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Careers aspirations

Download: GEN Z: EMERGING TALENT Full report

At AtkinsRéalis , we're helping to design and build the infrastructure needed to improve people’s lives. But why has our team chosen to make a difference in this way?

Some colleagues set out on a carefully planned career path because they want to fulfil a specific ambition. Others have discovered what really interests them by embracing the variety and diversity of the challenges they face. We’re all driven by different things. So what does that mean for employers? In this rapidly changing world of work, how can organisations attract and retain the best people?

We gained insight into this question by asking Gen Z and Millennials what they’re looking for from a career. We found that in the USA, Canada and the UK many are seeking job opportunities that will enable them to have a good quality of life. Other organisations have looked even more closely at what the newest generations to enter the workforce want.

In Canada, Millennials seek jobs that provide stability, convenience and balance and it’s perhaps for that reason that Millennials there, and in the USA, assess an employer based on the benefits they offer and their level of flexibility.1 Gen Z on the other hand, is more concerned with fuelling their passion and taking pride in the work they do.

That’s not to say they don’t want to be rewarded financially or have the security that a good level of pay offers them. According to a report by a Vancouver-based customer intelligence provider, while Millennials want to map out a clear career path and know they have adequate vacation days, a majority of Gen Z respondents, 65% in all, said salary is the most important factor.2

In the UK, most of the 2017 graduates who were surveyed (56%) expected to stay with their first employer for three years or more, and they’re three times more likely to stay even longer if they feel they’re being offered challenging and meaningful work.3

Gen Z also expects employers to offer professional development opportunities, including mentoring, and they want to have the opportunity to co-create and contribute to projects, which is in line with their desire to pursue their passions as part of their core work values. Although members of this generation are ‘digital natives’ they prefer more traditional forms of communication on the job. Research showed they prefer to work collaboratively with a small group in the office4 and value face-to-face meetings over virtual communication.5

 this is a image of text which states, In 2016 4.7 million STEM students graduated in China

Source: Park Communications Ltd – Millennials to Rule the Workforce by 2020, June 2017


Children make plans for their future from a very young age. Recently, 20,000 school children from around the world were asked what they want to do when they grow up, and what led them to make that choice.

Researchers discovered the majority of seven to 11 year-olds want to be a professional athlete. However, science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers were also popular. The survey, which is the largest of its kind, found that vet, doctor, scientist and engineer (civil, mechanical, electrical) were the 3rd, 6th, 7th and 11th most popular jobs respectively.6

Maths or science were in the top two favourite subjects (for girls and boys), apart from in Australia and China where art and design came out on top. That’s a good start. But for a business such as ours, encouraging even more girls to study STEM subjects, and ultimately, attracting more women into the engineering and construction profession, is a goal we’re actively working towards.

We’re optimistic about the possibilities for the future. In other research, 30,000 online respondents across 60 countries, and from all generations, were asked about their dream job and it too shows that STEM careers are attractive options. They were the most popular professions for representatives of Gen Z.7

1. Hays – Gen Y and the World of Work, June 2013
2. Vision Critical – The Everything Guide to Gen Z Report, March 2016
3. 5. Accenture – Gen Z Rising Report, 2017
4. Robert Half – The Secrets to Hiring and Managing Gen Z Report, 2016
6. Education and Employers – Drawing the Future Report, January 2018
7. Nielsen – Global Generational Lifestyles Report 2015