Newly trained workers preparing for the opening of Whataburger in Republic in December 2022. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

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OPINION |

by Noah Lawson, Springfield, MO

I’m appalled at the comments that were made in the meeting regarding Gen Z and their work capabilities/ethic.

My name is Noah Lawson, and I am 24 years old. I’m currently a Senior at Missouri State University studying Information Technology. My wife is a pharmacist for a pharmacy located here in Springfield. We love this area. I grew up in Willard, and she in West Plains. We have lived our entire lives here. We have also both worked throughout college — both in our undergraduate programs, and my amazing wife worked all during her Doctoral program. We have never not worked.

So, it surprises me to see so many locally owned businesses complaining about our generation’s work ethic, especially when all our friends and our colleagues at school have been consistently employed.

For me specifically, it has been impressively difficult to find a job, even with the four years of experience that I bring. This is because employers state that “it is not enough experience” or that my experience “doesn’t actually count”, even though I was helping achieve business goals and not just “getting coffee” or lounging around, as so many people assume. Below is a screenshot of a conversation that I had with a recruiter for one of the companies present at the meeting Sept. 13. This is a recruiter who I reached out to first.

So, it is frustrating to hear managers and recruiters, such as John Edwards, say that “there’s just no history there, and they don’t put anything to gauge anything that they can do” on applications and resumes. Of course, we don’t have any work experience! That is why we are applying for jobs — to gain experience! You expect Gen Z to have work experience, yet you will not hire us without any experience. So, to John Edwards (of Capital Paving and Construction), where do you expect us to gain experience at 18 years old? Apparently, not at your company.

It is ironic that employers are complaining about our “lack of communication” when not a single person invited Springfield Public Schools to attend this event. They then had the audacity to complain that SPS was not present at the meeting! Maybe the businesses could have communicated with them. Where were the Gen Z organizational leaders during this meeting? Why did you not invite them to hear their responses? They do exist. They exist at local schools, churches, and community clubs. They would love to be involved in this meeting. All you need to do is reach out.

Mama Jeans, people can pool together unused sick days for those who need them? How about you just provide people more sick days. Your HR leaders have the ability to approve it. A company emergency fund for employees? How about you pay employees more? HR can approve it. Pooling together sick days and pay is not a benefit. The biggest complaint about Mama Jeans on Indeed is that their pay is lacking.

And asking candidates if they know how to do menial chores? How condescending. Of course, nobody is working for you! Had I been asked that question in an interview, then I would have declined any job offer presented. Clearly, you are not a leader who inspires their employees but rather thinks less of them. I don’t ask older employers in interviews if they know how to fix their computers or send a text message. I would not be offered the job because that’s patronizing and rude.

Look at Costco here in town. They pay prevailing market wages for employees. They provide actual benefits. Their health care is reasonable. They have generous sick days and vacation days. Do you see them struggling for employees? Nope! It is actually very difficult to get a job at Costco.

As a social media user once asked, “Would you flip burgers for a salary of $350k per year? You would? …sounds like people are ok with working, it’s the money that’s the problem”.

So, Springfield businesses, maybe you need to re-evaluate your pay and benefits. Gen Z individuals are out there, and we are employed. We are working a lot, too, especially with the rising inflation. We are penny-pinching, trying to get by. We love to work and make a difference, but we love to be compensated fairly for the difference we make.

The issue is NOT that nobody wants to work anymore. The issue is that nobody wants to work for your business anymore.