Defined as those born between the late 1990s and 2010s, dubbed “Gen Z”-ers are now entering university and the workforce. Like previous generations, Gen Z has their own unique challenges and ideologies shaped by their upbringings, new technologies, social changes and Brexit, but what sets them apart is their increased interconnectedness.
This generation has never known a world without the internet and social media and these students are expecting more out of their universities and institutions. After all, this is the generation motivated to drive social and economic change as seen in the climate action and racial justice movements.
So what is Gen Z looking to higher education and student services for?
Numerous studies on Generation Z show an overwhelming need to support their mental health. In a 2019 study by the University College of London, Gen Z was found to be two-thirds more likely to experience depressive symptoms than the previous millennial generation (those born in the late 1980s and 1990s). According to the study, Gen Z is more likely to also suffer from poor body image, anxiety, higher suicide rates, and poor sleep. This, experts say is as a result of the pressures of always being connected online where personal worth is dictated by social media. COVID-19 has only exacerbated anxiety and depression in the UK.
Trend reports from 2020 paint a grim picture of the mental health status of young adults in the pandemic world. A November 2020 study by the British Journal of Psychiatry found that young adults dealing with anxiety almost doubled from pre-pandemic levels at 12.97% to 24.35% and experienced lower wellbeing during the pandemic. This means that career centres should approach career counseling in a holistic way by being able to identify mental health signs and knowing the resources on their campus to support their students.
Adapt Teaching and Support Services
Universities (and workplaces) will soon have three generations interacting with each other and universities need to prepare for that by adapting their services and coursework to meet the changes of the workforce. Claire Povah and Simon Vaukins in a 2018 opinion piece in the Guardian eloquently put it, “This presents a significant challenge to university leaders, who need to be prepared for the clash of three generations – X, Y and Z, each with their own outlooks and habits.”
Universities can build a bridge between career services and academics by offering students employability modules connecting their course work to job prospects. This means equipping students to leverage their skills by integrating it into their degree program. Career centre staff can work in tandem with faculty members to create coursework that prepares students for entering the workforce so that students can see how their academic success is directly correlated to their future careers. This is now more important than ever, as UK youth unemployment is at an all-time high.
This includes adaptive programming to highlight the success of marginalised communities on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, low-income, people of colour, and more. This includes in asking those individuals what specific resources the career centre can provide and what coursework is needed for them to feel more included in their classrooms. The best way to manage the change? Work with Gen Zs and involve them in designing your services.
With Symplicity UniHub, universities can create a unified student experience for Gen Z students with streamlined reporting across all campus offices. To support students holistically, intuitions will need to implement an institution-wide strategy which includes a system supporting a variety of initiatives. With UniHub, this includes the ability to track activity management, experiential learning, advising management, and co-curricular reflection to create a personalised student journey.
By implementing UniHub, institutions can connect students to university opportunities that can translate to a desirable workforce skills. UniHub enables these contributions to be captured, measured, and incorporated into the student’s career development and road to career readiness.