It was with great pleasure that Will Stubley from Year13 joined us last month to discuss the ever changing climate of communicating to Gen Z.
The webinar was a Q&A session where they discussed the report After The ATAR III, as well as some Gen Z pathways and RTO opportunities.
We summarised the key findings from that webinar to create this blog.
Who is Gen Z?
Move over Millennials, Gen Z is the new cool kid in town (you can tell this blog was written by a Millennial because they’ve used the word “cool” un-ironically).
Gen Z is made up by 9-24 year olds. They have never known a time without social media or mobile phones and are more likely to have college-educated parents than previous generations. They are also on track to be the most educated generation yet.
Pew Research Centre in the US looked at older members of Gen Z and found they are on a slightly different educational trajectory than their parents or their grandparents were before them. They are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to attend college. In the 18-21 year old group who are no longer in high school, 57% were enrolled in a two-year or four-year college, compared with 52% of Millennials in 2003 and 43% of Gen X in 1987.
We turned to Year13 for advice about how Gen Z consumes digital media and interacts online, and to find out how to support them make better decisions about their future.
Gen Z and Vocational Education and Training
There seems to be a disconnect in communication with young people when it comes to their options after Year 12. Traditionally, considering options other than university has not been popular. Fortunately, this is starting to change.
Having reliable and insightful information available can make a big difference when deciding on which pathway to follow. In their research, Year13 found that 72% of Year 12 students planned on going to University, while those who planned to follow a vocational pathway was in single digits.
This is in stark contrast to where the jobs are.
Their research also shows that even when a young person is interested in pursuing an apprenticeship or vocational education, this drops off after a conversation is had with the school or with a parent.
This highlights the need for the ‘eco-system’ approach – to educate schools, parents and students about the different options and make the information available so that an informed decision can be made.
The option for higher education is always there – it doesn’t have to be a Uni vs VET discussion. Instead, it’s about how they integrate. Finding the best pathway for each individual to get where they want to go.
One example that Will gave was when a group of Year 12 students were informed that a carpentry apprentice could be $150,000 ahead of a university student after 4 years, the interest around apprenticeship went up 70%!
These pieces of information don’t have to be the silver bullet, but they are certainly a good way to start a conversation.
VET Brand Promise = The Route to Employment
Will was happy to report that the conversation around Vocational Education is picking up significantly, for all levels; government, schools, parents and young people. This indicates that over the next few years as things return to normal that the interest in VET will be up significantly.
This is explained partly by some of the macro things that are happening, specifically around employability – what is the most direct/efficient way to find a job? There are statistics around how difficult it can be to find employment after university in some industries.
This is where VET has a lot of opportunity to come out on top. Focus on messaging around skills and employability. The more this becomes engrained, the more attractive the VET option will become.
After the ATAR
To find out more about young people and their habits, Year13 created YouthSense to do research that was commissioned by the NSW and SA state governments and has been featured in publications around Australia. Their flagship report, After The ATAR is now in its third edition and dives into topics that explore how what’s going on in Australian schools is linked with the success of the country.
Over 4000 young Australians were surveyed from metropolitan, regional and rural areas across the country to create this report. You can view After The ATAR III here.
How to effectively engage Gen Z online
It’s no secret that Gen Z are online; however, knowing how and when to connect with them online is key. In order to develop an effective strategy you need to ask yourself, ‘What is the best way to start meaningful conversations with young people in a digital environment?’
To do this you must be reaching them at the right time, in the right place, about the right topic. This means identifying which channels you need to be on and what conversations you need to have. These channels could be TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Spotify, etc.
In the report, they looked at interaction vs interruption: the ways you can advertise to this audience to get their attention. When interrupting them during a task they are trying to achieve (ie. listening to a podcast), is it worth their aggravation? You might be achieving some level of brand awareness, but at what cost?
A better idea is to look for ways to have meaningful interactions or conversations with them. A good way to do this is through content marketing – create content that will be of interest to an individual and layer in the messaging that you want to get across. You are still delivering your message, but it’s in a more natural and value driven conversation.
Look to create a value exchange. For example, if you are hosting an open day and you want them to come – what are you going to give them? This needs to be communicated to to them. You can say, ‘These are the things you should be looking to get out of it’.
What are the top 3 things to focus on to generate success?
Not just your brand, but the way your branded marketing is being communicated. The blanketed approach doesn’t work! You can’t just talk about up-skilling and career changes with young people. This simply doesn’t resonate with them.
Advice: get young people to do it! They are the ones that can engage on that level. A different brand voice is needed for the youth audience. And use it to create different brands for different channels i.e. YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, etc.
You need a good pipeline mechanism for communication. Schools are an excellent example of this. VET in schools has grown a lot over the last few years, with a lot of the high end private schools now offering Vocational Education options in senior school.
This will create a lot of opportunities for training providers to build connections, and after all, exposing kids to VET while in school is never a bad thing. It raises awareness of the different pathways that might suit some more than others.
Perhaps the best way training providers can connect with their target market is when they have really strong ties to industry partners and they put it at the forefront.
A really good example of this was when Goanna Education partnered with Atlassian to provide 5 Indigenous candidates fully funded scholarships to the Australian Computer Society’s ICT50220 Diploma of Information Technology along with paid work experience.
This type of partnership doesn’t only increase the uptake for the training provider, but it resonates with young people and their parents more substantially because it’s tangible, and this can be extrapolated into any industry. But, it doesn’t have to be an industry giant like Atlassian to be successful.
Reaching out to young people will always involve communicating with their influencers – mainly their parents and school. Giving young people information about Vocational Education before they graduate is so important. This conversation needs to happen at home and at school, and luckily it looks like VET in Schools is on the rise.
Perhaps the most important piece of information we took from this webinar was to remember that young people have their own voice and their own way of communicating. The information they want and the way they look for it and consume it is different to way their parents did. In order to effectively engage them, you need to communicate in their voice, on their terms.
And yes, this might just be on TikTok.
Huge thanks to Will Stubley from Year13 for his input into these findings.