Millennial messages relevant to all learners

Almost 45% of VET learners are aged 15 – 24.  Society has various names for people who fall into this age group—generation (Gen) Y/Z, millennials, young adults and more.  Whatever you call them (we’ll call them millennials), they make up a significant portion of the VET student cohort.

Recent research about millennials  reveal skill and knowledge expectations of the workplace, the skills employers select for, and insight into reading and social engagement.

How do these findings inform our practice and enable us to help our learners graduate with strong foundation skills?

In this post we’ll:

  • introduce 2 findings about millennial learners
  • offer some ways to support them in their learning.

Finding 1: Employers want broader skill sets

Research from Australia, USA, Canada …

1 VOCED Plus

Focus on Millennials offers a snapshot of research findings from Australia, USA and Canada about:

  • how prepared millennials are for workplace roles
  • employer approaches to selection and retaining this generation.

More jobs require higher qualifications, so more than ever before “millennials feel the need to complete post-secondary education“:

“However, employers are looking for more than qualifications and technical skills; leaving many millennials feeling under-prepared for the world of work.”

Overall, employability skills such as being adaptable, able to resolve conflicts and possessing an eagerness to learn are increasingly sought after:

“…in a competitive job market, those with the strongest soft skills, especially the ability to network and communicate effectively, have an advantage.”

2 Foundation for Young Australians

You may remember the release, early in 2016, from the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) of The New Basics: Big data reveals the skills young people need for the New Work Order.  This research also reveals that employers are selecting for soft skills, as well as vocational competencies.

Soft skills are viewed as critical for workers to fully engage and contribute to the enterprise outcomes.

Later in 2016, FYA  released, The New Work Mindset which digs deeper into the New Basics findings and reveals some key messages for trainers,  and learners preparing for work. 

“Jobs are more related than we realise…When a person trains or works in 1 job,, they acquire,skills for 13 other jobs.” (p. 4)

“The future of work is complex but skills are more portable than we realise.” (p. 11)

“There are 7 job clusters in the Australian economy, based on skills demanded by employers” (p.13)
“Job clusters require similar skills that are often portable across occupations” (p.18)


What opportunities do your learners have to develop the ‘similar’ , or soft, skills for the New Work Mindset through authentic and purposeful instruction and delivery approaches?

  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Team work
  • Problem solving
  • Planning, time management
  • Detail orientation

Tip: Promote interaction

What’s key is to constantly ask, “What’s next? How can I take this to the next level?”.  Check you learning management system for opportunities to connect with learners. Here’s some suggestions that are simple:

2 Some may read very little

This Australian research Teen Reading Habits explores the frequency and range of tools used by teens to read for pleasure.

  • 70% read for pleasure – weekly
  • 30% may not read for pleasure
  • Of those, 50% read for at least 15 minutes
  • The other 50% may be less

Think about the range of text types we read for work; emails, websites social media posts, training material, compliance documents, website information, learner assessments, podcasts, webinars, forum posts, IT instructions and infographics. Will the workplace your learners are preparing for involve similar texts?

Learners commencing a VET course may be very unprepared for the volume and range of texts involved.


  1. How can we ease learners into reading unfamiliar texts?
  2. How can we promote engagement with the text while reading?
  3. How can we build reading skills to embrace deeper reflection about the text?

1 Prepare learners: Introduce the text

  1. Discuss the content overview
  2. Provide background to the text
  3. Describe the structure and ‘flow’ of the text
  4. Ask, “What do you know about this topic…” questions, and respond as appropriate

2 How can we promote engagement with the text while reading?

It is not enough for learners to passively read the words on a page. We can encourage them to think about the words, question ideas, interact with the text.

  1. Highlighting alone is a passive activity, make some notes, flag paragraphs that stand out in some way.
  2. Decide on the author’s most important points, identify how they fit together. Draw something visual if that helps, for example a mind map.
  3. Ask; what initial questions do I have?

3 How can we build reading skills to embrace deeper reflection about the text?

Ask learners to return to the text they have been reading.  First, seek an initial response to the text—ask them to explain or justify their responses to the text.  Then, dig deeper with questions and tasks that require consideration of the text.

The table below shows some examples of useful questions and tasks for learners:

 An initial response

  • Interesting points
  • Why consider this?
  • Key ‘take-aways’
  • Useful to/for?
  • Used in your workplace?
  • Do differently/action?
A more considered response

  • Explain/justify/predict
  • Discuss/develop an opinion
  • Presentation/role play
  • Solve problems/find solutions
  • Analyse/similarities/differences

A closing thought—don’t box them in!

Although research into millennials can give us useful insights as to how educators can support them throughout their training, we must be careful not to over-generalise and assume that all millennials have similar characteristics and needs.

We hope you find the research and instructional strategies we have shared in this post to be a useful starting point when teaching many learners, rather than not a means of restricting or categorising millennials.

The magnificent thing about we human beings is our capacity to be unique in thought, character and deed.  Isn’t that what we celebrate as we build relationships with our learners?



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