The next workforce

I had the honor of presenting two scholarships on behalf of the local Marshall University Alumni Club at last Tuesday’s Awards Ceremony at Parkersburg High School. Over 250 scholarships were given out that evening, including 85 Promise scholarships.

We have many smart, talented and deserving students in our school system. I’m sure I speak on behalf of our local employers that we are delighted these students want to continue their education. I can write an entire article on the options available today for students who want to continue their education – in fact, watch for that at a later date. After investing in the success of these students through taxes, scholarships and other resources, we would be delighted to have them return to our community and become the next workforce.

The next workforce – the phrase likely conjures up mixed impressions of Generation Z (the children born during the mid 1990s up through 2005.)

Here are some characteristics of Gen Z, according to gettingsmart.com:

* The Internet, technology, war, terrorism, the recession and social media shape their lives.

* Gen Zs are tech savvy.

* Social media has connected them globally to their peers.

* They are bright, and their IQ scores are higher than previous generations.

* They are flexible in nature and expect flexibility from institutions.

* They are accepting of diverse populations.

Unfortunately HubPages cites a sad observation about Gen Z: the end of traditional social graces. It’s not to say the community of Generation Zs are rude; because of their techie communication trends, they just don’t interact on a personal level the same as previous generations. The techno connection almost makes you tune out the people who are most adjacent to you in lieu of communicating with someone electronically. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we end up with a world without traditional manners and socially accepted behaviors.

Which leads me to the most interesting take-away from the Awards Ceremony. And by “interesting”, I really mean SMH (“shaking my head” for those of you who don’t use text-speak.) Wait for it FLIP FLOPS.

I had no idea how much activity I would generate among friends with the following Facebook post:

“A little disappointed in last night’s awards ceremony at PHS – flip flops, really?? Since when are flip flops (not sandals or flats, but plastic between the toes, fourth of an inch soles) appropriate foot attire to wear when receiving thousands of dollars in scholarships? My mom would not have let me leave the house to receive said honors in flip flops. Unless the honoree was coming straight from swimming in the Olympic trials, I can’t find any reason to wear FLIP FLOPS with your cap and gown.”

Despite what one of my FB friends thinks, the post was not judgmental or mean to insult anyone. In fact, I’m not saying there was only one student in flip flops – there were several, surprisingly. My post was merely an observation on how things are much different today than when I graduated in the 1980s and markedly different from when today’s baby boomers graduated in the early 1960s.

Besides the obvious generational age difference, what has caused the gap that would make some Gen Z students think that flip flops are appropriate attire at a professional affair like the Awards Ceremony? It saddens me to think a student might not have the resources to purchase a pair of dress shoes. But what if the reason was more overt?

SMH Whatever the reason, in a few years, we will have a unique blended workforce. We will undoubtedly figure out a way to work together under these parameters, emphasizing our differences and learning from one another. In the end it’s all about learning. We will teach our younger colleagues things we have learned over the years and they will impart their new ways on us.

Upcoming Events:

* Sam’s Club Breakfast for Chamber members, June 7 from 7:30 – 9 a.m. at Sam’s Club; open to all Chamber members; Sam’s Club membership not required; register on-line at www.movchamber.org

* Special Presentation: Get up to speed on “Common Core”: for Government Relations Committee, Schools & Business Committee and all Chamber members, June 17 from 2-3:30 p.m. at the Judge Black Annex; RSVP to info@movchamber.org if you are able to attend.

* Chamber Public Relations Workshop:Special Guest Rich Schaffer – Preparing for Media Interviews, June 19 from noon-1:30 p.m. at the Judge Black Annex. What is the spokesperson formula for success? Learn 3 interview techniques worth mastering before you go on-air, plus mock interviews – putting it into practice.; open to all Chamber members. Register on-line at www.movchamber.org

* June Lunch & Learn with WVU: June 21 from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at WV Central Credit Union, 809 Division St. Learn more about achieving the master’s degree in corporate and organization communication in as little as two years. Free for Chamber members. Seating limited to 30 attendees, so register today. Register on-line at www.movchamber.org

Visit this space every other Sunday for more Chamber news. We also invite you to call us at 304-422-3588, email us at info@movchamber.org, or stop by the Chamber office at 409 1/2 Market St. in Parkersburg.

* * *

Jill Parsons is president/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley.