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CES Blog

Training the Next Generation: How Gen Z Will Help the Skilled Labor Shortage

  • May 11, 2020
  • Written By: Brad McElroy
  • No Comments

Two things: millennials are already established in their careers, and there’s a labor shortage in the skilled trades. The good news is that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most millennials are far along their career paths, with the oldest members of this generation already in their late 30s. This means that Generation Z is up next, making up about 61 million people in the U.S.

As this massive generation prepares to enter the workforce, Gen Z isn’t focused on going to college right away as most millennials before them. Some are open to considering trade schools and other certification programs, making the skilled labor shortage an attractive option for younger people looking for a more stable, future-proof job. Below, we’ll uncover why this generation is more open to the trades and how recent events might push them further into this skilled career path.

How coronavirus might affect their career choice. 

Job security is a very important factor for members of Gen Z to consider. After growing up in the Great Recession and now seeing the effects of huge layoffs during COVID-19, an industry that is deemed essential might be more important to them than ever before.

According to studies conducted by, they are mostly interested in future-proof jobs. Although many of the top jobs they consider are related to technology, 75% said they don’t consider college as the only path to strong education. Many are instead bypassing college completely and choosing to go straight into the workforce through alternative job-training options.

While the construction and manufacturing industries will need qualified workers in the coming years, targeting the younger generation now with the opportunity to work in an innovative, cutting-edge field should help fill the labor shortage gap quickly. The hard part is convincing them that these industries are, in fact, cutting-edge.

In the meantime, establishing the trades as not just a future-proof job, but one that will always be deemed essential in times of national emergencies will become more important as they age into the workforce.

Why contractors may see a boom in labor demand.

As new construction starts and jobsites return to full daily operations, finding the talent to fill vacant positions is going to be as important as ever. No one knows just how long this pandemic will last or if there will be more quarantine orders on the horizon, so fulfilling contracted jobs and making sure projects are reaching completion is going to take precedence. The easiest way might be to capitalize on Gen Z’s willingness to learn by doing.

 Why the next generation is the answer to the labor shortage.

Right now, construction and other trade industries are seeing a reshuffle in their demographics. Older workers are retiring, leaving an employment gap that desperately needs to be filled.

Most millennials are already in their established career paths and are unlikely to switch careers. This is also a wakeup call for the industry as a whole. If they want to start attracting younger people into skilled labor, they need to show how trades can be a pragmatic alternative to a college education with the potential for a valued career path.

The good news is that high schools are once again embracing vocational education, providing more trade and tech classes for students not interested in going to college. Making these classes accessible to students at an age when they’re already deciding what sort of career path they want to follow will help show students that a traditional four-year degree isn’t the only way to earn a high-paying job. Even in the manufacturing sector, technology is being integrated at an astounding rate to help boost productivity. Thanks to the integration of technology, challenging, high-paying jobs are being created in an industry that hasn’t always been seen as one requiring a diverse set of skills.

With the increase in Career and Technical Education courses (CTE), the next generation is seeing that there are more practical ways to enter the workforce without taking on thousands of dollars in loans to complete a degree and earn a well-paying job. And, as technology continues to shape the skilled trades, a generation focused on attaining future-proof jobs should have more opportunities available to them in this industry.

How advanced technology will attract younger workers. 

As true “digital natives,” Gen Z wants their future jobs to embrace technology and innovation. Receiving a real hands-on experience as quickly as possible to gather more useful skills is also a huge plus. This means that with the cutting-edge technology constantly finding its way to make the trades more productive, whether it’s in construction or electrical work, the opportunity to constantly grow and develop their skillset will help them achieve what they find important in a job. Mainly, job security, the ability to work with technology, and the opportunity to always grow and learn more skills.

By embracing technology, the trades won’t just find a more willing, capable, and younger workforce, they’ll also see better productivity, more efficient workflows, and new ideas to change how people work.

How We Can Help

As one of the largest electrical distributors in the U.S., we’re committed to helping anyone integrate technology into their workflow. Whether your goal is to achieve a more productive workday and attract younger talent to your team, or you need the latest technology to complete a contracted job, we’re standing by to support you. With over 500+ locations in the U.S., 30,000 available products, and a distribution network serving the entire nation, CES has the infrastructure in place to supply any job in any market.

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