While headlines about automation sound alarms about the risk of mass unemployment, recent research suggests that the youngest segment of the workforce is far less fearful about the robot takeover than their older colleagues. According to a new survey from Bright Horizons, 90 percent of working adults acknowledge that automation will change their job as they know it — but a whopping 62 percent of Gen Z workers reported having no concern about automation affecting their job function or industry.
But then again, why would the first generation to grow up with smart phones worry about their ability to keep pace with technological change?
As it turns out, the key to Gen Z’s confidence may be less about inborn tech-savvy and more so a willingness to learn new skills on the job. The Bright Horizons “2019 Working Learner Index” shows that today’s youngest workers are less concerned about their ability to deal with the impact of automation if they are enrolled in their employer’s educational program. And members of Gen Z are more likely to take advantage of their employer’s education and upskilling offerings.
Here are three reasons why Gen Z-ers who are “learning and earning” at work may be uniquely positioned to thrive in our changing future.
They Understand the Importance of Upskilling
As the market continues to tighten, employers are increasingly worried about finding skilled workers, and the skills many of their employees do have are likely to be outdated within a few years. It’s why, according to Pew Research Center, more than half of all working adults now believe they must receive continuous training throughout their careers.
Generation Z greatly values upskilling, education and training programs that can help them remain relevant. Gen Z participants in the Working Learner Index listed education benefits as the most desirable work benefit behind healthcare, even outpacing paid sick and vacation days and retirement savings programs. Nearly 90 percent say education benefits make it more likely that they will recommend their employer to a friend.
Generation Z’s intuitive understanding of the importance of lifelong learning will serve them well in a world of work where upskilling is quickly becoming an imperative.
They Expect Learning to Be Online
For workers looking to earn and learn at the same time, online learning can provide them with the flexibility and accessibility they need to balance school, life and their careers. Four out of five working learners surveyed by Bright Horizons now take some courses online, and half of working learners are enrolled in programs that are entirely online.
Generation Z is not only prepared for this style of learning — they expect it and thrive with it. Nearly half of Gen Z had a mobile service plan by the time they were 12, and 40 percent of them say they value working WiFi more than working bathrooms. According to a report from Pearson, YouTube ranks second only to teachers as a learning tool for Gen Z — outranking lectures, in-person learning activities with their peers and books. They are true digital natives, living full digital lives, including how they learn.
They’re Embracing Faster Learning Pathways
Of course, even with advances in online learning, balancing work, life and school remains a challenge. More than half of respondents in the Working Learner Index said that time commitment is their biggest challenge when pursuing a degree or certification using their employer’s tuition/education program.
From coding bootcamps to microcredentials to accelerated degree programs, Generation Z is discovering ways to obtain the skills and credentials they need at a record pace. More than half of working learners in the Index who earned their bachelor’s degree did so in less than four years, including 14 percent who did so in less than two years. Gen Z learners are finding faster pathways to graduation by unlocking the value of prior credits, obtaining credits from on-the-job training and exploring new ways of translating their experiences into academic credit.
By next year, one-fifth of the workforce will be members of Generation Z. They understand — perhaps more than any other generation — just how much the world of work is changing as automation and other technological changes take hold. That they remain largely unfazed speaks to their willingness to prepare for and embrace that uncertain future.