workforce summit

(From left to right) Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Chris Markzak, Bryson Bargus, Aiden Murphy, Sky Wilson and Amber Sandvig.

While in most employee/employer relationships it's the employer who sets expectations for potential hirees, that script was flipped Wednesday afternoon during the first ever Maury County Workforce Summit, where Spring Hill high school students explained their expectations and desires for future employers.

In what was the brainchild of Randstad Branch Manager Angie Parks, the Workforce Summit aimed to give employers insight on the expectations of the next generation of workers, whose accustoms to technology, connectivity and instant communication lie in stark contrast with past generations of workers.

Roughly born between 1997 and 2009, Generation Z - along with Millennials - will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, leaving employers the world over rushing to implement new measures to hire, train and keep quality workers.

Kicking things off, Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Chris Marczak invited four Spring Hill teens to the stage, where he would go on to pitch them a series of questions. Those four teens were Bryson Bargus, Aiden Murphy, Sky Wilson and Amber Sandvig.

During a quick lunch at the Workforce Summit, one of the teens - Murphy - had actually managed to score a potential internship with the Daily Herald after showing Stephanie Roselli of the Advertiser News some samples of his graphic design work.

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Marczak: We have brought for you some very engaging, intelligent and bright high school seniors who will be your workers over the next three to five years. We wanted to be able to give you the opportunity to hear from them, talk with them, [and] to engage with them so that you don't go the way of Sears, Blockbuster, Toys R Us and Kodak. We don't want your business being named on this stage three, five, ten years from now, because your business lacked the ability to innovate, to attract, to retain, and then consequently, customers stop shopping and you go the way of one of those four stores that I just said.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Sandvig: When I grow up, I'm not necessarily sure exactly what I want to be. I know I want international business and culture as my degree program in college - where that takes me, I'm not entirely sure yet, but I do know that I want to travel internationally, and hopefully, in the future, own my own business.

Wilson: So my dream, I've already been accepted to UT Martin, I'm going to become an industrial or mechanical engineer. I really hope I can be a manager of some sort over an engineering company.

Murphy: I want to go to Full Sail University in Florida because they have a really good graphic arts design program - that's what I wanted to do.

Bargus: My big thing is I enjoy learning how things work. I want to go into mechanical engineering - I love seeing these engines, I want to know how they work, I want to know how they make it, and I want to do it better. So I want to major in engineering.

What type of company would attract you to want to work there?

Bargus: The companies that I mostly look for are the people who put themselves out there. They have their image there and that's who they are - they show it, they say, 'this is who we are, this is our ideals, and this is what we want you to become.' I want it to be a mutual relationship where we both benefit each other.

Murphy:  I think companies with really strong team focus would be my type of job. If it's not team focused, there's not a lot of building off each other so you can learn other people's strengths and weaknesses.

Wilson: So before I even get the job, I hope there'd be better communications skills. Our generation is accustomed to accessing information instantly. For jobs, if you could say, 'you're not accepted,' or 'we're still looking over so we're still interested,' because we're just going to go with the first job we see - could be a fast food restaurant. Kind of like how the post office has tracking - they let you know it's in progress, it's being looked at. It might take three weeks or so [to hear from the] company that we really want to go to, but we kind of need money fast - we just got out of college, or high school.

Sandvig: I think employers really need to care about their employees, so the fact that you're here and you're willing to listen to students, I think that does speak volumes on my main point, that I want my employer to care about me. I want them to hear what I have to say. I think communication is a big element as well; I do want to know what my job application status is, I do want to know if I've gotten the job or not so I can move on.

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When you land that job, how would you expect to be treated in the workplace?

Sandvig: So I think it's really important to treat all of your employees fairly - it doesn't really matter what their title is, I think everyone should have the same level of respect. I think respect should just be a general thing - if you're at the bottom, you get treated the same as if you're at the top, because everyone really does deserve that respect.

What type of boss are you looking for?

Bargus: When I'm looking for a boss, I want someone who is there and they're looking at my mistakes - they see my mistakes, they notice them and reprimand [me] for them based on how bad they were. But after doing that, they show me how [I] messed up, how [I] move on from there [and] how [I] can become better. They teach me instead of just accepting that I can't do it. Understanding our communication skills, I like having the information there in my face. I need that information now so everyone can move forward.

What would keep you in a job with a company for a long time?

Sandvig: So I think not even necessarily pay, I think benefits. I work at Walmart, [and] they actually do give us protection, paid time off - even as a part-time employee - and I think that's really nice. They have a point system so they're actually up there, they're kind of professional in some way. I think benefits to me are really important - healthcare, things like that. If I'm getting that, then I'm willing to go farther for less pay.

Wilson: I've got some inside information on Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. They allow you to have dogs, they allow you to have daycare on the workforce, you get free bananas everywhere.

Marczak: Okay, so fruit. They want fruit.

Wilson: Just show appreciation for your workers. Have an ice cream social, that's what a Nashville company did, they just had an ice cream appreciation day, and the workers really appreciated it. It promoted enthusiasm, the atmosphere just increased, and it helped their productivity.

Murphy: So I work at Zaxby's, and one thing that's really kept me there at the job is the fact that they have really good incentives there. They have a point system where if you hit a certain amount of goals, if you can keep your time this fast when making food, you will get this incentive, these bonuses; a longer break time, free food, free meals. So in general, just incentives in the workplace; benefits, paid vacation, anything along those lines.

Bargus: Me personally, I enjoy a lot of things, but when I keep doing the same thing over and over, it gets boring really quick. I went to Columbia Mission Works, and I was looking what they do there, and they do custom orders. No matter when you go in, it'll be a different thing they're doing, and I love that. I love having a different stimulant every day; making an anchor on a machine, or making a different part for [a] boat engine. It's different every day, and that's what I would need to stay in a company.

What makes you nervous going from school to the workforce?

Bargus: We have insurance, we have all these different things that have just been given to us as we're growing up. If companies assist us by possibly lowering our wages and upping all the insurance they give us, all these different things assisting us in the transition, I think, a lot of people would benefit from that.

What type of benefits would be important in a job setting that would really attract you to want to work for that company?

Sandvig: So I think something that is really underrated in the workforce is an incentives program, that's personally what I would like to see. It shows that you care, you're human, you want to show your employees that they're doing a great job, and that doesn't necessarily mean that your employees have to have a raise. Even if you give them something, that's saying, 'good job' - that's showing that you as a boss, as a company, care and acknowledge what they're doing for you.

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