How One Provider is ‘Planting the Seeds’ to Attract Generation Z

The senior services industry is abuzz over hiring more millennials, but what about the generation that comes after them?

For Senior Living Communities (SLC), a North Carolina-based provider with operations in South Carolina, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, and Indiana, it’s all about “Generation Z.” The company brings in students from local middle and high schools to shadow its employees and get experience as part of a community outreach initiative dubbed “Explore.”

Generation Z (also sometimes called the Post-Millennials) refers to the demographic of people who were born in the mid-1990s or the early 2000s. It’s generally agreed they number around 60 million, making the age group slightly larger than the millennials.

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High schoolers working with Senior Living Communities

As that demographic inches toward joining the job market, the senior care industry is going to need more workers — and soon. The industry must attract around 1.2 million additional employees by 2025, according to a 2016 report from national senior living organization Argentum.

Could Generation Z help beat the upcoming senior care labor crunch? Absolutely, says Nerissa Nelson, SLC’s vice president of human resources.

“Those are the people in 2025 that will be coming to our doors for jobs,” she tells Senior Housing News.

Sparking the interest

To recruit students, SLC staffers hold “pep rallies” at schools and hand out T-shirts. More than a few students usually step forward after the presentation to ask questions or say they’re interested in the gig.

“We’re trying to spark an interest and we’re trying to get them to see that there’s life after high school,” Nelson says. “Many of these kids will not be four-year college students, so we’re trying to show them… what they could accomplish with a high school diploma and some additional training.”

Students participating in the initiative spend time shadowing an SLC employee. Then, under close supervision, they can help out as it aligns with their career goals.

“It could be someone who really likes to cook,” Nelson explains. “They can see the presentation of a chef at one of our communities and say, wow, I want to be able to do that.”

It’s a symbiotic relationship: the students gain valuable job experience, while the community gets to mentor potential hires before they’ve looked for a career elsewhere.

“We’re trying to plant the seed,” Nelson says. “It’s not going to afford us much in the immediate future, but something long-term.”

The future looks bright

More than 50 students have taken part in the program since Nelson first launched the program at SLC’s community in Amelia Island, Florida, in 2012. They’ve even hired some certified nursing assistants through the initiative.

“I would dare say that most everybody should have this on their radar,” Nelson says. “We’ve postured ourselves for growth and we’re very excited what the future is going to bring for us.”

Written by Tim Regan

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