We’ve heard that Gen Y, born between 1982 and 1993, is the most entrepreneurial generation, but the next generation is even more ambitious than them. Let me introduce you to Gen Z, those born between 1994 and 2010 — a group that’s comprised of high school students and younger, and is poised to become the most entrepreneurial generation we’ve ever seen.
Also considered “The internet generation”, this is by far the most tech savvy, connected and self-educated group. While Gen Y is known for “side gigs” and having multiple careers, Gen Z is more focused on working for themselves.
In a new study called “High School Careers“, by my company and , we surveyed 4,769 students, which includes 172 high school students and 4,597 college students. In our research, we discovered that 72 percent of high school students and 64 percent of college students want to start a business someday.
In addition, 61 percent of high school students and 43 percent of college students would rather be an entrepreneur instead of an employee when they graduate college. While Gen Y struggles to pay back one trillion dollars in student loans, and is living with their parents when they graduate, Gen Z is already focused on creating their own companies and living life on their terms.
Here are some of the reasons why Gen Z looks like it might be more entrepreneurial than Gen Y:
1. They have access to resources that Gen Y didn’t at that age.
Gen Z is fortunate to have websites where they can teach themselves new skills that allow them to become better entrepreneurs. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of massive open online courses, or MOOC’s for short. These free courses given by websites such as Coursera, EDX, and the Khan Academy, have opened an entire new world of education and learning for Gen Z’s who can access the information from their bedrooms.
On top of those resources, there are now thousands of additional ones that are either free or low cost and run by experts (like Marissa Mayer and Seth Godin) on sites like Udemy and SkillShare. There are hundreds of thousands of books published each year and since Gen Z’s are heavy tablet, mobile and computer users, it becomes seamless for them to access advice from entrepreneurs.
2. They have access to programs that Gen Y didn’t.
One example is The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which brings its entrepreneurial training to high school students, especially those from low-income communities. They believe that entrepreneur training and courses can positively change the trajectory of a teenager’s life.
The Thiel Fellowship is a program that’s been running for three years and awards $100,000 to 20 entrepreneurs who are willing to bypass college to focus on their businesses. TiE Global has an education program and $10,000 business plan competition, which has had 140 participants from more than 25 schools.
These programs give Gen Z several options to learn entrepreneurship on their own time.
3. They have parents who are putting more pressure on them.
In our study, we found that 55 percent of high school students say that their parents are putting pressure on them to gain professional experience during high school. Their parents are actually putting much more pressure on them to focus on their careers than the economic pressures that they are enduring.
The problem we found is that although parents are heavily involved in their decisions in high school, they aren’t helping their children get professional experience. High school students have to get it on their own and as a result it’s made them more independent, pushing them down the entrepreneurial path.
4. They can get mentors before Gen Y ever could.
Gen Z has access to a wide variety of mentors in their field, many of which would love to connect with entrepreneurial-minded high school students. They can connect with them by reading their blogs, tweeting with them or even emailing them directly. The internet has given them unprecedented access at such a young age to get in touch with mentors that can help them make better business decisions.
They can also tap into experts by going to a site like Pivotplanet.com, where they pay a small fee to have hour-long coaching sessions with successful entrepreneurs. In addition, they have other teens to look up to that have become successful entrepreneurs like Nick D’Aloisio, who sold his news summary service called Summly to Yahoo for $30 million. When Gen Y’s were in high school, there weren’t any standout high school entrepreneurs like there are now, some of which have even spoke at the TED conferences.
5. Colleges and companies are engaging high school students now.
Columbia University in New York City has an entrepreneurship program for high school students who are looking to gain firsthand experience in product development, venture planning, finance and operations. At UC Berkeley in California, there’s a program called The Center for Young Entrepreneurs at Haas, which is the only year-round program provided by a university that incorporates mentoring, education, coaching and support.
Deloitte LLP has created partnerships with high schools to help students in their career selection process, in hopes that more students will eventually want to work for the company. Lockheed Martin has a program called “Engineers in the Classroom”, which includes eight full-year engineering courses in civil engineering and digital electronics. Finally, Microsoft offers high school internships that are eight to 10 weeks long, paid, offer various tech courses and allow students to meet the brains behind Xbox 360 and Windows.
All three companies are looking to fill their talent pipeline with high school students now for the impeding skills shortage from retiring workers. All three are introducing Gen Z to new skills, experiences and industries, which will help them become better entrepreneurs.
“By employing students, companies get exposure to talent early in their career journey and help support the well being of the local community,” says Robin D. Richards, CEO of.