Want to tap into the toolbelt generation? Gen-Z entrepreneur has a tip or two

Want to tap into the toolbelt generation? Gen-Z entrepreneur has a tip or two

HIGH POINT — Data shows that Gen Z are eschewing traditional four-year college degrees and opting for trade schools and vocational training in large numbers. The “toolbelt generation” as they are being referred to, are likely reacting to a wide variety of economic factors in making their educational and career decisions, including the rising cost of a college degree and the extent to which new technologies such as AI are destabilizing the white-collar workforce.

But attracting this age group into a workplace is not just a matter of opening the doors and hoping that the economic winds blow them in. Finding and fostering Gen-Z talent requires decision makers to approach the task with an open mind and a willingness to understand these differences, a leading Gen-Z entrepreneur tells Furniture Today.

Connor Blakley is the founder and CEO of Youth Logic, a marketing agency whose workforce is entirely comprised of Gen-Z and whose clients have included Levi, PepsiCo,and the NHL. He says that the rise of the toolbelt generation has been in progress for some time; business leaders are only just now starting to notice and adapt.

“I think it’s been happening for almost a decade,” Blakley noted, adding that a general lack of trust in institutions is the driving factor behind this age group ditching the ‘college to white collar career’ path in favor of work that gives them a greater degree of independence.

“When you do a trade, it gives you the flexibility and freedom to be an entrepreneur. You can control your own destiny” in a way Gen-Zers don’t see as a possibility in a white collar corporate job.

Connor Blakley

“How can I allow my workforce to be more entrepreneurial?” is the central question for decision makers to ask in trying to both attract Gen-Z and ensure their productivity in the workforce, according to Blakely. This cohort does not shirk responsibility, but it does desire greater autonomy alongside it, he noted.

Accommodating the desire for flexibility among Gen-Z has potential downstream benefits for a manufacturer employing blue-collar workers. Blakely notes that non-traditional work schedules are preferred among many members of Gen-Z, including project-based arrangements where hours are flexible provided that tasks are completed and business needs are met.

Another area where Gen-Z can potentially offer benefits in the workforce is in adapting to and utilizing the new technologies that are reshaping how we do business at a dizzying pace.

Gen Z are notable for being true digital natives, and Blakley said that ability to withstand and be productive amidst information overload is another important distinguishing characteristic of this group.

“We’ve had access to unlimited information, unlimited technology since we were early in our adolescence and life cycle.” Blakely said that Gen Z spent their formative years surrounded by vastly different technology than even their immediate predecessors, the Millennials.

“As Millennials got older, they adapted to technology, but they didn’t grow up with it,” and Blakley said that Gen-Z workers can offer businesses a perspective on new technologies that is not muddied by old ways of thinking and doing things.

Blakely urges people to keep in mind that Gen-Z saw old assumptions about economic and personal success fly out the window in their formative years. “We watched our parents go through the recession in 2008. We aren’t betting on institutions. We want avenues to bet on ourselves,” he concluded.

See also:

  • Could the Toolbelt Generation usher in a new golden age for furniture? | Cindy W. Hodnett
  • Market seminar, exhibit turns focus on Gen Z’s home furnishings mindset

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