Full disclosure … I am a tail-end baby boomer, so I can remember when Bono waded into the crowd at Live Aid, the hostages were held in Iran and the first space shuttle exploded, among other things.
But one of the best days I spent in the last few years was with four millennial guys, friends all, one of whom was about to get married. It was at an unorthodox day-long bachelor party that involved (along with no booze) a several-mile hike, lots of food and jumping in cold rivers and the like.
“Wow, Doc (my nickname … see my initials, above), you seem like one of us! And you sure don’t seem like some old guy!” one of them exclaimed after I kept up with them all day.
I tell you this story because it made me think of how boomers, Generation Xers and millennials really aren’t all that different, a point that occurred to me anew after talking with millennial soon-to-be graduates at a career fair this past Thursday at a Lancaster college specializing in technology instruction.
The Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology students want what I wanted when I got out of school, and probably what you wanted, no matter how old you are: to work in a good atmosphere, to have a chance at advancement and further career training, to work, if possible, close to home, family, friends, etc.
“You definitely want to work for good people,” said Robert Hines, 24, whose specialty is carpentry technology.
“I also want to enjoy the work. You don’t want to take a job just to have it and not enjoy it,” the Upper Darby High School grad continued.
“You go to work every day, you want to enjoy what you do. If you’re going to be digging holes all day and you’re getting $20 an hour, you’re still not going to have fun. So I’d rather make $15 and enjoy what I do.”
The students are about to enter plumbing, welding, carpentry and other professions at a very good time, one in which the much-publicized “skills gap” and other factors mean there’s a shortage of millennial trade professionals.
Thursday’s career fair was the largest ever held at Stevens, with 140 companies on hand and more than 50 others participating in a virtual career fair afterward to recruit potential employees.
So it might be easy to think the millennials, knowing they hold the cards, would be in a demanding mood, asking for this or that from the companies.
Not true, one Stevens school official said.
“For the most part, what I am hearing is that the students want to work in an environment that is welcoming, with people they can get along with, and a company that values community,” said the school’s career services director, Laurie Grove.
“Family and ‘being close to home’ seem to be important for a majority of our students. They are coming at this job search with a strong work ethic,” partly because of the school’s strict attendance policy and class structure, but also because “many of them have had to work for everything they have,” she said.
“They want to make a difference. They want to take care of their families, and for many of them, that includes extended families,” Grove added.
Making a difference, working in a good atmosphere with people you want to work with … sounds equally important to boomers and millennials.