Most of us have fibbed once or twice about being proficient in Excel or Powerpoint to get a job, only to later learn the skill on the clock and get a couple grey hairs while at it. But Gen Z feels it doesn't need to be that way, if only they were better trained for the skills employers want.
While much ado has been made about Gen Z needing to sharpen their soft skills in the wake of the pandemic, if you ask them, that’s not really where the issue lies. They’re more focused on catching up on increasingly important technical abilities. Nearly half (48%) said they want more hard skills training at work, compared to the 33% who said they want more soft skills training, finds Adobe's newly-released survey of more than 1,000 Gen Zers.
The pandemic has hampered everyone's social skills, but it's especially apparent in the office as we renegotiate how and where to work. Managers are particularly worried about the newest kids on the block, fearful that attending school during lockdown and graduating into a remote world curbed developing their soft skills in things like communicating and networking. Some Big Four consulting firms are offering etiquette classes to help bridge the deficit, which include lessons such as “non-verbal communication, storytelling, and presentation skills, as well as leadership skills tailored for hybrid working,” EY, one of the consulting firms, told Fortune.
But the skills employers think their most junior employees need versus the ones they actually need aren’t aligning. Just over a quarter (28%) of Gen Zers told Adobe that their current role isn’t addressing their entire skill set and full potential. It’s not surprising, considering that the generation feels that America has failed to prepare them for the workforce. More than a third feel their education didn’t give them the digital skills they need to ascend the corporate ladder, per a Dell Technologies’ international survey. And a little over half (56%) admitted to having basic to no digital skills education.
Gen Z might have grown up with a phone in hand and a computer in the house, but that doesn’t mean they were trained to use these devices in a way that their bosses are now expecting. Part of this is due to underfunding in education systems. “There’s a glaring gap in accessibility and application of tech education resources between lower-income and affluent students—a gap that was widened by the pandemic,” Rose Stuckey Kirk, chief corporate social responsibility officer, wrote for Fortune. “And we know this gap is more than an academic or social justice issue.”
Between the pandemic disrupting soft social skills and the hard skills shortcomings in the education system, it seems that employers need to up skills training overall—especially since they’re increasingly focusing on skills-based hiring. From LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky to Condoleezza Rice, many people have increasingly praised the benefits of looking at a candidate’s abilities over their education, touted as a more equitable way of getting greater talent.
Many Gen Zers, who are shaping up to be the most educated cohort, have been told that college is the secret to success. And it is, in some experts' eyes. But it’s become less appealing (and accessible) to some Gen Zers thanks to the extreme price tag attached to it; especially if they feel they haven’t learned the hard skills that employers are now seeking.
With a pandemic that challenged soft skill development, an underinvested school system that failed to properly educate children on technical skills, and an overpriced college pipeline that doesn’t always lead to a career, Gen Z seems stuck between a rock and a hard place. Perhaps training them on their hard skills will help them dig their way out of their predicament.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com