It’s probably no surprise that entire industries are on track for replacement by AI and automation by 2030 – over 800 million jobs globally will cease to be, and that fact is not lost on Gen Z.
The gig workforce is growing 3x faster than the traditional work force, putting a big emphasis on self-employment and demand-based (freelance) work which schools are rarely encouraged to refer to, let alone have the resources to teach survival techniques.
Statistics suggest that 50% of the developed workforce will be gig by 2027, putting expectations of job security, health benefits and paid holiday at huge risk. But it’s not JUST the benefits we will lose, it’s the risk we take on having not been trained for the level of hustle needed to survive, let alone thrive in the new employment ecosystem.
What the curriculum teaches today has not kept up with the changing job landscape and, most importantly, the mindset needed to excel. It’s very easy for parents and teachers to identify academics, athletes, musicians and performers early on in a child’s life, but it’s virtually impossible to identify an innovator or solopreneur, so these young people are left to create and drive forward their ideas in relative isolation.
Modern colleges and universities continue to educate Gen Z roughly the same way; yes, they have better tech but the syllabus has not evolved that much. That’s a BIG problem if young people are growing up having not developed the skills needed to succeed in the gig/creator economy.
So, what is my ask of educators?
Try and teach students 5 things:
1. Teach them that ‘innovative leadership’ is not the future, it’s right now – it’s the new everyday. Go out and innovate in order to thrive in the gig economy.
2. Teach them how to not only take feedback, but beg for it, because it’s the road map to success.
3. Teach them to never fear failure, but be absolutely terrified of regret.
4. Teach them that personal branding will be more important than ever in the gig economy and that personal branding started the day they got a phone and signed up to social media.
5. Teach them that they don’t need to get it right the first time, they just need to keep trying because only those people who are willing to try ever succeed
That’s my short list!
I will leave you with 3 important thoughts.
There has never been a better time to innovate
3 things in particular have made getting started incredibly easy and cheap for Gen Z: The advent of cloud computing, free website building apps like Wix/Square Space and the growth of ‘distributed networks’ like social media.
In fact, the cost of failure is 1/10th what it was just a decade ago. Talk to your students about how to get started, learn from failures, change course and start again. Let’s not forget that Gymshark Founder, Ben Francis, made 4 apps and 6 different websites while in school, all around fitness. The seventh website was Gymshark, now valued well over £1.5billion pounds.
The new economy can be learned for free provided you have connectivity
The democratisation of education lives on a laptop but needs constant encouragement from teachers. Digital learning destinations such as YouTube, Skill Share, MasterClass, Coursera, U-Demy and ‘LinkedIn Learning’ provide users with tutorials on entrepreneurship, advanced software and app design, interview skills, pitch decks and a whole lot more to get started.
The good news is that this movement toward democratised education will broaden and accelerate in the coming years, opening up an even greater variety of opportunities for young people – you just need to tell students where to look.
Students should build out their community early on and swap skills and knowledge
Encourage your students to ask themselves ‘where do non-transactional conversations take place? Non-transactional means that your goal is not defined as getting a job, money or an invite from someone, you just want to build up a 2-way professional relationship. Yes, to some extent this happens on messaging apps and traditional social media but it’s never that in-depth or valuable
Gen Z was the fastest-growing cohort on LinkedIn globally last year, and there are also loads of ‘digital campfires’ on private servers like Discord, Geneva, Reddit and Slack channels dedicated to Gen Z – they are happy to let you in and chat all day – so encourage them to get involved.
As a result of all these changes, Gen Z is adding to their formal education by attending virtual classes, earning online certifications, and connecting globally with others to share knowledge, swap expertise and pool skills to support one another.
The bottom line is, you need to understand the seismic shifts happening in the digital education environment away from school because it’s not marginal and it can make a huge difference in their future. Therefore, if it cannot be offered at school, then students will need your everyday guidance on how to find all these opportunities in the new digital learning paradigm.
Jenk Oz is a 17-year-old social entrepreneur, change activist and Founder of Thred Media. Jenk shares his knowledge and skills with students as part of The Future Leaders Project – register today to view careers resources and lesson plans today.