Move over, millennials. A new crop of eager, young professionals are on their way up.

Dubbed Generation Z, they're today's high school students and university students — some have even made their way into your offices.

Who these up-and-comers are is up for debate, but Statistics Canada calls them the Internet Generation.

Born since 1993, they are the only generation to have grown up completely immersed in technology where Mom or Dad text them to come for dinner and friends post selfies and count the number of "likes" that roll in.

So what happens when you hire them?

What can you expect today's teens and 20-year-olds to bring to the workforce?

It turns out they might not be as unfamiliar as you might think.

"Interestingly enough they're the first generation that has been compared to the Silent Generation," who came before the baby boomers, said Dundas-based HR professional Jeanne Albert.

Gen Z has been characterized as overly coddled by parents, but they've seen a lot, she said.

They haven't lived through the Great Depression, but they were alive for events that rocked the world — like 9/11 and the 2008 recession.

Those experiences on top of the struggles they've seen their millennial counterparts face as they try to find work has left Gen Z longing for security more than those who came before.

"They're very concerned about their future," said Dan Popowich, a professor at Mohawk College.

"They know that student loans are increasing. They fear their inability to pay that off. They know the bar is constantly being raised."

Some are gravitating toward small- and medium-sized companies where they think they'll have a greater opportunity to work on more meaningful projects, which is important to them. Others are branching out on their own and embracing their entrepreneurial spirit.

Dragica Lebo, business development officer at the city's Small Business Enterprise Centre, says more high school students have come looking for help starting their own business over the past two years than before.

The Ontario Summer Company program — which provides grants and mentorship to startups across the province — has been made up of half high school students and half postsecondary students over that time. In the past, it was always university and college dominated, she said.

"I just think more high school students now are wanting to take that leap into entrepreneurship and are more independent and want to try things on their own," Lebo said.

 

The youth unemployment rate in Ontario is hovering around 15 per cent

 

Chris Frasson of Flamborough is one of the program's participants. The 19-year-old launched his small renovation business Flamborough Builders in April after finishing his first year of the building renovation program at Mohawk College.

"I've always liked the idea of working for myself over someone else. I see more potential that way," he said. "I'd rather be able to put in the extra time and effort. If it works out, you could potentially have a bigger reward."

While business has tapered off this winter because most of his projects are outdoors building decks and sheds, Frasson said he plans to keep the business going this summer and hopefully hire a couple of employees as he gets more jobs.

Dundas' Tyler Maciulis, 19, also started his own business with an eye for expansion. With the help of his dad, he purchased the Italian restaurant he worked at that was closing down — now called Red Door Cucina.

He has plans to go to Niagara College for chef school. After that, he might open a different location where people can dine in (the current location at the rear door of 21 King St. W in Dundas is takeout only).

With students' paths changing, high schools are offering new programs to try and cater to their needs.

Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) programs give students a chance to focus their learning on specific employment sectors, and Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) training allow students enrolled in a SHSM to solve a real-world challenge for an organization.

With the youth unemployment rate in Ontario hovering around 15 per cent, having experiential education and co-op programs help students gain skills like creative thinking that they might not have the opportunity to pick up through a part-time job, said Margot Burnell, SHSM and experiential learning consultant at the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.

Initiative is another skill this generation does not always come equipped with, said Frances Tuer, a lecturer at McMaster's DeGroote School of Business.

But it's not really their fault. Tuer chalks it up to the structure provided for Generation Z, much of it by their "lawnmower parents."

Everything is planned for them, and they're told exactly what to do, she said.

"It's not surprising because they've not been given enough opportunities to figure things out," Tuer said.

That said, this generation is looking less for supervisors and more for mentors in the workplace, said Lorenzo Somma, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Industry Education Council of Hamilton. IEC runs an entrepreneurship program called MIGHTY (Mentors in Greater Hamilton Teaching Youth) open to 14- to 19-year-olds.

Experiential education and co-op programs help students gain skills

Gen Z is looking for someone who can teach them, but also someone who can understand where they're coming from and earn their trust.

For 18-year-old Patrick Chong, it was his entrepreneurial dad who inspired him to try and start his own business, Latch — essentially a barcode holding personal information such as name, phone number and email address to help track down the owner if an article is lost.

The two often bounce ideas off each other and discuss what problems are out there and how they can be solved.

While Chong loves being able to pursue his own idea and make it a reality, he's not ruling out working for others in the future.

"If Facebook offered me a job tomorrow, I'd hands-down take it," he said. "But I mean to start your own business, and to see it through, and then to see people using it, I think is just a feeling that working for a company you just can't feel."

Melanie Sodtka, a Mohawk College professor, entrepreneurship program co-ordinator and a business owner, said Generation Z will hold out for the right job.

