Gap years for Generation Z: valuable life experience or a waste of time?

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Almost half of all UK adults believe that Generation Z taking a gap year is beneficial to future job prospects if combined with learning. In light of this, HRreview decided to reach out to professionals in HR and education to ask the question of whether a gap year is really beneficial for Generation Z’s employability in the future.

According to new research commissioned by YouGov and London Stansted Airport, 44 per cent of adults from the UK felt that travelling combined with a skills course improved Generation Z’s employment prospects.

Generation Z travellers tend to seek out more educational holidays, with 73 per cent traveling abroad in order to see cultural and historical sights. Additionally, 56 per cent travel to visit nature or wildlife and 35 per cent go abroad to experience local communities.

A third (33 per cent) of 16-24-year olds in the UK agreed that travel was important to overall growth as an adult.

According to FreshStudentLiving, around 230,000 students take a gap year each year. Over half (60 per cent) of those who had taken a gap year revealed it helped them decide what they wanted to do at university, 66 per cent took their studies more seriously after completing a gap year and 80 per cent thought it added to their employability.

Lindsay Bridges, senior vice president HR UK & Ireland at DHL Supply Chain, a supply chain management company, said:

A purposeful gap year can be a great way for a candidate to develop key skills businesses look for during the recruitment process. Graduates who can demonstrate they had a goal and a plan often stand out from the crowd, especially if they took on a project or learnt another language before entering the workforce.

Volunteering abroad can be great for pushing students outside their comfort zones and often shows creativity and resourcefulness in the absence of technology and funding.

Finally, an internship in a relevant field denotes a good understanding of the workplace or particular industry and signals that the candidate is committed to the role they are applying for.

Alan Price, CEO and HR expert at HR software firm, BrightHR, said:

Whether a person is the right fit for a role should not be affected by the fact they took a gap year but its impact on future employment prospects may vary. Some employers could welcome this, seeing career breaks as an opportunity for recent graduates to develop new skills they may not have had before.

Alternatively, others may be less enthusiastic, especially if the candidate just sat at home for 12 months. Ultimately, employers want to hire the best person. Whilst gap years can help individuals to stand out other specific industry experience can also achieve this.

Chris Rea, head of higher education services at graduate careers organisation, Prospects, said:

It’s important that graduates think about what they want to get out of their gap year; to make a plan and actively take part in activities to achieve that plan so they can talk about how they have developed when they get home.

Patrick Burr, performance coach and author of ‘The Successful Career Toolkit’, said:

Ultimately, the value of gap year experience is based upon your ability to communicate the relevance of the competencies and skills gained to your future employer. HR Departments focus on the calibre of candidates, not whether a gap year was taken, so candidates must differentiate themselves from the competition by providing evidence of what they can contribute to the company.

 

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