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Within the next year, 20 percent of the workforce will likely consist of digital natives. Is your organization prepared?
Gen Z workers bring with them technological prowess, but as a generation that has grown up behind screens, they may need training in the essential soft skills of business to fully unlock their potential. Early work-based learning programs might be the key to supercharging the next wave of American productivity.
Regardless of company size, industry, product offering, or location, across the board today’s companies point to soft skills—such as creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving—as both critical and hard to find.
In fact, 57% of senior leaders believe soft skills are more important than hard skills. And with the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, those very skills have become all the more important. Machines can automate tasks, but skills like communication, leadership, and empathy? Those essential soft skills can’t be relegated to technology (for now, at least!).
Take it from a recent Wall Street Journal article:
New jobs, meaning those not killed off by automation, require substantially more social skills than the manufacturing and factory jobs that once powered the economy. Robots still can’t be friendly, make small talk and calm disgruntled customers, which offers opportunity for people.
It’s a mistake to assume that schools are equipping future workers with the essential soft skills we need in industry. While the education system provides students with a solid foundation of core academics, the rate of change we’re now seeing in the workforce is far outpacing our ability to fully prepare students for the future of work.
However, we’re finding that immersing young people in a workplace to interact with adults as peers and producing meaningful work is a shortcut to the professionalism that is in such high demand.
There’s an entire continuum of work-based learning, from job shadowing to internships to apprenticeship that can develop a Gen Z workforce that has the soft skills to go with its technical proficiency.
In addition to cultivating soft skills, work-based learning programs like apprenticeship impact experienced employees, too. Managing younger workers presents leadership opportunities that may not have existed before. That’s important—it can help you identify and retain your rising stars with previously unrecognized management skills. Gallup recently found that the number one reason employees leave companies is due to not having a clear development trajectory.
It’s easy to think about work-based learning as a philanthropic endeavor. In truth, it’s a critical strategy. As technology changes the way we work and Gen Z comprises more of the workforce, the essential soft skills will loom even larger in the minds of employers.