Over the last few years there’s been a lot of discussion around Millennials in the workplace. While this is still a relevant discussion, we are ready to study what’s next. What are the values, concerns, and aspirations of the next generation? This fall, a group of our designers teamed with students from the local Blue Valley CAPS program to learn more about this generation and their vision of what the workplace will be like in 5-8 years as they graduate college.
To properly set the stage, it’s important to know CAPS is not an ordinary high school. The Center of Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) hosts junior and senior students from other area high schools to participate in problem-based real world experiential learning focused in the areas of Bioscience, Business, Engineering, and Human Services with the goal of fostering individual and societal success (www.bvcaps.org). The students we met with are mentored by real working professionals and are able to contribute to actual projects and solutions in the marketplace. Together, they comprise an extraordinary pool of youth eager to innovate and quite capable of imaging a viable workplace of the future.
In our first meeting we took a step back from considering the physical workplace and dreamt about the type of work this generation might be doing. Think back only ten years ago to 2004. Facebook was just getting started at universities, the iphone wouldn’t arrive until 2007, and Twitter was still in its early years. Today there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in social media: app development, programming and marketing, and strategists that didn’t exist in 2004. Now think ahead 10 years. Not so easy? Around our Helix red table we asked the CAPS students to create a job that doesn’t exist today and a profile for the person doing the job. A few of the examples?
- A neighborhood ‘tech guy’ always available to help, and who only lives a few doors away
- A garbage astronaut who cleans up debris in outerspace
- A scientist who develops 3D printed organs
At our next meeting the Helix team went to the CAPS school to talk with another group of students about what kind of spaces they see themselves working in someday. We asked: What does this place look like? What kind of furniture is there? What tools do you need? What’s the most important part of this space?
Students broke into teams to design the perfect spaces to focus, learn, and collaborate, and then presented their ideas to the group. Some of our favorites:
- A small workstation within collaborative areas to retreat to focus on an idea without losing inspiration or disrupting the group.
- Focus areas should feel more like home with calm music and a variety of lighting. They even suggested scented candles! Essentially, “the opposite of a classroom.”
- The most important ingredients in social areas? Food, plants and sunlight to fuel wellness and creativity
The CAPS students provided valuable insight into this next generation. We loved the way they compared workplaces of the past (rows of cubicles with an office for the boss) to classrooms of the past (rows of desks with a teacher up front lecturing). The conversation about how their educational experience has changed based on the space they’re in is a testament to the value of sustainable architecture (CAPS is housed in a LEED Silver building) and the experiential learning model of the CAPS school. Clearly, the expectations and needs of this generation and how they influence the workplace will continue to be the subject of research and studies for years to come, but initiating the conversation with forward-thinking kids in our very own city seemed like a great place to start.
A huge thank you to the Blue Valley CAPS program, particularly teacher and facilitator Scott Kershel and the students who met with us for sharing their ideas, time, and zeal.