“Kids these days.” How many times have you heard old-timers say those words? Or have you said them yourself? Whether you’ve uttered them out loud or not, it’s likely that you’ve thought of them as you’ve watched a table of young people in a restaurant staring at their phones without saying a word to one another or saw the latest pop singer’s bleary-eyed mugshot. Before we get too smug, however, it’s probably important to think back to our own youth. There’s no question that our parents had the same feelings about us (Don’t sit so close to the TV! You call that music?).
It’s the history of human beings: each generation disconnects itself from the last. Today, however, the ramifications of that disconnect are more than just sociological – they’re very practical. In all of our publications, DSG has discussed at length the image problem being suffered by the trade and construction industries. If we can’t make these careers attractive to Millennials, we’re going to run out of workers, and that concern is no longer speculation – it’s a statistical fact.
However, the real point of this article isn’t to tell you something you’ve already heard. Instead, the point is to ask “what are you doing about it?” Are you shaking your fist and yelling “Kids these days!” from your porch, or are you getting out and telling young people, “Kids, these days the trade industries have a lot to offer!” Like the old parable says, if the mountain won’t come to you, then you’d better jump in your pickup and go to the mountain.
Instead of complaining about how different today’s youth are, it’s more productive if we can figure out how we can put those differences to work! In a recent article in Advertising Age, author Ashley Rodriguez includes a quote from the president of a career training company extolling the skills that young video game players have developed that make them a natural fit for operating many of today’s cranes and heavy equipment. Here’s another idea: what if, instead of telling Millennials to put their phones away, we used those phones to communicate important work messages to the entire team at the same time, including a link to a video that shows the best way to perform a task?
Instead of working to change young people (the definition of futility), let’s work together to change the perception of the trades (something that may require us to make a few changes to the trades themselves). It won’t be easy, but I know it will be worth it. Drop me a line if you have some ideas of your own.