TFS Founder’s Perspective: Who Is Gen Z?

For so long it’s been all about the Millennials — but their younger siblings, born roughly starting in 1996, are the next generational cohort coming up the pike. Generation Z (also known as the Homeland Generation, iGeneration, Post-Millennial Generation, and more) shares many characteristics with Generation Y, but they’re also distinct. This is an exciting time for career and technical education (CTE) and workforce development, because what we deliver intersects exactly with what today’s young people are looking for. Let’s look at some of the traits, opportunities, and messages that will help us reach this next generation.

The Trait: Generation Z worries about the future. They’ve been growing up in a post-9/11 world of uncertainty and many have witnessed the struggles of parents and older siblings following the economic downturn of 2008. As a result, this generation is motivated to achieve economic security.
The Opportunity: It’s imperative to focus on the unique competitive advantage that CTE delivers — getting that credential/college credit while still in high school, gaining experience in their field of interest, saving money and investing purposefully on further education, and more.
The Message: CTE gives you an edge!

The Trait: Generation Z is hardworking. They’re going to work earlier (often encouraged to do so by their parents), looking to gain experience and start creating the economic security they’re seeking.
The Opportunity: We need to proclaim the message that CTE helps students enter the workforce with marketable skills that can be built upon through further education and work experience.
The Message: CTE can help you get a great job sooner!

The Trait: 81% of Gen Z believes a college education is necessary to gain a good career. It is estimated that 1 in 2 Gen Zers will be university educated (compared to 1 in 3 Millennials and 1 in 4 Gen Xers).
The Opportunity: It’s essential to position CTE as both a college and career bound track — because that’s exactly what it is. Contrary to the old stigmas, CTE is not just for students who don’t plan to go to college. Many of today’s leading CTE programs help students make the most of their college experience.
The Message: CTE equips you for college and beyond!

The Trait: Independent and innovative, Generation Z is very attracted to the freedom and responsibility of entrepreneurship.
The Opportunity: The real-world skills that CTE imparts are crucial for many young entrepreneurs across a wide range of fields. Internships, apprenticeships, maker spaces, and other hands-on opportunities give students the chance to experience the field they’re interested in.
The Message: CTE gives you the tools to be your own boss!

The Trait: Generation Z wants to change the world. While Millennials have sometimes been called “slacktivists” for their lack of follow-through on social issues, Gen Z is showing signs of more vigorous involvement and volunteerism for the causes they believe in.
The Opportunity: CTE offers many ways to serve the community. From community building and beautifying projects to food, clothing, and blood drives, your organization’s involvement in the area you serve is a powerful statement. Not to mention that CTE gives students real skills to make a difference for others — giving them something to give back.
The Message: CTE is all about making our community a better place for everyone!

How does your organization’s message play to the strengths and needs of our youngest generation? Are you selling the competitive advantage, the early career skills, the college pathway, the entrepreneurship tools, and the volunteer opportunities inherent to your programs? The priorities that drive the younger generations should drive our marketing efforts — telling the story of CTE’s relevant value and helping Generation Z achieve their peak potential. For this generation, the hands-on experience of CTE is essential to the world they want to build. Let’s help them build it!

About The Author
Mark Perna
Mark C. Perna is a best-selling author and the founder of TFS in Cleveland, Ohio, a full-service strategic consulting firm whose mission is to share and support every client's passion for making a difference.
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