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Reaction to Maclean’s Magazine article “Are you Ready for Generation Z?”

July 29, 2014

This letter was submitted to the editor of Maclean's Magazine about the recent article, "Are You Ready for Generation Z".

Dear Editor:

In your recent issue of Maclean’s Magazine (on shelves July 21, 2014), the cover story, “Are you Ready for Generation Z” introduces readers to the next generation of youth rising. They are digitally-aware, connected, determined, socially-conscious and ready to change the world. Coined Generation Z, they are born after 1995 and are said to possess more ambition than their predecessors, the Millennials and Generation Y.

What defines this group of young leaders is their access to technology and their early participation in digital culture. They won’t only be a part of the conversation on innovation and the new digital era ahead of us, they will lead the discussion. Some say, they already are.

But is this article missing something? Aboriginal youth are the fastest growing population in our country, yet we risk losing out on their unique worldviews and valued perspectives if we fail to engage them in joining, if not leading the next digital era.  New Canadians and other marginalized youth, held back by their socio-economic status, but no less determined, socially conscious, and brilliant, also have much to offer. Focusing only on the easy-to-engage youth, banking on one segment of our diverse country’s population to drive technological innovation means forgoing the immense value ALL youth have to contribute and ultimately weakens our pool of potential Canadian talent.

Further, it is not simply access to technology that will drive technological innovation. It is STEM that will teach young Canadians to think creatively and critically. It is STEM that will allow them to transform the technology in that tablet they are familiar with to the development of new products, creating smart cities or apps that support the fight against cancer. Ultimately, it is the knowledge and application of STEM concepts that will empower the next generation of innovators to develop products that meet emerging consumer needs and drive future economic development in this country.

So let’s not sell ourselves short, banking on GenZ to lead the competition in a new global economy. They may be excellent consumers, and they may drive consumer needs and ideas for future technological advancements, but they won’t necessarily be the leaders in developing these advancements. Let’s widen the net and proactively plan for inclusivity, not just because its the right thing to do, but because it makes economic sense. Let’s not rely on the lure of gadgetry as an indicator of aptitude toward technological advancement. Let’s understand the critical role of STEM as a cornerstone of technological advancement.

When we do this. When we invest in ALL youth and give them the tools and 21st century skills to contribute to the ever-changing global economy, we unleash a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs who will drive the future social and economic prosperity of our country.

- Jennifer Flanagan