Is Gen Z Picking Skilled Trades Over College? Here’s How to Maintain Your Tech Talent Pool

Even as labor force participation rates rebound and attrition levels drop, many companies are still struggling to find top-tier ...

Even as labor force participation rates rebound and attrition levels drop, many companies are still struggling to find top-tier IT talent for their open roles. That said, the last thing you probably want to hear is that hiring professionals could get a whole lot harder. That’s a real possibility as Gen Z reconsiders whether they should pursue trade schools instead of a four-year degree.

Researchers are already seeing the change in action. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which publishes data on post-secondary education, found a 14.8% increase and an 8.1% increase in the spring 2024 enrollment numbers for mechanic and repair technology programs and construction trade programs. This surpasses the average undergraduate enrollment growth rate of 2.5%.

What’s prompting this change in popular career paths? And how can you prevent your IT talent pool from drying up if these conditions persist? Here are some thoughts from our recruiting experts.

Why Gen Z Is Turning Away from Four-Year Colleges

What is making Gen Z reject the conventional wisdom? We’re seeing several factors influencing this big shift in their life decisions.

An obvious factor is cost. Both public and private four-year institutions have grown progressively more expensive since the 1980s. In fact, the Education Data Initiative determined the total cost of attendance at a four-year public school (that’s fees, tuition, room, and board) rose 39.9% between the ’09-’10 and ’19-’20 academic years. In comparison, trade schools cost about 37.5% less than four-year colleges.

Moreover, the average student loan debt is about $37,338, and the interest can accumulate long before students make a dent on the principal. Seeing this reality, many Gen Z students are reconsidering whether they want to start their adult lives with a hefty deficit.

Another factor is that college doesn’t guarantee a full or fast return on their investment. A study conducted by The Burning Glass Institute and the Strada Education Foundation found that 45% of college graduates are underemployed, lacking enough paid work or work utilizing their full skills, a decade after graduation.

Beyond the uncertainty and expenses of college, Gen Z sees skilled trade schools as a way to accelerate the growth of their careers and personal lives. Graduates of trade schools have shorter timelines to reach well-paid opportunities. Plus, the thousands of skilled trades jobs created by the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the CHIPS and Science Act are making Gen Z feel like there are more career options on the horizon.

How to Keep Your Talent Pool Full

Though the above factors will encourage more recent grads to pursue skilled trades, the change doesn’t have to result in a complete hiring war for the professional sectors. That said, there will be some increased talent acquisition difficulty, which translates to longer vacancies and shrunken productivity unless companies find alternative ways to fill their workforces. There are a few options at your disposal.

Coding bootcamps offer one option. The right programs can accelerate the time it takes for entry-level developers to learn the fundamentals of coding, creating appealing solutions for both candidates and companies. With full-time programs lasting about 12 weeks and part-time programs lasting about 24 weeks, companies that build partnerships with these programs can time graduation with spikes in demand or ramp ups of IT projects.

Reskilling programs can also be used to take trusted employees to the next level. Connecting with the right organizations provides companies with a training framework that can rapidly upgrade technical skillsets in a constantly evolving market. Better still, these programs are great for boosting loyalty and increasing your ability to retain employees.

The challenge for both approaches is they require your organization to invest time, effort, and oversight into extracting quality talent. That’s no small request as you try to juggle all the other challenges of running a competitive organization. Fortunately, there are streamlined programs like Dexian’s Hire-Train-Deploy program that offer all these benefits on top of funneling exceptional people into your team.

Why Our Hire-Train-Deploy Solution Offers a Fix

Dexian is able to offer a reliable source of up-and-coming technical talent because we leverage a wide range of approaches to source them. With global recruiting operations, we can locate and place talent from all over the world. On top of that, we have in-house programs to offer Gen Z with appealing opportunities to accelerate career success.

Our Grand Circus brand offers a precise bootcamp training framework, developing course rubrics and workshops that are tailored to your specific needs. By building dedicated cohorts of 10 or more entry-level IT workers, we can supply your organization with promising tech professionals, teaching them to tackle new challenges and technologies through our jampacked 160-hour courses.

Each generation will follow their own calling, but that doesn’t mean you should struggle in silence. If you work with Dexian, you’ll find the top talent you need, no matter the trends.

Whether or not Gen Z is going to college, you need to keep a robust talent funnel.
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