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Apprentices: Generation Z is leaving, Alphas are ready to go

02/02/2023 2022/02

We are still in a phase in which all trainees are Generation Z "zoomers". But already in the middle of this decade the first people of their following age cohort will apply, the Generation Alpha. On the following lines, we want to look at this young generation and how you can correctly address these important skilled workers of tomorrow in order to attract and retain them in your company. 

Zoomers and Alphas in a nutshell

Each generation has different experiences during its formative teenage years due to external factors. Experts have therefore been dividing and naming age cohorts for some time. Although their birth years are not globally uniform, they are similar. 
For example, today's silver workers of the 50-plus generation belong to the baby boomers or the older members of Generation X. But who are the zoomers and alphas? But who are zoomers and alphas? Here, the (as I said, approximate) birth cohorts apply:

  • Generation Z: *1997 to 2012
  • Generation α: *2010 to 2025

The oldest Alphas are already advancing to an early adolescent age, when thoughts about future career paths are common. Thus, they are advancing to an age when thoughts about future career paths are common. You may recognize the relative "squishiness" of the definition from the birth year overlap. Nevertheless, from a sociological perspective, distinctive features of alphas can be identified.

Gen Alpha l(o) ives progress
Gen Alpha spend their entire lives in a globalized, digitized world. © Lifestylememory on Freepik

Alphas: More than digital zoomers

oomers are the first full generation that no longer consciously experienced an analog era - true digital natives. Before 2020, sociologists believed that alphas would merely become an even more digital generation, born into a world of omnipresent smartphones, influencers, extensive social media use, and streaming.

Today, however, this picture has been revised. Because the (already born) members of the α generation are confronted with two exceptions:

  1. The Alphas experienced a pandemic kindergarten and elementary school years with all its consequences. Months of contact restrictions, closures, sometimes even the death of family members. Because this confrontation occurred at such a young age, it has a particularly drastic effect.
  2. Climate change has been going on for much longer. The Alphas, however, know only a world of consequences visible everywhere. For example, many of them know no summers without drought and heat waves, no winters with extended periods of frost and snow.

While it is true that these people grow up with the highest digital level ever. With that comes some necessities for you as an employer:in. But these two negative events are what make alphas a special age cohort because they have been and continue to be so deeply impacted by them.

Other key facts you need to know:

  • Due to the very high digital standard of living, alphas are used to the amount of sensory overload that comes with it. They don't know boredom, can't really deal with it or lack of stimulation per se.
  • Also as a result of growing up fully digitized, alphas approach everyday problems differently. They don't have to get used to digital work or learning concepts because they experienced distance learning as elementary school students. They know how to use digital translators, calculators, and the like, and where to find perfect analyses and summaries of works that many zoomers still had to work their way through, book page by book page. Classical learning concepts therefore seem rather alienating.
  • The childhood of many Alphas is characterized by relative prosperity. At the same time, however, they are already experiencing how jobs are being replaced by digital technologies. Many are also unfamiliar with the concept of lifelong jobs, because at most they remember this from their grandparents.

Further, as an employer:in you need to understand one thing: Already among zoomers, there were fewer potential apprentices with each passing year for demographic and sociological reasons. First, because of low birth rates. Second, because more than half of these cohorts have already been studying since the early 2010s.

It is true that "only" 54.7 percent enrolled in the winter semester of 2022/23, where in 2019 it was 57.6 percent. However, this does not indicate a long-term trend reversal. You will therefore also have to put a lot of effort into welcoming the alphas as trainees.

What alphas want and need

If there isn't a shortage of young talent in your company yet, you'll feel it at the latest if you fail to attract alpha trainees (in both senses of the word). In fact, you should start today, even if you won't be guiding the first young people of this generation through the application process until spring 2025 or 2026.

  1. The climate standing must be right
    For several years now, you've been seeing how strongly young people are committed to fighting climate change. The Alphas are growing up with these role models. So, along with their digital skills, they'll be scrutinizing who they send their applications to. Their corporate "green slate" must therefore be spotless.
  2. Your digital standing must be impeccable.
    Not every training job is fully digital. Still, it would be presumptuous not to offer alphas all the digital capabilities that are feasible. Furthermore, this technology must be functional in your house, because it is an absolute prerequisite for alphas who no longer know analog approaches. By the way, this also applies to dealing with cell phones: Wanting to generally prohibit an alpha from regularly looking at his or her smartphone may seem obvious to "elders," but it is likely to be difficult to implement in practice.
  3. Accept the special working realities
    The pandemic was a gigantic booster for remote work. Therefore, with the alphas come people who learned this way of working in grade school. If the particular job theoretically allows home work, you should by no means try to force alpha trainees into constant presence work. Analogously, they should allow freer working hours if necessary (within the limits of the law, of course). 
    Furthermore, they must address growing up with the knowledge of high ergonomics. Alpha workplaces must therefore be even more "feelgood workplaces" than you are used to. 
  4. Offer permanent learning opportunities
    All vocational training is characterized by ongoing learning. However, if you want to keep alphas in the company beyond the apprenticeship, you need to demonstrate as early as the first year of the apprenticeship that these people can and should continue to learn here. However: Classic seminars are rather out of place here. Remote training, TikTok-like video clips and offers via app are clearly better.
  5. Still don't forget analog approaches
    The reality of life for alphas is definitely heavily digitized. But not least in the aforementioned competition for these professionals, it is still necessary to be present at training fairs, job days in schools and similar analog occasions - instead of just presenting yourself on digital career portals.
    On such occasions, analog approaches become important even for this digital generation - for example, in the form of flyers or advertising displays for the young people and, not least, their perhaps somewhat more analog-minded parents. Simply because such media are more low-threshold (and not least more cost-effective for you) than, for example, programming apps or creating clips especially for such occasions.
    Nevertheless, such analog printed matter must speak a "digital language". This applies to layout and wording as well as to color design. Here, a squad of special colorings is available, so-called spot colors. They allow printing with metallic effects or neon colors, for example, which can give media designed in this way a contemporary, youthful look. Together with a layout that is based on what the alphas are familiar with from the web (such as contemporary memes), analog media can still speak a "digital language".  



A new generation of youth is on the cusp of schooling and vocational training. However, since these alphas have already experienced various exceptional situations in their young lives and also grew up extremely digital, it is necessary to align all HR efforts with these factors. Some things can be adopted from the zoomers, but many things should be tailored specifically to this independent generation of young people in order to secure your skilled workers of tomorrow.

About the Author
Sally Kießling
Employer Branding Consultant

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