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Will Generation Z prompt industry to re-write the rulebook?

Will Generation Z prompt industry to re-write the rulebook?

07 October 2016

What does Generation Z expect of us as employers? That was the question posed to business leaders as they met in Nottingham last week for the latest Industry Skills Forum.  The event was held in light of recently published figures projecting that Generation Z professionals (those born between 1996 and 2010) will make up 20% of the UK’s workforce by 2020.

Addressing the UK skills shortage

The Industry Skills Forum was created by Develop Training Ltd (DTL) earlier in 2016 to give stakeholders from a diverse range of training and industry sectors a platform to address the UK skills shortage. Recently the events have involved accreditation bodies, such as City & Guilds, sector skills councils, including Energy & Utilities Skills, the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University.

High on the agenda last week was the desire to understand how Generation Z learns. This cohort of motivated individuals who have never known a life without the Internet are reported to have an attention span of only eight seconds having been raised on a diet of instant media! Positively this has resulted in them being able to quickly and effectively digest enormous amounts of information.

Blended approach to learning can pay dividends

Asked about how best to approach training Generation Z, Tracey Greener – Training Contracts Manager for Northumbrian Water Group – suggested that a less linear approach to learning might be beneficial, noting that “apprentices don’t want to wait until they’ve completed a full curriculum’s worth of training before applying that learning in the field.”

This was supported by Brian Jobe, who discussed the benefits of a blended learning approach incorporating classroom learning and in-the-field training alongside a buddy or mentor, reporting that he’d seen some success with this model in his role as Head of Field Operations for Siemens Metering Services.

Pamela Goee, Head of Community for SGN, said that lesson timings themselves could be reviewed, and that shorter, faster paced 50 minute sessions could help to embed learning. She went on to say some individuals may be very talented and know their subject comprehensively, but may not be comfortable in an exam situation, and that industry could look for alternative ways to prove an individual’s competency.

Instructors need support too

Emily Bonsall – Director at Mentor Training – stated that attention should not be placed solely on Generation Z, highlighting the level of support training companies need to provide to their lecturing staff to ensuring they’re equipped to provide the best quality learning to the new age group joining UK industry.

The ability to provide multilingual training should not be overlooked either. Dennis Palmer – Head of GB Smart Meter Programme Liaison for Smart Energy GB – reported that more than a million people in the UK do not have English as their first language in their own home and that industry – along with their training providers – should ensure their offerings are inclusive of non-English speakers.

The value of soft skills

While teaching learners new skills relating to processes is key in achieving industry and regulatory compliance, the Industry Skills Forum agreed that just as important is the training of soft skills, particularly for those working in the construction, utilities, energy or facilities management sectors.

Brian Jobe asserted that soft skills training can reduce operational risk to a company, while Dennis Palmer suggested that this needs to be combined with experiential training to truly embed key learning.

“Until you’ve met me on my doorstep and you’re late, and while it’s not your fault, as far as I’m concerned it is, no classroom-based training will fully prepare you for dealing with that situation,” said Mr Palmer.

Concluding the event, Chris Wood – CEO at Develop Training – said: “It’s clear that industrial training in the UK still relies largely on the tried and tested methods established in the mid-20th century. Technology and its social effects are making these ways irrelevant. There is still no substitute for the provision of good teachers and dedicated learners. However serious consideration now needs to be taken as to how skills of employees of the future can be developed effectively in the digital age.”


The Industry Skills Forum event was attended by:

  • Pamela Goee – Head of Community (SGN)
  • David Wilson – Team Leader (SGN)
  • Paul Dickinson – People Director (Fulcrum)
  • Tracey Greener – Training Contracts Manager (Northumbrian Water Group)
  • Brian Jobe – Head of Field Operations (Siemens Metering Services)
  • Glen Tymon – Group Training Manager (Morrison Utility Services)
  • Dennis Palmer – Head of GB Smart Meter Programme Liaison (Smart Energy GB)
  • Emily Bonsall – Director (Mentor Training)
  • Hugh Kerr – Schoolteacher

and facilitated by DTL management:

  • Chris Wood – Chief Executive Officer 
  • Simon Kelsall – Finance Director 
  • Steve Braund – Marketing Manager 
  • Darren Robson – Delivery Manager – Apprenticeships