Young Workers Are Eager to Expand Their Skill Set

By Katherine Gabrial

Feb 24, 2015

During this week's workforce development session at the ARC Industry Forum held in Orlando, Fla., panelist Patty Sparrell, a former manager in process engineering and optimization for ExxonMobil, said that workers born after 1980 are the best generation of collaborators we've seen.

Young workers are eager to expand their skill set and want to see how the work they do affects their organization. New hires/recent grads are hungry to learn the required skills to do their jobs best and they want to succeed and move up the workforce ladder sooner than ever, but when employees fail to provide new employees with the support system and guidance they need, young workers can come across as needy, demanding and impatient.

Our sister publication Plant Services published a report where ARC Industry panelist and forum participants talked about the different approaches companies such as 3M and Dow Chemical are doing to guide young workers into successful paths.

3M uses a buddy system, where it pairs new hires with work buddies to young workers navigate the job. Buddies answer work-related questions and offer advice and young workers feel comfortable in their new work environments.

"I wanted to feel like I could make an impact in a company even as a new hire," said Tyler Lemke, a recent grad and 3M's control system engineer. "[I] wanted a place where you didn't have to worry about walking by a person's cube or office and saying hi or asking a question."

Dow Chemical also uses a similar buddy system, they call it "peer coach." Alyssa Thomas, a process automation engineer for Dow Chemical, said that even though these partnerships are set in place, it is important for the coach or buddy to be active and show interest in helping the new hires.

Thomas said that when she was new at her job, her peer coach was assigned to a new role and she was left without someone she could turn to for help. "I didn't know what I didn't know," Thomas said, and situations like these leave young workers vulnerable to costly on-the-job mistakes.

New hires are more likely to disengage and attempt career moves or job changes when their on-the-job training programs or support systems falls through.

Sparrel noted that for industry professionals it is very important to nurture not only the minds on young workers, but also the minds of mid-career employees as well as those who are soon-to-be retired. Partnerships among these three groups is what helps minimize existing skills gap in our industry.

Learn more about what went on during thet ARC's workforce development forum by reading "Comprehensive approach to employee development is key: ARC panelists."

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