For nearly 50 years, Great Oaks has been preparing young men and women for careers. And just as careers have changed in the past five decades, each generation of students has differing needs, wants and motivations in the workplace.

Forbes Magazine tells us that Generation Z, the latest entrants into the workforce, have learned from their predecessors. They saw their parents hit by the Great Recession, and so they are likely to want more security in their lives. They may be more competitive and independent than millennials.

Feedback is important. It should be frequent, brief and face-to-face. They want to understand the reasons for the work they do; because of that, author Mark Perna calls them the “Why Generation.”

Research says that Gen Z has an 8-second attention span, down from the 12-second attention span of millennials.

They assume that technology is a part of all aspects of daily life, and embrace it in the workplace.

Why is this important to know? For employers, this helps in recruiting, managing and motivating the generation now coming of age. For us at Great Oaks, understanding our students affects what we teach, how we teach it and what additional skills our students might need to be successful in their careers.

For instance, automotive technology students must be able to use and repair the dozens of computers in each 21st-century automobile. We must equip career labs with the technology that they’ll see in the workplace. And we need to be sure our students have workplace skills that employers require.

Administrators and instructors at our Laurel Oaks campus understand that students will be working with a variety of co-workers and employers. The Laurel Oaks staff developed a system of measuring, promoting and teaching so-called “soft skills” and providing each student with a quarterly Professional Skills Report. This quarterly report motivates students to think about the skills and habits that aren’t always on the job description—attendance, behavior incidents, timeliness, ability to work with others and more.

Of course, we must also be able to understand and meet local employers’ needs. One way we do so is through Business and Industry Advisory Committees. Every career program at every Great Oaks Career Campus has such a committee, made up of six to eight employers, and they provide a valuable connection between education and the workplace. At least three times a year, the 1,400 business leaders on these committees meet to review curriculum and equipment, visit the career labs and discuss the future of their career fields.

Our students can be sure that they are learning appropriate skills with up-to-date equipment because of these business partners.

The business connection has other important benefits. Students can meet and talk with experienced professionals in their future field. They can network, and they can often begin internships or job placements that grow into permanent employment after graduation. And the relationship is mutually beneficial; annual surveys of employers show that 95% would hire Great Oaks graduates again.

To remain relevant for the next 50 years, we must understand both our students and area employers. That’s our role in the success of the regional economy.

For more than two decades Harry Snyder, president and CEO (superintendent) of Great Oaks Career Campuses, has been committed to ensuring that youth and adults are prepared with the competitive skills necessary for economic growth. In 2014, the Great Oaks Board of Directors named Harry its fifth president and CEO. He is responsible for four campuses and career training for over 19,000 youth and 18,000 adults from 36 school districts.




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