Below you will find elements of the media kit for Mark C. Perna’s award-winning bestseller Answering Why: Unleashing Passion, Purpose, and Performance in Younger Generations.
MEDIA KIT: Excerpts
The Branch is Creaking
“Whether you recognize it or not, the branch is creaking in America when it comes to engaging the younger generations and preparing them to successfully enter the workforce. There are some six million open jobs in our country right now — and no one qualified to fill them. We’re facing a crisis in both the education system and the arena of workforce development, and it’s critical that we focus, plan, and take action before the branch truly breaks. There is a huge generational shift happening in the United States. The Baby Boomers, the largest generation ever born in the United States, are retiring, leaving vast numbers of unfilled jobs in many critical economic sectors. As the economy grows into the future, the need for those jobs will only increase — a great opportunity for pretty much anyone currently under the age of 40, right? Yet the truth is that due to false perceptions, outdated stigmas, and what I like to call the Awareness Gap, many of today’s young people aren’t interested in those open jobs.”
A National Epidemic
“We face a national epidemic of rising college costs, decreasing degree-requiring jobs, and employer frustration with the younger generations in the workplace. Yet we continue to rely on an outdated educational and workforce training system that was developed 50 years ago. Declining educational funding is another huge challenge for schools — another branch creak — as they are being forced to do more with less each year. The critical topic of career development has been drastically cut or even eliminated in many cases. And yet we’re puzzled about why our young people are underemployed.”
Preparing Students For Careers
“I believe we have missed the point. Shouldn’t the ultimate goal be to prepare all students to be career ready? We have put our focus in the wrong place. Instead, preparing all students to be career ready should mean that students choosing a career requiring a four-year university degree should attend a four-year baccalaureate program. Students interested in a career requiring a two-year associate degree should take that path. Students wanting to pursue a career in any other area should work toward the certifications, licensures, and apprenticeships needed to succeed in their chosen field. Lots of training options are available, so let students choose the direction and follow the pathway needed to achieve their “want-to” goals in life. It seems like common sense, doesn’t it?”
Rediscovering Forgotten Career Paths
“Throughout my work with comprehensive and unified school districts, career schools, and technical and community colleges, I have seen an abundance of career fields that are totally dismissed by students today because they simply do not understand the high-income potential of those fields. It’s the Awareness Gap in action. A job such as precision machinist is the very high-skilled and high-wage type of job that my lunch mates and I were discussing manufacturers around the country are in desperate need of precision machinists, but attracting the younger generations to the work is remarkably difficult. Several reasons probably account for the lack of interest: the work looks hard and dirty; insufficient career development in middle and high schools creates a lack of understanding about these opportunities; such programs are incorrectly perceived as boring and unfulfilling; and there is a stigma that only lower-performing students choose these kinds of career fields. Yet these fields deliver immediate employment, high wages, advancement opportunities, and job security because there are simply not enough skilled workers out there. They also deliver an advantageous pathway to college and many other additional opportunities. We have a real opportunity to rediscover these forgotten career paths and make them cool again.”
Era of Unprecedented Technology
“The Why Generation has grown up in a time of unprecedented technological advances that have changed every aspect of life and communication. Amid these challenges (and opportunities) that are unique in the history of the world, these young people are tenacious and talented. They have immense resources and abilities to change the world for the better, and not only that, but they want to. They value collaboration and community. When they find a cause they believe in, they give it everything they’ve got. Yes, they’re different from older, but that’s not necessarily bad. In fact, many times those differences are strengths, not weaknesses.”
21st Century Recruitment & Training Strategies
“Many times it seems that companies would prefer to continue doing things the way they have always done them, or make only token steps toward a more vision-centric company ethic. It’s as if the older and younger generations are on different ends of a spectrum and employers feel they have to move toward the younger generations — but they would prefer that the younger people would instead move in the direction of the employer. We have to let go of that expectation and work toward mutual success, viewing younger employees not as problems to be managed but assets to be developed and valued. We don’t appease or kiss up to them; we partner with them in a meaningful mission that brings purpose and value beyond just the paycheck.”
