District had removed 90% of shop classes, which is a similar, if not identical, story for all states in our country. In today’s government, federal spends only $1 on career training for every $6 on college prep. Not only is the industry aging out, but it’s also not aging in – until 2020.

The pandemic caused a lot of stress, tension, and uncertainty across the world. Although it did harm, it did have some positive outcomes. Due to the sudden changes to our education system becoming online everywhere, this created a glimpse of some students’ futures, and many realized working on a computer in any job was not for them. More than 1 million students have held off on pursuing college/university due to the uncertainty and financial burden of school. While Gen Z is our youngest generation in the workforce, they are extremely bright and understanding of how quickly the world can change. Given they’ve experienced many hardships before adulthood, one of their biggest concerns regarding their future is financial stability. They’d also rather not have a job than work for someone who they cannot respect or trust. 65% of Gen Z-ers said they would stay at a job for 10 years if the management is good, and 31% would stay for 20! Gen Z is focused on growing in their chosen field, not staying in the same position forever. They understand there is much to be offered in life and want to explore all possible avenues.

A big reason for Gen Z to hesitate on entering the trades industry is the generational gap. Due to the industry having a higher age average, it’s intimidating to enter a field with those who may already have assumptions about you. 77% of Gen Z-ers believe they need to work harder than past generations due to the immense number of assumptions about them. In 2021, the Associated General Contractors of America found that 89% of contractors had difficult times finding workers who were trained for the job. While they may be the most tech savvy, they are extremely willing to be mentors and help whenever tech questions arise! Gen Z also prefers face-to-face communication at work than online, which just furthers the reason we need more interest from them in trades since you can’t build a house via Zoom. Another desire for  Gen Z in their job is fulfillment. Many are finding they want to do work that has purpose and would help someone. This is music to contractors ears, as that’s exactly what construction is all about! From building new medical centers to animal shelters and small businesses, Gen Z can certainly find passionate projects to work on in this field!

Since shop class is rarely found in curriculums anymore and students are holding off on secondary education, trade programs have begun rising in enrollment! The Greater Michigan Construction Academy is one of many programs available in Michigan that offers high school and college students courses in different trades. The opportunity in trades is truly endless, as you don’t have to have callused hands and dirty jeans to be a tradeswoman or tradesman, and still make a very livable wage. Construction companies are also looking for Project Managers, Engineers, and administrative positions! Office positions are important to companies as those people are the ones creating project schedules, interviewing with project owners, and filing all the required paperwork and invoices. While you may still have to obtain a college degree depending on the occupation you’re going into, you also have the opportunity to work and gain hands-on experience through apprenticeships. Laux Construction is part of the GMCA Trades Club, and we have multiple members of our staff currently attending, and soon to be this fall, as part of their apprenticeship with us! Click the job to read more about the workload and potential salary!

Ways the industry is growing interest from young adults, and even children, is interesting. Sachse Construction oversaw creating the Academy of Warren Discovery Playground which was entirely designed by children! They also have a program called Sachse Construction Academy where they bring high school students to a project site, and show them what’s required of certain jobs, and a chance to help build with their staff. For smaller companies, events like this might be harder to pursue; luckily there’s many other options! For example, Laux Construction will be attending Holt Public Schools Building Better Futures event on May 10th, 2022. Students will get the chance to meet and receive information about trade work, and network with their possible future employers! Many of these career fairs are available everywhere, and for all education levels. We are also utilizing what Gen Z knows best – social media! Social media marketing as a job itself has skyrocketed in popularity in the last few years, and the trades industry is using that to its advantage, even here at Laux. You can like or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn! This summer, we also will be uploading drone footage of projects, and possibly more fun content that will engage us more with our community! There are SO many options for trade work, and these are just a few! Trades is a place where individuals can grow from an Apprentice to a CEO! The growth opportunities of trades is astronomical compared to other industries where it seems that growth is almost impossible due to company size and corporate ladder. Bottom line, Gen Z is the future of the construction industry. Due to the federal government making it more difficult to showcase available opportunities to students, companies need to improve their efforts in networking and hiring younger. Gen Z-ers want to grow in their position, and trades is one of the best places to learn and improve skills that are also beneficial in their personal lives!

There are SO many options for trade work, and these are just a few! Trades is a place where individuals can grow from an Apprentice to a CEO! The growth opportunities of trades are astronomical compared to other industries where it seems that growth is almost impossible due to company size and corporate ladder. Bottom line, Gen Z is the future of the construction industry. Due to the federal government making it more difficult to showcase available opportunities to students, companies need to improve their efforts in networking and hiring younger. Gen Z-ers want to grow in their position, and trades is one of the best places to learn and improve skills that are also beneficial in their personal lives!

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