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The Importance of Youth Employment

Youth Employment

By 2030, 30% of the global workforce will be comprised of today’s youth, or “Gen Z,” according to data from Review 42. These are people born between 1997 and 2012 and are the first generation to not have experienced the world before the internet and cell phones. They possess high rates of digital literacy and approach the future of work differently than older generations. They think creatively about ways to integrate technology and the workforce. Vision Critical reports that 59% of Gen Z would be willing to learn a new professional skill if it would help them secure a higher-paying job. Gen Z represents the future of work and they are ready to meet its demands.

Employing Young Adults

Providing students and young adults with internships, pre-apprenticeships and paid job opportunities before they even hit college is instrumental in equipping them with the pre-professional development and interpersonal skills they need to succeed in STEM industries. Employers favor resumes that include these experiences, making them highly competitive to land in college. As a workforce, young adults are energetic, inspired, tech-savvy and ready to work should employers give them the opportunities to do so. Employing young adults not only provides them with hands-on work experience, but also instills in them crucial soft skills like leadership, innovation, problem solving, communication and time management. These personal skills are crucial for students who seek successful jobs in corporate environments — jobs that will lead to financial and personal success.

As the labor force faces unprecedented changes due to the pandemic and shifting demographics, the traditional idea of the corporate employee faces similar changes. Gone is the guarantee that every tech employee has an advanced degree in their field or has years of experience under their belts. Recent data from Emsi indicates that employers will have to begin seeking employees that lie beyond the conventional applicant pool. This includes older and younger applicants. More crucial to the success of the workplace and industries at large are workers that possess interpersonal skills that allow them to be good employees. These skills are often more difficult to learn on the job than the technical knowledge required by the position. Employees can more easily learn the intricate technical skills of the job while they work. Far harder is learning to work with others while they’re already in the office.

It’s crucial for employees to learn these soft skills as soon as possible, but they can largely only be learned through hands-on experience. The solution then is to create and grow opportunities for young adults to have this hands-on experience. Paid positions, summer and fall internships, mentorships and pre-apprenticeships all provide opportunities for future employees to learn soft skills and applicable experience and develop senses of self-worth and pride in their accomplishments. As employers look to improve their communities, hiring Gen Z employees opens access to a largely-untapped labor pool of energetic, intelligent employees.

Hiring younger, unconventional employees may read as a risk to employers. However, the benefits of doing so are likely to outweigh any cost. As the labor market continues to shift, impacted by COVID-19, automation and demographic changes, employers’ expectations will have to shift accordingly. Those that choose to not hire beyond the traditional pool of applicants will find themselves forced to do so, as more employers compete for a dwindling number of traditional employees. Turning towards younger applicants may be daunting due to the lack of technical skills, but these applicants are tech-savvy, quick learners and in possession of the soft skills that make them good employees, coworkers and leaders. Hiring Gen Z benefits both parties. Employers access a large pool of capable workers and young workers receive opportunities to grow as both people and employees.

Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internship, a job, develop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.

Nancy Mwirotsi and Rosalind Carey

Nancy Mwirotsi is founder and executive director of Pi515. Rosalind Carey is communications coordinator for Pi515.