My concerns about the skilled workforce are pragmatic as well as principled. And here’s why. As an industry, we have an incredible obligation to build a road from the classroom to the workplace so the necessary skillfulness is taught to the next generation.

CEOs need to envision and reshape the “Worker of the Future” as a critical role for success moving forward. Business leaders also have a keen responsibility in developing the profession so that they match the skills that are in demand tomorrow. The new generation will only want the keys to the kingdom if we show them what’s possible.

We have been talking about the IoT (Internet of Things) for more than a decade now. The good news is that AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning have burst on the scene to fill the holes that some might say exist and to fix the talent gap that appears in many industries. These tools open the door to really demonstrate a rapid time of disruption and rapidly changing automation.

The truly exciting news in all of this is that AI is altering the way we work because we are connecting every facet of our lives. It is also very conducive in changing the narrative in how we communicate with the next generation in what they can see is possible Even more importantly, AI and machine learning are helping the next generation interpret what they can be contributing in a world where everything is connected.

The timing is so critical because Generation Z is growing in numbers. Pew Research Center reports that Gen Z, as they are known, currently is 70 million strong, comprising of some 32% of the global population. Gen Z will make up about 7.7 billion of the world population in 2019, nudging ahead of millennials in less than a year. Currently, millennials outnumber all generations at this point, but Zillow reports by 2020, Gen Z will surpass millennials by nearly 1 million.

It’s really important to understand how Gen Z thinks and operates. While the throwback generation has learned a lot from their parents, perhaps the biggest lesson is that they act and think more like a baby boomer rather than a millennial.

Here’s why: This segment of the population is showing that they are entrepreneurial and that they like to work independently or face-to-face, if needed. Like millennials, Gen Zs are good at multitasking and more than anything seek knowledge, very uniquely in their own personal way.

This segment of the population is really growing up in what most of us would call an on-demand world or an app-driven society. Gen Zs have mastered multitasking between technologies, in their work and play, whether we are talking tablets, smartphones, YouTube/videos, computer, or whatever devices. They are connected and manage it simultaneously among their other home solutions, car, fitness devices, and other personal gadgets.

They view the connected environment as the norm since they have grown up in a tech-driven, immediate world. This means they have used tablets and computers in school while enjoying videos online alongside other connected devices almost 24/7.

Not surprisingly, they can’t imagine a world without being connected. As a result, they demand immediacy and have a shorter attention span. The good news is that they are also collaborative and they can make decisions very quickly. They seek environments that have core teaching and methodologies that can keep pace with the changes that are occurring with their views. That means upping your game in new workforce training models and stepping it up when it comes to new approaches for skill-building at all levels for our trades.

Just think of how many people snickered at the light bulb or the Internet. But now we have it.

There is no question that the speed of change is putting immense pressure on individuals in the middle to move up or to be replaced. Today, it’s about education. We have the capability to educate and to advance our best and to help them learn a new skill. We need to view our world differently. Rather than continuing to work long, hard hours, all of these mundane tasks will be replaced and performed by machines. The health of individuals will become foremost on the minds for Gen Z.

As leaders you have an obligation to recognize the change, embrace, and leverage these opportunities with your existing workforce. Just like we never truly imagined how our world has exponentially been altered via autonomous technology, we still do not know what’s to come. Drones are flying over construction sites and autonomous trucks are mining our worksites. If we allow ourselves to imagine the future, new possibilities will emerge, and we can innovate beyond what most of us ever have ever dreamed.

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