Press release

21 Apr 2021 London, GB

Gen Z survey respondents are optimistic about the future and feel that business and education can help better prepare them for the future

LONDON, 21 APRIL 2021. A survey of nearly 6,000 active and former participants of JA Worldwide programs across 17 countries finds that young people aged 16-25 (“Gen Z”) are optimistic about their future prospects.

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Alasdair Gee

EY Global Media Relations and Social Media Assistant Director – Talent, Diversity & Inclusion and Corporate Responsibility

Global media relations and social media leader for Talent, D&I and CR. Keen runner, swimmer and occasional cyclist.

  • 82% of surveyed Gen Z cohort optimistic about finding work and addressing global challenges in 2030
  • 54% Gen Z respondents say their education has prepared them for the future
  • Gen Z respondents asking for more work-based experiences in the classroom, including professional mentorship

A survey of nearly 6,000 active and former participants of JA Worldwide programs across 17 countries finds that young people aged 16-25 (“Gen Z”) are optimistic about their future prospects.

Conducted by EY in collaboration with JA Worldwide in late 2020, the survey asks about attitudes and beliefs in relation to education, the future of work and careers. It finds that 82% of respondents feel hopeful about finding meaningful work and addressing global challenges in 2030, despite being in the midst of a global pandemic and the likelihood of recession.

A generation of entrepreneurs

When asked about future plans, 53% of survey respondents say that, in 10 years, they hope to be running their own businesses. That proportion increased for Gen Z respondents who are currently in the workforce, with 65% optimistic that they will be running their own businesses in 2030. 

When asked to rank their ideal career traits, the Gen Z respondents show further signs of entrepreneurial aspiration. Gen Z respondents ranked “original thought and ideas,” “interaction with people from around the world” and “opportunity to solve complex problems” as the top three most valued career traits.

Confidence in technology and automation

Regarding their sense of preparedness for the future working world, 85% of Gen Z respondents say they are confident in their ability to use technology. The survey also finds that Gen Z respondents believe trends such as the automation of work, globalization and shifting work norms will have a positive impact on their experiences in the workforce, with 74% reporting that they feel “optimistic” about the effects of automation on their career prospects.

Education on future-focused skills is key

The survey finds that 54% of Gen Z respondents feel their education has successfully prepared them to prosper in 2030. Specifically, they said they want to spend more time on both subject areas and teaching methodologies that will better prepare them for their future careers and roles as global citizens. When asked to rank school subjects in terms of educational importance, a majority (77%) list environmental literacy and career development among the top three, with financial literacy, global citizenship, digital literacy and entrepreneurship also ranking highly.

Turning to how the education system could be improved, 59% of Gen Z respondents say there should be more focus on real-life work and 57% said there should be more focus on professional mentorship, revealing a generational group that values true-to-life work experiences as a means to embrace the changing working world.

Seeking guidance from formal education, multinationals and governments

According to the survey, while 60% of Gen Z respondents consider the education system the most important institution to prepare them for the future, 53% of respondents said they are also looking to corporations and large businesses to prepare them for emerging trends such as automation, globalization and new work norms.

Julie Linn Teigland, EY EMEIA Area Managing Partner, EY Global Leader – Women. Fast forward program and JA Europe Board member says:

“Gen Z represent the future of the workforce and by listening and responding to their voices, the business community can better realize the role it should play in preparing this rising generation for tomorrow. This should include engaging with young people by providing them with more learning and mentorship opportunities and tapping into their entrepreneurial spirit by offering more dynamic, purpose-driven and engaging career pathways. Business leaders must think hard about how they can better understand the passions of Gen Z and provide them with the skills and experiences that will help them build a better working world for generations to come.”

Asheesh Advani, President and CEO, JA Worldwide says:

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with EY to produce this eye-opening report on the attitudes and perspectives that prevail among JA’s Gen Z students around the world. We are especially surprised to discover just how optimistic Gen Z is about the future. Young people recognize that the next few years will be challenging, but their optimism soars when looking 10 years ahead. One of the hallmarks of JA programs around the world is hands-on experiential learning. And Gen Z respondents tell us again and again that they not only hope to continue learning experientially, they also want to accelerate it. For Gen Z, connecting academic work to the real-world, through projects, role models from industry and problem-solving, is paramount when it comes to working toward a smooth transition from school to work.”

The full report can be found here.


Notes to editors

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About JA Worldwide

As one of the world’s largest youth-serving non-profits, JA Worldwide prepares young people for employment and entrepreneurship, delivering hands on, experiential learning in work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. Reaching more than 10 million young people last year, JA is one of few organizations with the scale, experience, and passion to build a brighter future for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, makers, and managers. 

About EY and JA Worldwide

EY and JA Worldwide have worked together in more than 25 countries to bring entrepreneurial education to thousands of students. The two organizations believe that preparing Gen Z for employment and entrepreneurship will require business, education, non-profits and governments to collaborate in meaningful ways to ensure that this generation is ready for the future. Both EY and JA Worldwide aim to help prepare Gen Z to take on the unprecedented challenges of tomorrow.