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How You Can Help Gen Z Succeed in the Education Industry

Amidst the global pandemic, the education and teaching sector has faced immense challenges: teachers are resigning at crippling rates, while other professionals in the space have been enticed by higher-paying opportunities in different industries amidst the Great Resignation trend. According to a National Education Association survey, 55% of educators around the country expressed their intention to leave the profession or retire early. With increased workloads, virtual teaching demands, and limited support, those who continue to stay in the classroom express feelings of exhaustion and disillusionment, as their once-dream job no longer holds the same allure it once did.

The state of early-career talent in education

Gen Z is on pace to be the most educated generation, with higher high school graduation rates and lower dropout rates than any other generation. However, Gen Z’s practical mindset, demand for job security, and need for financial stability causes them to exhibit a distrust towards the education sector: a Morning Consult survey found that Gen Z was the least likely generation to trust educational institutions. 

Additionally, a Microsoft Education survey found that more than half of Gen Z teachers chose to work in education because they enjoy working with children, and 46% said they want to make an impact on future generations. On the other hand, the group identified salary, stress, and burnout as factors that deter young people from going into the sector. 

Generation Z continues to make waves in the workforce, and the education industry is no exception. From disrupting how learning happens to pursuing non-traditional educational pathways to adding diversity & representation to the classroom, the education sector must start thinking differently when engaging, hiring, and retaining this new generation. 

Why Gen Z makes great teachers

It’s estimated that globally, nearly 70 million new teachers will be needed by the year 2030 to meet education goals. For Generation Z, a group that cares so much about representation, cultural understanding, and creating stability, it’s easy to see why they’d be drawn to the teaching profession. 

As the first digital natives to enter the field, Gen Z teachers bring a unique perspective to the classroom. Their innate familiarity and immersion in technology have a significant influence on their teaching preferences and methods, as they harness these tools to create dynamic, engaging, and inclusive learning experiences. Leveraging iPads, Chromebooks, gamification, and apps such as Seesaw or ClassDojo allows teachers to easily customize lessons, assess student progress instantly, cater to individual needs, and enhance social and emotional well-being among students. Whether we like it or not, Gen Z is revolutionizing the classroom (bye, blackboards!), ushering in a new era of teaching and learning.

Gen Z teachers also possess a distinct comprehension of mental health. As a generation, they exhibit a greater willingness to openly discuss mental health issues and without the negative stigma often associated with it. This non-judgmental attitude becomes a valuable asset in the classroom setting: Gen Z educators can offer a deeper level of empathy and support to their students. Their ability to connect with students on this level fosters a learning environment of understanding, compassion, and psychological safety. 

Yet, it’s also no secret that burnout in the teaching industry is a very real, very widespread phenomenon. A recent national teacher survey found that nearly three-quarters of educators are worried about teacher burnout during the 2022-2023 school year. 

Alleviating burnout can look like:

  • Reducing paperwork. Whether it’s regarding disciplinary issues, covering for coworkers, lesson planning, or documenting curriculum needs,  teachers are often overwhelmed with paperwork. Reducing paperwork or automating ways for teachers to complete additional tasks can help with burnout.  
  • Providing better support. Addressing student behavioral issues is essential in mitigating staff burnout. The disruptions caused by the pandemic have resulted in increased behavioral problems among students and, alongside teacher fatigue, have created more complex learning environments. While resources can help teachers in handling these challenges, on-site support from counselors and social workers can aid both students while reducing the burden on teachers. 
  • Investing in their knowledge & continued education. Research shows that teachers are most engaged when they have a clear understanding of the purpose behind their tasks and feel equipped with the necessary skills to succeed. When schools prioritize providing the training and continuing education teachers need, it empowers them, enhances their engagement, and increases the likelihood of their commitment to the profession. 

As Generation Z occupies classrooms not just as students, but as teachers, it’s critical to comprehend and acknowledge their distinct traits, characteristics, and tendencies in order to provide the right support. Supporting Gen Z teachers extends well beyond the hiring process, as they acclimate to life in the classroom, it’s necessary to challenge the status quo to foster a healthy, secure, and engaging environment for them.  

“The younger generation of teachers are digital, global, social, mobile, and visual. They prioritize social-emotional learning, they prioritize global issues. This is a very values-oriented generation - they seek to work with purpose and passion, and without that, they’ll leave.” - Mark Sparvell, Director of Marketing Education, Microsoft

Gen Z in Higher Education

It’s not just the K-12 sector of the education industry that’s facing challenges: the higher education environment has a talent problem, too. On paper, the higher ed sector has many features Generation Z desires: job stability, meaningful work, and lower pay gaps, to name a few. 

Yet, many positions in the higher education sector lack mobility, causing employees to seek opportunities elsewhere for career advancement or salary increases. For Generation Z, career mobility is a must - not just a nice to have. And, with higher ed’s penchant for red tape and intensive, bureaucratic processes, it’s worth considering just how much this impacts Gen Z. In fact, nearly 75% of Gen Z cite a lack of career mobility and skills development options as the motive for their plans to resign within the coming year. This group needs a clear path for advancement laid out - waiting until their boss retires or gets promoted so they can move up just doesn’t cut it. 

The pandemic also compelled many higher education institutions to transition to remote work and, despite initial reservations, both faculty and administrative staff have grown to appreciate and expect the benefits. A recent EY survey found that nearly 40% of higher ed employees would consider leaving their job if they weren’t provided with flexibility in terms of working hours and location post-pandemic. While universities are starting to respond to these expectations, the question remains whether they are offering enough flexibility and adapting quickly enough to meet growing demands. 

The higher education sector must take a page out of its own book: it’s crucial that they create an employee experience that aligns with the time, effort, and energy invested in enhancing their student experience. Developing transparent career paths and progression opportunities and remaining steadfast in their commitment to flexible working options are key in recruiting and retaining Gen Z higher ed employees. By prioritizing this, higher education institutions can foster a supportive environment that empowers employees and enables growth.

Key Takeaways

The impact of Generation Z on the K-12 and higher education industries is undeniable. With their unique experiences, perspectives, digital fluency, and emphasis on mental health, Gen Z teachers bring a fresh approach to the classroom. However, the education sector must address challenges such as burnout, or risk Generation Z leaving the profession. Similarly, higher education institutions must adapt to Gen Z’s expectations of flexibility and advancement opportunities. By understanding and embracing the traits of Gen Z, the education industry can nimbly navigate the changing landscape and create a thriving environment that benefits both educators and students alike. 

For more insights like these, or to see how Abode’s platform can help formalize your candidate experience strategies, schedule a demo with us here

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