Educating & Training Gen Z w/ Ty Branaman
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To be able to educate, train, and recruit Gen Z, we need to be able to understand them. Their interests and communication styles differ from the generations before them because they grew up in different environments.
Previous generations also tend to romanticize the past, including previous generations’ work ethics, which leads them to have a negative outlook on the new generation; this is a pattern we’ve seen for over a century, and we must be careful not to slap that label onto Gen Z. At the end of the day, Gen Z is here to stay, and they’re just people who deserve to be viewed with empathy and open-mindedness.
Generation Z is especially connected and tends to be adept with technology, but they’ve been exposed to more school violence than previous generations. Gen Z has also experienced two major economic recessions, which have shaped their outlook, and they want to make sure they have job stability, flexibility, and good compensation. That means the HVAC industry needs to think about how Gen Z employees are compensated, especially if they also have to buy tools and can earn almost as much money in a food service or retail job.
Gen Z needs a career path and frequent evaluations with specific feedback. Those things show that HVAC business owners care about Gen Z and are invested in their well-being. Gen Z’s world moves quickly, and the HVAC industry will need to adapt to that. Instead of being interested in being told WHAT to do, Gen Z also tends to want to know WHY they should do something. That combination of practices will be more likely to keep Gen Z-ers interested in their work if they decide to enter a career in HVAC; they want to be in charge of their life and be treated with respect.
Members of Gen Z tend to be more individualistic and are more likely to choose nontraditional postsecondary paths; they want to write their own stories and understand that a traditional 4-year college education isn’t always the right choice for them. As they learn more skills, they learn and grow, and they are likely to find a trades job that suits them and be fulfilled by a skilled trades career. Part of that job fulfillment comes from responding to events that are important or require a sense of urgency, and they want their good work to be acknowledged.
Connectivity is important to Gen Z, and we would be wise to embrace their enthusiasm to share their work on social media or make videos of their workmanship. When they take pictures or make TikToks of their work, they’re showing people that the trades are cool, which can help with the recruiting aspect of educating and training Gen Z.
Embracing diversity will also help the HVAC/R trades recruit Gen Z, especially as more women and other traditionally underrepresented groups want to start getting into the trades. When we respect people who have different backgrounds, beliefs, and characteristics, we can work together to get jobs done. Gen Z is more culturally diverse than previous generations, and we would be wise to embrace that diversity and welcome people from all walks of life.
Consistent positive communication will be crucial when it comes to keeping Gen Z. Being able to set expectations for incoming Gen Z-ers, welcome them, and show them a possible career trajectory will go a long way. The same courtesy we show our customers should also be shown to our fellow tradespeople. As long as we’re empathetic and appreciate Gen Z-ers for their unique abilities and good work ethic, the HVAC/R industry will have a better time recruiting, educating, and training them.
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