Some will bring their entrepreneurial mindset to the companies they work for. Others will bring that to their own businesses.

But that doesn't necessarily mean they'll focus on their own creations fulltime.

"There is space and an appetite and room for people to do something on the side," she said. "They will most likely look at doing that for extra income, as a hobby even, but they'll still find a way to monetize a passion."

 

5 Millennial characteristics

 

1. Don't work as well in team environments

2. Like flexibility in their work schedules

3. More optimistic about future career prospects than Generation Z

4. Want to continually add to their skill-set in a meaningful way

5. Less likely to speak their minds than Gen Z

Sources: HR professional Jeanne Albert, McMaster University lecturer Frances Tuer and University of North Carolina

 

5 Gen Z characteristics

 

1. More concerned about the cost of education than millennials

2. Technically savvy

3. Team players

4. Prefer face-to-face communication over text messaging or email

5. Listen to their parents' guidance more than any other generation

Sources: HR professional Jeanne Albert and Mohawk College professor Dan Popowich

 

5 ways to attract Gen Zs

 

1. Nurture

Extend healthcare benefits and wellness programs.

2. Be flexible

Both about where they work — whether that be different locations in the office, a co-working space, at home or no preference — as well as with schedules.

3. Make a difference

They're not predisposed to sitting on the sidelines — they want to work on meaningful projects.

4. Act now

While still in high school, they're making connections with future workplaces through teachers and volunteer work as well as their parents.

5. Act responsibly

Be a good corporate citizen.

Source: Fluid Impact HR professional Jeanne Albert

 

Amanda Pope

 

 

Age: 17

Company: Biblicare

Website: biblicare.ca

Launched: 2015

WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT

An elderly services business providing housekeeping, Bible study and companionship at people's homes as well as local long-term care homes.

Watching her own grandfather suffer from five cardiac arrests, paralysis and kidney dialysis made Amanda Pope want to help other people's loved ones.

The St. Jean de Brébeuf Catholic High School student knew she wanted to start her own business before that, but coming up with an idea was the challenge.

Seeing the struggles her grandfather faced starting in October 2014 and his road to recovery made her decision much easier.

"That was my inspiration," she said. "After seeing how negative his lifestyle became and how dependent he became on his busy family, it made me realize he's not the only elderly person in need of these services and the extra assistance."

Since then, Pope has gathered 30 clients who she sees on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis.

She's also hired two employees who help her with visits.

Now in Grade 12, her plan for next year is to go to university and study journalism and business, but she wants to keep her business going by bringing more staff onboard to help.

Her big-picture goal is to expand Biblicare internationally.

"This business, I have so much passion for it, she said. "It doesn't feel like work. It just feels like something I enjoy doing."

"The bonus is I get paid for it."

GIVING BACK

People have busy lives, she said, she hopes to give back to the community by filling a gap.

"I know that not a lot of people are able to get the assistance because with families for example…they're trying to raise their family, and sometimes they can't be with their own parents, too," she said. "If I could be there, it would be great."

 

Eliad Moosavi

 

 

Age: 21

Company: StockDrops.com

Launched: 2015

WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT

A website that compiles free, downloadable stock images in a searchable database for anyone to use.

Since he was a kid, Eliad Moosavi has spent his free time reading business and financial news, from Entrepreneur.com to Business Insider, to Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.

While he probably only understood half of it, it kept him excited and engaged, he said.

"I think I've always had the entrepreneurship spirit inside of me," Moosavi said. "It just really got me."

Fast-forward to today: the McMaster University software engineering student is putting his dreams into practice by developing some of his own ideas into businesses.

One of those is StockDrops.com, created by Moosavi at a 36-hour hackathon in Chicago where he took home first prize from IBM.

The website that compiles free stock images in a searchable database embodies the quality he is trying to have in every business he creates: automation.

Pictures get downloaded and categorized using a technology from IBM. If the photo is of a dog, it could be tagged dog, pet and animal, for example.

StockDrops.com is generating a buzz — so far Moosavi has verbal offers for partnerships with PayPal and Walgreens, he said.

But the 21-year-old has other plans in the works, including developing a security solution software — what he calls the "most important thing in my life right now" — plus trying to secure funding for an idea he thinks could help people with dementia.

It's a text-messaging service that provides automatic reminders to help people with their daily routine — taking prescriptions, washing their face and brushing their teeth.

GIVING BACK

While this idea is not one he plans to create a business from, Moosavi does hope some of his future companies can contribute to the greater good.

"Hopefully if it benefits even one person, obviously the mental value that it would have for me is much more bigger than any prize I could win," he said.