Changing Our Mindset
“Quite simply, a successful 21st-century recruitment and retention strategy is not about kowtowing to the younger employees’ desires. It’s about harnessing their need for purpose, lighting up their pathway, and offering them something powerful to believe in. It’s not about giving them stuff; it’s entirely about inspiring them. But we have an opportunity before us to change our mindset and help unleash the passion, purpose, and performance of today’s young people. Employers are looking for the right employees, in the right positions, for the right reasons, and they struggle to unearth the empowered, skilled, passionate team members who will take ownership and responsibility for a job well done, for the good of the organization as well as themselves. Those candidates are out there, but in far too few numbers. The good news is we can help bolster the ranks of qualified people — if we can coach parents to open their minds to all the different pathways available to their children. Parents are often the most effective voice to bridge the Awareness Gap for their children. But they can’t address that gap for their children if it hasn’t been already been bridged for them.”
Closing the Awareness Gap
“Our goal should be to close the Awareness Gap by conveying the broad range of careers and occupations available to young people today. Whatever strategy we use, it has to tell a compelling success story that the student can see himself in. It has to help change the education paradigm in this country so that we move students toward true career readiness rather than exclusively toward college readiness. It has to demonstrate the expanded options and opportunities that come by exploring career direction in high school rather than waiting until college. It has to capture the imagination of our young people and provide ongoing motivation to keep pushing toward the goals they set based on their own unique interests, talents, and abilities.”
Building a Competitive Advantage
“The intersection of academic knowledge and technical skills is the single most important competitive advantage in today’s new economy. And yet, there remains a substantial Awareness Gap, not just among the Why Generation but also among educators and parents. They miss the point that by combining a robust high school education with in-demand technical training, today’s students can gain an edge in our increasingly global labor marketplace. But this isn’t just high school we’re talking about: the same advantages apply to those young people in middle school all the way up to adult learners. Everyone can benefit from the combination of enhanced academic and technical skills. This isn’t a surprise to those who work in the field of career and technical education, but it is news to many in our communities and country. And it’s news we need to make known.”
MEDIA KIT: The Why Generation in the Workplace
How do you recruit, train, retain, and work with the Why Generation—the Millennials and Generation Z?
In a bestselling, award-winning book, Answering Why: Unleashing Passion, Purpose, and Performance in Younger Generations, by education strategist and business consultant Mark C. Perna, readers learn how to understand, nurture, and work with the youngest members of the workforce.
So what does the Why Generation want, according to the author? Higher pay, flexible work schedules, promotion within one year, and more vacation or personal time all make the list, but their single biggest desire is for purpose. “Young people today want to be part of something bigger than themselves, something they can believe in,” Perna says.
In addition, there is a generation gap that needs to be understood and bridged. “Many young people don’t want the same kinds of jobs their parents, or grandparents had,” he writes. “They aren’t as motivated by the safety and security of a good job. They want a job that has a purpose — that means something. They want a job that rewards them with experiences rather than just money, even as their college loan balances balloon.”
He’s observed — and found from his research — that the younger generations prefer group interactions to one-on-one interactions, so they work well in team-oriented situations. They are also good multi-taskers. Further, Perna notes: “Their uniqueness is undeniable and can be seen everywhere. They have customized and personalized their entire lives, as shown in the way they use technology and communicate via social media.”
So what do employers need to know about the Why Generation that will help them hire and retain the best workers?
- A supportive education and work environment. The Why Generation needs active and firm support from both superiors and peers.
- Formal structure is important since many members of the youngest generations have lived structured and orchestrated lives.
- They will rely on interactive relationships. The Why Generation thrives on the steady use of technology to remain remarkably connected and informed.
- Many younger workers get excited over the potential to engage in vigorous involvement for causes they believe in. They are socially conscious and environmentally responsible.
- Respect today works the opposite of how it used to. Today’s youth require that you respect them first; then and only then will they mirror back that respect.
- Young people often have very high expectations of everything in their lives except, seemingly, themselves. Yes, they want to perform at a high level but they need to buy into a shared vision and see themselves through the lens of high expectations to make that happen.
“Once we understand what moves the Why Generation to act — and we properly engage, inform, and train them — we’ll be able to increase productivity from our youngest workers,” says Perna.