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600+ INTERNS AT MSP-BASED COMPANIES TUNED IN ACROSS U.S.

This July, partners throughout the Greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul region (MSP) celebrated hundreds of students, recent graduates and rising professionals who chose to spend their summers interning at employers based in MSP. The fifth annual – and second virtual – Discover MSP intern event has become a signature program of the region’s MAKE IT. MSP. initiative, powered by the GREATER MSP Partnership. This July, 686 interns representing 13 different MSP-based employers tuned in from 210+ cities across the country and the world. The main goal of this year’s Discover MSP was to engage interns in important conversations around equity, transformation, the future of work, and creating impact inside and outside of the workplace. Set amidst the global pandemic for a second year, the event provided a special opportunity to gather insights from these interns at a critical stage in their lives, as they reimagine their careers in light of the long-lasting effects of COVID-19 on the world and workplace.

Below is a summary of what we learned and how it compares to national trends. The insights raise questions about what else we hope to learn about the future of work from the largest growing demographic of our workforce – Gen Z.

MAJORITY WANT TO WORK IN-PERSON SOME (IF NOT MOST) OF THE TIME 

Around the world, we see employers and employees challenging the norms of work, including where they work from each day. Some have found new freedom, flexibility, and opportunities working from home and will not want to give that up. At the same time, some feel a heightened sense of isolation and a desire to collaborate and build relationships in person. Gen Z interns are unique in that they have started their careers and/or professional experiences in the home. We asked for their perspective on remote vs. in-person work. What we found was initially surprising.  

Live polling results from the 2021 Discover MSP  Intern Event

Our Discover MSP poll results highlight marked differences between how Gen Z and other demographic cohorts are thinking about return to work, reflecting data reported in The New York Times and Fortune. Gen Z perspective differs starkly from responses from Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer generations, who show varying preferences to work remotely. Perhaps their experience with the traditional workplace culture prior to the pandemic was enough to make them feel acclimated to their role? Do they already feel connected to teammates? These are the questions we will need to continue to ask ourselves as we restructure work and the workplace post-COVID-19.  

GEN Z LIKELY TO CONSIDER MOVING TO NEW MARKETS FOR RIGHT OPPORTUNITY

In research collected for a 2019 MAKE IT. MSP. Insights Report, the MAKE IT. MSP. initiative explored the concerns, motivations, and values driving Gen Z and their career choices. Opportunities for advancement, diversity of leadership, and the burden of student loans emerged as a few of the most important factors influencing the employers Gen Z considered working for post-graduation. That was before the events of the last 18 months — the pandemic along with the renewed push for racial justice in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd —  transformed our world. So, in 2021, we decided to pulse back in with our captive audience of 600+ interns to see what, if anything, may have changed. Here’s what we found:

Live polling results from the 2021 Discover MSP  Intern Event

In summary, interns continue to prioritize finding the right company and role that aligns with their personal values and ambitions. We also found that despite the uncertainty of the world, most interns would consider moving to a new market (including to MSP) for the right employer and role. In addition, we asked interns to share how the events of 2020 may have caused them to reevaluate their career plans. Roughly 38% said that 2020 experiences had either resulted in them changing or questioning their career paths. This data underscores that the pandemic has and will continue to shape an entire generation’s perspective on work. Long-term impacts are unpredictable.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MSP & THE NEXT GENERATION OF OUR WORKFORCE

We are considering what Gen Z expects from the future of work, i.e. hybrid workplaces/styles, purpose and mission-driven employers, opportunities for growth, exposure to interesting work. We may be left with more questions than answers, but we may be closer to asking the right questions. What changes will be most important for employers to ensure that Gen Z chooses to bring their talents to MSP? In what ways can we work better as a region to attract and retain these talented new team members, especially those who share the same commitment to making this region a better, more equitable place? We have much to examine in the months and years to come. Partners in the MAKE IT. MSP. initiative will continue to learn together and make for a better future of work in MSP.  

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