 

Rayan Hamouda

 

 

Age: 17

Company: Magic Looks

Website: magiclooks.ca

Launched: 2015

What it's all about

Selling accessories and body art for women, ranging from bracelets and rings to items for the Muslim community, including hijabs and underscarves.

Rayan Hamouda was bitten by the business bug as a youngster, taking oddly-shaped pencils you couldn't find in Canada to school and hawking them to her classmates for a dollar.

Once she got a little older and mentioned her interest in the field to her businessman father, Hamouda was encouraged to give it a shot.

"He said, if you want to do business, then you might as well try it and see if you like it," the St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School student said.

That's exactly what she did last summer, enrolling in the Ontario Summer Companies program to help get her idea off the ground.

Since then, she has been selling her products outside her mosque, at festivals in Burlington and Hamilton and at house parties.

She wants to keep her business open and continue to grow it, but the field of social work is what she has her eye on for when she finishes school.

But now that she's worked for herself, it's not something she wants to stop.

"I think I like self-employment better than working for someone else," Hamouda said. "The feeling of being your own person and making your own decisions without anyone shutting them down or anything. I like it."

GIVING BACK

Besides juggling school and Magic Looks, Hamouda is also organizing a women's empowerment conference for high school- and university-aged students as well as immigrant women to network.

Seeing how helpful her mom is to anyone who needs a lending hand as well as learning from historical figures who have made an impact — such as Martin Luther King Jr. — is what prompted her to try and make a difference.

"I want to make a change — leave my fingerprint before I leave," she said. "I want to be a positive image for everyone to look at and say, that's how Muslims are."

 

Josh Tiessen

 

 

Age: 20

Company: Josh Tiessen Studio Gallery

Website: joshtiessen.com

Launched: 2010

WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT

A studio gallery housed in an addition on the back of the Tiessen family home where his work hangs for viewing and is available for sale.

A job as an artist — it's a concept Josh Tiessen says his friends have taken a while to come around to. But his parents have always supported it.

It's a craft he's undoubtedly been working toward since his youth.

He's now a 20-year-old who lives in Stoney Creek, but he held his first public art exhibition at 11.

Since then it's been a bit of a whirlwind — being mentored and recommended by famed wildlife artist Robert Bateman, holding shows at galleries across North America, opening his studio gallery at 15 and graduating from high school a year later at 16.

"It's a little bit outside of the box," Tiessen said.

While he's working part-time toward a bachelor's degree of religious education in arts and biblical education, art is it for him.

His studio gallery is registered as a business, and when he sells paintings, it's money that helps fund his travels to shows in the United States and Canada.

A percentage also goes to Mom, who works part-time for the gallery, Tiessen said.

Despite self-funding the gallery — it's been all his own money from the start — Tiessen said he considers himself an artist first and an entrepreneur second.

"The entrepreneurial side has been something more learned and developed over time," he said. "It's very challenging to really find a manual out there to make an art career because of how outside the box it can be."

GIVING BACK

Giving back is also important to Tiessen, who started his Arts for a Change foundation, which has supported more than 40 charities by donating art to fundraisers and giving a portion of art sales to them. "People who purchase my art know they're also supporting very worthy causes," he said.

 

Maya Amoah

 

 

Age: 20

Company: Nebula Artwear

Website: nebulaartwear.com

Launched: 2012

 

WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT

 

A hand-painted, galaxy-inspired clothing line, including shirts, bras, dresses, leggings and bodysuits.

After four years of making and selling her own clothing, Maya Amoah finds the process both enjoyable and meditative.

"It's still like a hobby," she said. "I don't consider it a fulltime career."

It started in Grade 10 with a love of fashion and playing around with paints but grew when she wore her creations to school to receive many comments and inquiries about whether they were for sale.

Not having a part-time job at the time, Amoah figured she'd give it a go. She ended up getting her clothing into a handful of stores in Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal.

Since then, she's expanded her scope.

Amoah always planned to work after high school to save money and travel, so she took off. She has visited 18 countries in Europe so far.

And she's continued to sell her products, including at "feiras" — fairs — in Lisbon, Portugal around Christmas.

Between the proceeds from her clothing and freelance writing for fashion and travel publications, Amoah said she's been able to completely fund her travels.

She'd planned to come back to Canada in September to start studying journalism at Ryerson University, but now that she's had a taste of travelling, she doesn't know if she'll ever return permanently.

"It's kind of a dream, I think, if I could just travel forever and sell at different markets in different countries and sell in different stories," Amoah said. "I'm trying to work towards that."

 

GIVING BACK

 

Though she loves fashion, Amoah said she has also discovered it is "flawed" — it promotes consumerism.

One way she tries to combat that is by buying local as well as used products.

For her business, she produces Nebular Artwear on sweatshop-free clothing like American Apparel products.

 

 

npaddon@thespec.com