Let’s use this time to connect to NextGen, Gen Z

Recently, we were program facilitators for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) Leadership Conference and welcomed the panel of Gen Z’s. They shared willingly their perspective on industry engagement, moderated by a dynamic Gen Z, Josh Miller from the team of XYZ University. Like many trades, workforce development is a huge issue. So, this panel was much anticipated. And, they delivered. Why? Because they were talking about this illusive generation with an authentic voice – including the moderator.

This session offers two lessons. One is better understanding of how to talk with and therefore engage this next gen. Two is in offering a model for other associations to embrace in their journey to better prepare their industries and professions for a diverse workforce of the future.

What we learned about Gen Z*
  • Gen Z is entrepreneurial: 58% want to start a business and 14% ALREADY HAVE.
  • Gen Zs are interactive learners: 55% say they learn best by doing.
  • Gen Z is seeking financial security: 2 out of 3 would rather have a job that offers stability over a job they enjoy.
  • These facts formed the questions to the panel who generally confirmed them and gave the contractors a few additional hints, such as:
  • Tap into our entrepreneurial nature but engaging us in broader discussions around the business. We are interested in more than just following orders. They willingly indicated they knew that were starting at the beginning, but they are not willing to be relegated to order-following.
  • Give us opportunities in the workplace. Book learning is good, we want to get our hands into the work.
  • Come to talk to us. Tell us about the opportunities. Several noted that they didn’t even know about the career path available because general contracting wasn’t in the career office – didn’t have visibility. Side note, I’ve heard this from at least three other similar panels in different industries.
  • We are digitally-adept. So, knowing how your trade or profession is using technology attracts our attention.


While this panel focused on Gen Z, it has broader implications on how we must continue to consider the relevancy of generational differences. I think about generations from the lens of diversity and inclusion. In part because Millennials and Gen Z are diverse generations. In fact, Gen Z is called the most diverse generation in US history; 47% are ethnic minorities. Sarah Sladek writes:

They have been referred to as the first “pluralist” generation, actively seeking understanding and tolerance among different races and religions. Inclusion is not only important to them, it is expected.

Assembling your panel

I’ll definitely give Josh Miller and XYZ U a thumbs up. So, reach out. However, that may not be available to you, so reach out to your colleges or student chapters or even local high school, many of whom are looking for how to engage students differently right now.  In this time of self-quarantining when chapters are cancelling live events, here’s an event that should draw and it tailored made for a digital generation – have a virtual panel with students. You can also expand this conversation with other cohorts. What made this work more than anything was having a moderator of the same generation who could prime the conversation in a way that helped the the panel find their own voice. Josh did this with his opening remarks and by asking compelling questions including:

  • Why did you want to pursue a career in construction?
  • You are here at the AGC Convention representing your student chapters which each hopefully has a great partnership with the local AGC chapter. Is there an experience you’ve had with an AGC chapter that especially stood out and made you want to get more involved? Yes, please explain. No, can you share with the audience how you and your student chapter peers would like to get engaged with the AGC chapter in your area.
  • Theoretically, let’s say that tomorrow you wake up and have assumed the role of CEO for AGC. What’s the first step you would take to build a talent pipeline with the construction industry?
  • Our generation is starting to recognize there are great  options for a post-secondary education other than traditional four-year degree. Have you noticed a positive shift in the perception of the construction industry among your peer group?
  • [After sharing the statistics on Gen Z] Do these statistics bode well for the future of construction? What advice do you have for the AGC chapter staff and leaders on engaging Gen Z?
  • In your mind, how could AGC and its chapters provide value to students like yourself? What kinds of things would be helpful to you and your peers as you begin to think about starting a career in construction?
  • Are you optimistic about the future of construction? Why or why not?


How can you open our chapters and associations to all generations?

*XYZ University, we have done extensive research and compiled a comprehensive guide to understanding and engaging Generation Z, so download for more facts to know: Gen Z: The first generation of the 21st Century has arrived!