Generation Z’s perception of construction is evolving, but there’s still a lot more contractors could do to attract the next generation of workers, according to three Gen Zers interviewed on Associated General Contractors of America’s ConstructorCast.
Gen Z workers — generally defined as those currently under the age of 25 —want financial stability and to continually adapt to the ever-changing economic and technological landscape, so creating a path where they envision their future is key to getting them to join construction firms, they said.
Gen Zers are different from millennials in how they view work-life balance, and it's important to know why, the guests said. These workers don’t wish their jobs to provide their primary source of meaning in life.
Most of of the people in this demographic were born into a world with financial fluctuations and conflict, causing them to crave stability, Josh Miller, 18, former director of Gen Z studies for management consulting firm XYZ University and current student at Northwestern University, said during the podcast. Because of that need for stability, Gen Zers respect those who make smart personal financial decisions, such as going into the trades, Miller said.
That creates an important distinction between millennials and Gen Zers. Millennials prioritize their work as their main source of fulfillment, so they are less likely to compromise. Meanwhile, Gen Zers are willing to find lucrative work and recognize the trades are a viable route for that. However, work-life balance is more important to Gen Z, Miller said.
Anna Bennett, a student at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and an AGC student chapter leader, echoed that desire as she begins her career.
“I want something stable,” Bennett said, adding she doesn’t want to be asked to relocate every two years at the outset of her career. Her contemporaries are looking for forward-thinking companies where they can envision themselves for many years, while still having time for family.
The idea that going into the trades means someone is a failure, according to Bennett and Miller, usually comes from parents. Contractors showing how an individual can succeed without becoming a doctor or lawyer may be key to proving how their parents are wrong, they said.
A huge recruitment tool for Gen Z is being able to accurately see themselves working in the near future through comparisons to slightly older counterparts, said Tyler Korte, another AGC student chapter leader at Pittsburg State University in Kansas and field engineer for Crossland Heavy Contractors.
For Korte, having contractors bring workers that are one or two years out of college to recruiting days was vital, as they could relate and share their experiences working in the industry.
In the future, recruiting Gen Zers might be as simple as continuing to adopt new technology and finding ways for construction management to remain remote, as well as planting the seeds of construction as a stable, smart career choice. That’s already started, according to Miller.
“[Gen Z’s] perception of construction is changing in a positive way,” he said.