How will you inspire Gen Z to greatness? Every generation becomes a bit more technologically advanced and has their own set of characteristics as a whole. Of course, each person within a generation is an individual with unique experiences, so cultivating the next generation of IT leaders requires understanding the culture of the day as well as getting to know individual students and what their needs are.
Until the millennials, the baby boomers were the largest generation. As boomers reach retirement age and leave behind their full-time jobs, they’re also leaving openings in every industry that must be filled by skilled workers. Between 2010 and 2030, an estimated 10,000 baby boomers will reach the age of 65 and retire. Educators must prepare students now to fill job openings from retiring baby boomers as well as new job opportunities due to technological advances and an increasingly global workforce.
By the year 2026, information technology jobs should grow about 13 percent, which will add around 557,100 new jobs. IT is one of the fastest growing segments in the global economy. If you want to prepare students who show ability in this area, here are seven ways to encourage them to become the IT leaders of the future.
1. Encourage Computer Skills
Many school districts don’t introduce computer classes until middle school or even later. One way to enhance the IT skills of students is to introduce computers much earlier on — and not just in passing. While some school districts now have students turn in their homework on small digital notepads, this is a far cry from allowing students to learn how a computer works. The earlier a student starts, the better their tech skills will be.
Offer extracurricular activities for students who show a propensity for computers. Teach basic coding skills and begin lessons in networking and cloud-based storage. These are all skills IT workers will need in the future. Even if students go into another line of work, they’ll need basic coding skills and an understanding of the technology that surrounds them.
2. Let Kids Play
Thirty years ago, preschool-aged children spent about 40 percent of their time in undirected play. Today, undirected play time is 25 percent or less. Studies have shown that allowing children to play helps them grow into happier, better-adjusted adults. If you want future leaders to be one thing, it is well-adjusted and mentally healthy.
A few decades ago, schools offered art, music, gym and recess time. Today, these have all but disappeared from the school day. Creative pursuits allow students to gain problem-solving skills and practice creativity.
3. Join the Computer Science Revolution
Elementary schools realize the importance of computer skills and a computer science revolution is taking place. Recognizing the importance and knowing how to implement programs that help students with needed future skills are two different things, though. Many free resources exist that allow educators to introduce coding into classrooms, such as LightBot, Code.org and Compute It. Once students attain a certain skill level, those who are interested should move on to more advanced coding tasks.
4. Promote Teamwork
A good leader understands that nothing gets done without the help of a team. They know how to delegate work and how to give credit where credit is due. If you want to develop strong leaders for any industry, first focus on teaching your students teamwork. You will likely hear moans and groans when you assign a group project, but the skills students learn through such an assignment will help when they work with teams later in life.
No matter what age, students can learn about teamwork. For very young children, this might be as simple as working together to build a Lego house or obstacle course. For older children, it might involve more intensive projects or even coding projects.
5. Encourage Mentorships
As the older generation retires and moves on, a lot of knowledge gets lost that can only be learned from hands-on experience. Encourage your students to find something they’re passionate about and seek a mentor to teach them more about that topic. While computers might not be everyone’s passion, at least a few will gravitate to computers or robotics.
One out of every four students drops out before they finish their senior year of high school. What if those statistics could change? One out of every three lacks a mentor or adult role model to help them see a vision for their future. However, 76 percent of youth who had a mentor went on to enroll in college. Start a mentor match program or encourage students to find a mentor of their own, such as a leader of a local youth center or the pastor of their church.
6. Teach Communication Skills
Gen Z is the first generation that has been raised with technology from the minute they were born. They know their way around Instagram and understand all the ins and outs of smartphones. However, too much time with technology can stunt the development of their communication skills.
Focus on speech classes and teaching interpersonal communication throughout middle school and high school to counteract the nose-down, looking-at-screen tendencies of the younger generation of workers. As leaders, they’ll need to be able to communicate with both those under them and upper management effectively.
7. Allow Self-Directed Learning
One of the great things about the younger generation is that they are excellent researchers. They know where to find information and how to figure out which sources are reliable. Around 33 percent view lessons online, and another 20 percent read textbooks on tablets. Give them time to study the things that interest them most on their own, and they’ll learn quickly.
IT’s Future Leaders
With employment in the IT industry expected to rise, preparing students for leadership roles in IT is a smart use of time. Coding is a skill that never goes to waste as it’s useful in a variety of industries.