As the baton of the workforce is passed from one generation to the next, Generation Z emerges as a powerful force, bringing their unique perspectives and aspirations to the table. Born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, Gen Z is approaching higher education and their future careers with a fresh mindset, seeking practical skills and hands-on experiences that will empower them in an ever-evolving job market.
Gen Z also remains optimistic for a future where their work aligns with their passions, enables positive societal impact and fosters constant learning. Statistics from a Deloitte and Network of Executive Women (NEW) poll show that 77% of Generation Z said they would prefer to work for a company that shared similar values.
While many factors may influence their career decisions, including opportunities elsewhere, a significant question remains: Will Michigan’s Gen Z population continue to call the state home, pursuing their dreams here and contributing to the state’s prosperity?
Three members of Generation Z — Brooke Snow, Samantha Chiang and Kendall Murray — sat down with One Detroit producer and Future of Work host Will Glover to talk about their hopes for the future, the types of jobs they have been exposed to in their K-12 careers, and whether they will stay in Michigan after graduation.
This conversation comes from One Detroit’s Future of Work Town Hall “Gen Z in the Workforce” and continues One Detroit’s cumulative, ongoing conversations involving the future of work and workforce development in Michigan.
Will Glover, Producer, One Detroit: How optimistic are you about your future in general, and how optimistic do you think your peers are?
Brooke Snow, College Freshman, “The Career Center” Student: Well, I would definitely say I was not as optimistic as I am now my senior year of high school. I was leaving and I knew there was somewhere to go, but I didn’t know if I wanted to be there. But I went knowing that I had experience in that area already. And it-
Will Glover: You mean going into art?
Brooke Snow: Yes, going into illustration and fiber arts. But now that I’m engaging and experiencing at a more professional level, I feel as though this is something I would like to pursue. I do see myself doing this in the future and I am pretty optimistic of what holds ahead of me.
Will Glover: What about you, Sam?
Samantha Chiang, High School Senior, “The Career Center” Student: Personally, the future looks pretty optimistic to me. I know a lot of my friends- they also probably feel optimistic. We’re all going into good universities or going into a job or taking a gap year and have a goal for that gap year.
I want to do entrepreneuring. Everybody’s doing their own thing. Everybody’s like, we’re done with high school, let’s move on to the future. So it’s really— I don’t know. Everybody seems happy around it.
Will Glover: What about you, Kendall?
Kendall Murray, College Freshman, Welding Student: I personally- now, with the path that I have taken, I do feel very hopeful just because there is a large need for trades. However, I know a lot of my friends that are still in university, they are a little bit fearful just because they’re not sure what they want to do. And it’s hard when you’re already going for one thing to then figure out what it is you want to do from there.
Will Glover: In your K-12 education, have you had any courses that were geared specifically toward you experiencing, learning about, or making any sort of decisions or aiming towards any sort of career pathways or anything like that? Kendall, we’ll start with you.
Kendall Murray: I went to a private school for high school and there weren’t really any options given to us for trades. It was mainly pushed to do something, whether it was science, politics, medical.
Will Glover: Sam?
Samantha Chiang: I mean, at least at my school, it’s freshman year and then you get to do a choose your adventure kind of thing. So there’s an engineering-type area that you can choose to go into that, and a bunch of engineering classes open up. Even if you’re in engineering, you could take medical classes, but you get priority in engineering.
Brooke Snow: I feel like there are not many opportunities unless we ask for it. I’m really glad that so many people are asking now because a lot of people in this generation don’t really speak up for exactly what they want.
Will Glover: Do you think that the guidance that you guys are getting is applicable to the world that you’re going into? Sam, we’ll start with you.
Samantha Chiang: I mean, yes. Whatever an adult says, for example, they would say their exact experience and then you take it with a grain of salt because it’s different times now.
Kendall Murray: Same thing, grain of salt, with everybody else’s opinions. I do think that there is a little bit of a lack of understanding of what it is actually like to be in Gen-Z per se navigating the world because it is changing. There are a lot of things that aren’t the same anymore, whether it be money or buying houses and things of that nature. It’s much harder. And I think that older generations really aren’t equipped because we don’t know where it’s progressing.
Brooke Snow: I usually, when people give me advice on where to go, I usually don’t take it to heart unless they have some experience in that field. And even then, I still don’t hold it down in stone.
Will Glover: Are you guys planning on staying in Michigan once you’ve graduated? I see you smiling already, so that doesn’t bode well. And are your peers going to be staying here? What are the conversations that you guys are hearing amongst your friends?
Brooke Snow: Unless you guys can bend the climate to be a little more warm. I don’t think I can stand any more six-month winters after I finish college. But everything here is perfectly fine. I think some of my peers are going to stay, but me, I’m not sure. I couldn’t say.
Will Glover: Sam, what about you? Because Michigan, obviously, engineering is something that we do better than a lot of people in the world. I’m just putting that out there.
Samantha Chiang: I know.
Will Glover: What is your thought?
Samantha Chiang: I’m definitely going to stay here in Michigan. Like you said, Michigan is so great for engineering, so why would I leave? I don’t know. I’m going to stay, but my friends definitely want to leave. Again, it’s out of anybody’s control. It’s the weather.
Will Glover: Is it really— Kendall, you’re next. Is it really the weather?
Brooke Snow: Yes.
Samantha Chiang: Yes.
Will Glover: There’s snow in New York. California is on fire half the time.
Brooke Snow: I definitely have to go somewhere in the middle or in the south. I cannot stay up here.
Will Glover: Kendall, are you staying here?
Kendall Murray: No.
Will Glover: The a-matter-of-factness. So why not?
Kendall Murray: There’s a lot of reasons. I feel like it’s just because I grew up here. I want to see something different. Experience my own story and not just everything I’ve been around my entire life. And as for my friends, they’ve either already left Michigan, or they are leaving.
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