Why we should give the TikTok generation a chance and harness their qualities - Ismail Mulla

A lot is often written about young people and their inclination to learn, develop and ultimately work.

Jake Fox, the 27-year-old entrepreneur who has established a platform that connects SMEs to young people still at university.
Jake Fox, the 27-year-old entrepreneur who has established a platform that connects SMEs to young people still at university.

It’s quite easy to reach for the comfort blanket of stereotypes. That they don’t want to graft, that they spend all day wasting time online.

One thing that is often overlooked is the next generation’s propensity for finding modern-day solutions to modern-day problems.

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Rather than looking down our noses at the TikTok generation, similar to how our’s was dismissed as Millennials, it might be worth looking to harness their skills.

What you’re seeing is the emergence of true digital natives. These young people have grown up with the web since they were born. It gives them a unique advantage.

This should be dubbed the YouTube generation. Not because it spends endless hours watching cat videos or flavour of the month YouTubers, but because of its capability to use the video hosting platform to better itself.

Recently, I was talking to Jake Fox, the 27-year-old entrepreneur who has established a platform that connects SMEs to young people still at university.

The founder of Leeds-based Paperound was telling me how young people can bring ways of working and tools that small firms may not have encountered yet. He also said that they were quick at applying their learning.

“One of the best interviews I ran with one of my students was when I asked him about skills and he said ‘well I can do all of this but the other thing is if you ask me to do anything else it is just one YouTube tutorial away’,” he says.

There are countless resources for young people to hone their digital skills. Some are teaching themselves coding. Others equip themselves with the tools they need to deliver creative output.

Take Elliot Baines in Halifax for example. He wanted to become a lighting designer from when he was just knee high. The 18-year-old actually had to be homeschooled because his creation, Spiralstagelighting, was becoming too much of a distraction.

When it came to learning how to use the console and software, Mr Baines was “self taught”.

“I didn’t really have to take that much training because YouTube has so many videos on there,” he says.

It has enabled him to turn his dream into a living and through Spiralstagelighting he has worked for the likes of rappers Skepta and Aitch. Don’t worry, even I, at the age of 31, had to search who they were.

What does this mean for business? While the safer option is to lean on experience, companies would be well suited at harnessing the curiosity and ability for finding solutions. However, it’s not just about finding a young person, plumping them in front of a computer and then expecting results.

The most important thing is attitude. Not just of the employee but also the employer. Not every young person is going to show the drive to come up with solutions. Just like not every experienced recruit is going to exhibit wisdom.

Firms need to be open enough to welcome solutions and at the same time have a culture that not only encourages but also inspires staff of all ages and experience levels to go find solutions that could help the business.

I’m at the age where the first flecks of grey hair are showing in my beard and increasingly newer technologies are enveloping my life that I struggle to understand. Yet, I marvel at Generation Z and its ability to find solutions for problems that many of us Millennials would never have even realised exist.

Recently, I did some work with the wonderful journalism students at Leeds Beckett University. There I got to see first-hand how with a little encouragement and inspiration they were able to deliver top quality work. That’s why I really hope that Jake Fox’s Paperound is successful.

Not only does it have the potential to be a boon to the region’s huge population of small businesses but also an opportunity for some of these talented, driven young people to show what they are capable of. Whatever guise the next generation comes into contact with a business, it would be wise to look to nurture it.

After all they are the future.

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James Mitchinson