Next Generation Workforce Part 3: Harnessing the Power of Young People to Future-Proof the Workforce

Harnessing the Power of Young People to Future-Proof the Workforce

Business and workplace technology change quickly these days, and keeping your workforce up to speed on the latest equipment, software, and best practices is becoming more challenging. Could the young people entering the workforce now and in the future be part of the solution?

The Need for Responsive Training

Five years ago, we could not have anticipated that ChatGPT would be so prevalent in day-to-day life, from optimizing our schedules and expediting our email-writing processes to expertly crafting resumes. This is just an example of how technology changes workflow and workplace culture and can do so in the blink of an eye.

As new technology emerges—and the rate at which it does so constantly accelerates—we cannot anticipate each breakthrough and the associated industry repercussions. So, how do we prepare for the future in this rapidly changing world?

Innovation in industry is moving too fast to play catch up. Communities and companies can no longer wait around to see which technology sticks and adopt it later. By then, something better, faster, and more efficient will have come along, making the former “new” technology obsolete.

In order to stay on the cutting edge of the industry and remain attractive to employers and employees, companies and communities must engage in a constant state of analysis and corresponding training — what I am calling “responsive training.”

How to Assess Skills Needs

A fact that is true in life is also true in industry: You need to figure out how to know what you don’t know. Being blind to skills gaps hurts communities and businesses, and it is important to identify and address what is missing in the workforce to stay competitive.

At a community level, this means engaging with local businesses and higher education institutions to determine what kind of employees and training employers are looking for and what the institutions offer for programming. If local businesses need Electric Vehicle (EV) mechanics and Hometown University only has a gas-powered car mechanic program, there is a skills gap that needs to be filled. If Hometown University does offer an EV Mechanic program, then the problem is likely employee attraction-related, which is a topic for another article.

At a business level, a skills gap can look like an unfilled position. It can also be present in the fact that your competitor uses a technology that makes them more efficient, but you do not have anybody trained to operate that technology or teach others to do so.

Regardless of the level at which a skills gap exists, training must be created to fill that gap, and it must be responsive enough to change along with the latest trends and technology.

Where Young People Come into Play

This idea of responsive training applies particularly to what we are calling the “next-generation workforce,” meaning high school students and recent graduates. These people are not only metaphorical blank slates ready to take in any and all workforce training they are provided, but many are also digital natives, which provides two distinct advantages:

  1. Digital natives are able to learn technology more quickly than their more senior colleagues and can often troubleshoot and understand technology with minimal training. (Have you ever seen a young child fix a setting on a parent’s phone? It’s shocking.)
  2. Digital natives are happy to learn online and asynchronously. This lowers the cost associated with training because rather than teaching the same course every time a new person is hired, the teacher can do so once, record it, and create an online learning module that can be used multiple times.

A combination of smartphones and the global pandemic has prepared young people to learn quickly and remotely. This makes them particularly capable of skilling and reskilling at a low cost. Rather than shaming them for spending so much time staring at screens and having short attention spans, we can meet them where they are and tailor training to match their work style. What does this look like?

Tailoring Training for Young People

To truly gain the attention of a 15-27-year-old, here are some ideas from someone in that age range:

  • Create microlearning modules that are short and focused and include quizzes and interactive elements.
  • Gamify training by incorporating elements such as points, badges, and leaderboards and offering rewards and incentives for completing modules.
  • Keep modules interesting by using interactive simulations and scenarios with clickable branching options.
  • Make the training accessible on mobile devices and, if possible, use a training app to create a platform that can send push notifications and be completed on the go and at users’ own pace.
  • Incorporate breaks in the training to maintain the users’ attention and ensure information retention.
  • Make it social by creating discussion boards on whatever platform you use and encourage teamwork.


The world is changing, and we cannot anticipate how new breakthroughs will impact our sectors. What we can do is prepare for the one thing that is certain: change.

To prepare for change, we must embrace the new and sometimes dizzying rate and style at which the next generation moves and learns and teach them how to be ready for whatever comes next technologically.

No matter what you do, the best way to future-proof your sector is to constantly analyze industry trends and technology and develop accompanying training modules geared toward the next generation of workers. Camoin Associates can help.

We offer our clients a variety of industry and workforce development services, including workforce-based target industry strategies, labor market analytics, workforce gap analysis, and workforce asset and ecosystem mapping.

How can we help you meet your workforce and talent attraction goals? Contact us to learn more.

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