Trucks at Work
Of Generation Z, creativity, and trucking

Of Generation Z, creativity, and trucking

I’ve often discussed in this space the need for digging into the mindset of the next generation of workers: Millennials and Generation Z alike.

In some respects, Millennials are getting analyzed to death in regards to their trucking potential (go here, here and here for just a few examples) while little attention is being paid to the crop of Gen Z youngsters right on their heels.

That’s why an interesting study produced by research firm Edelman Intelligence on behalf of Adobe entitled Gen Z in the Classroom: Creating the Future may be worth looking into by trucking managers.

Of course, this study – based on an online survey among 1,000 Gen Z students aged 11 to 17 from across the U.S. and 500 teachers of Gen Z students – is based more on schoolroom experience versus workplace experience. But in terms of identifying what “themes” attract the interest of Gen Z kids, it’s pretty useful.

For example, one of those “central themes” is the increasing importance of creativity and technology in shaping future careers, with 85% of those Gen Z students polled and 91% of their teachers viewing “creativity” as essential to their future careers.

On top of that, 93% of students and 73% of teachers view technology as the “key to their career preparedness,” with Gen Z students adding that classes focusing on computers and technology are among their favorites.

Here’s something else for trucking to think about: When asked what they thought their future careers would involve, 83% of Gen Z students and 94% of their feel members of Gen Z will have careers that do not exist today.

Um. So much for driving and maintaining trucks.

“Gen Z students have all grown up in a tech-enabled and information-driven world,” noted Tracy Trowbridge, head of education programs at Adobe, in a statement. “Gen Z and their teachers agree that they learn best through doing and creating, and that the curriculum needs to evolve to let students explore their creative ideas and to prepare them for a rapidly changing world.”

Now, before we give up on the chance to recruit such kids into trucking, consider another finding from this study: While excited about their prospects, Gen Z students – who define themselves as "smart, creative and hard-working" – also expressed nervousness about their future careers, with almost 30% saying they “feel unprepared for the future” while nearly half feel what they learn outside of the classroom is more important to their future careers than what they learn inside.

And though Gen Z students see themselves as more creative than past generations, teachers and students polled by Adobe agreed that “the best method for learning and teaching” is through a doing/creating approach.

This perspective directly correlates with the 60% of educators who look for more opportunities for “hands-on learning” in their classrooms, while another 52% wish to evolve the “teaching curriculum” so as to most likely bring such “hands-on learning” into being.

That could widen the opening for mentoring programs – a tactic many in trucking are trying to deploy in order to recruit and keep younger workers in the industry’s ranks.

It also emphasizes that a necessary shift in how trucking recruits, trains, and keeps workers long-term needs to change as well, exemplified in related stories you can view here and here.

“We need to make sure we’re offering them [younger workers] a career, not a job,” Derek Leathers, president and CEO of TL carrier Werner Enterprises explained to me during the American Trucking Associations (ATA) annual conference last month.

“We also need the opportunity to recruit from the front of the class,” he added, referring to trucking’s efforts to allow 18 year olds to drive commercial trucks across state lines.

“They are old enough to vote, old enough to carry a rifle, but they can’t drive a truck,” Leathers stressed. “We think we can build a program to train them [younger workers] to do so safely; one that will also increase our industry’s ability to attract and retain the best and brightest of them as well.”

And if such efforts tap into the “creativity” apparently desired by Gen Z kids, they may be just the ticket trucking is looking for.

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