Recruiting for the future: Generation Z

Jon Lawson

Mark Proctor discusses the challenges industry faces when attempting to recruit this new generational archetype

We’ve heard a lot about millennials: they are often portrayed as narcissistic and entitled, yet social media savvy, or at least that’s how the cliché goes. While many generalisations about this age group are meant in jest, the so-called Facebook generation does not have a great reputation amongst employers. Obsessed with millennials, many have failed to notice an entirely new generation joining the workforce: Generation Z. Here, Mark Proctor, managing director of EU Automation, discusses the challenges industry faces when attempting to recruit this new generational archetype.

Unlike their millennial predecessors, Generation Z is yet to tarnish its reputation. Born between 1994 and 2004, Generation Z is the most digitally connected generation to join the workforce yet. Whereas their older siblings were wowed by the introduction of the smartphone and the rise of Facebook, this new generation is more likely to consider social media old-fashioned.

Generation Z has engaged with technology — not exclusively social media — from a very young age. In the past decade, smart devices have transformed our homes and classrooms. Furthermore, computer science, with a focus on coding, has gained a place on the national curriculum.

Generation Z isn't just accustomed to technology; it has never experienced a world without it. The question is, what will this influx of technically astute candidates mean for industry?

Generation Z’s coming-of-age opens the doors to an incredible talent pool for employers operating in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries. Making the most of their technological skills, Generation Z engineers are likely to develop knowledge beyond traditional, hands-on engineering.

The next generation will be capable of engaging with highly complex software, cloud-based applications and smart equipment, without feeling out of their depth. For STEM organisations, the impending arrival of these candidates may sound like a dream come true, but recruiting them looks to be no easy feat.

Despite growing competition on the jobs market, younger generations are increasingly particular when choosing their workplace, prioritising company culture and employee benefits over impressive starting salaries or sophisticated job titles.

In contrast to the long-term career habits of older generations, Generation Z is said to believe three years is an appropriate amount of time to spend at their first job — a worrying statistic for companies hoping to nurture and cultivate fresh talent. To counteract these concerning figures, businesses in the engineering sector must understand the distinct requirements of Generation Z candidates.

Generation Z will form the next legion of civil, mechanical and electrical engineers, building smart infrastructures, manufacturing life-changing creations and embarking on new developments in the realms of robotics and artificial intelligence. They may already be accustomed to technology, but collaboration with a forward-thinking employer could truly unlock their potential.

Mark Proctor is managing director of EU Automation.