Every year I hire about 100 college students to come and work at KIVU, our Colorado Teen Resort Facility outside of Durango, Colorado. Every year I have a list of labor-like jobs that have to get done in preparation for 1,000 high school students to come on the property and enjoy the beautiful landscape of Southwest Colorado. And, every year I run into the same declining attitude in the willingness for the university students who understand what it means to work.
I've tried to guard my attitude from turning into the grumpy old man who says, "Back in my day..." (fill in the blank) and every year I'm lured back to a bewildered state of wondering, "Who knows how to work anymore?"
I used to be able to outline a task and watch as we worked hard together to rake leaves, line rocks, or pull weeds. But today, I'm constantly having to move from job to job to make sure things are getting done, and getting done right the first time.
It's no knock on the kids that come here, per se. But I do think there's a shift happening in our youth culture where "work" is almost a dirty word. They just don't know how.
Maybe it's because everything in life has been reduced to a computer screen and a smart phone?Maybe it's because we've created an environment where we see labor as something of a lower position in life? Maybe it's just the nature of the cycle of students we hire from year to year?
But I would like to open this conversation with a question: Do you see a difference in work ethic among young people today?
A couple of things I'm noticing where the void of work is creating a different student.
1. Work develops a sense of ownership.
I believe when I get 100 students focused on something that takes effort, they have the opportunity to sweat together. In essence, they own a piece of the mission around them. At our resort, if a kid works hard to make it look good at the beginning of the season they take pride in the place. They know they've dedicated a part of their own labor to a bigger mission, and it's a valuable asset to an organization when all the members have a certain level of "buy in."
2. Work develops a sense of confidence.
So many times I'll describe a project, and I watch some students eyes start to roll. "I can't do that," they'll try and convince themselves. But if I'm willing to communicate a vision well, and I support that vision with the right tools they need to complete a job, you should see how confident their confidence begins to grow. It's almost like we all need a little push to get out of our comfort zone and realize we can do more than we ever thought or imagined.
3. Work develops a sense of belonging.
One of the biggest issues I deal with in the teen/college world is this new feeling of isolation. Contrary to our intuition, just because we have the tools to be connected through social media like never before, there's a deep sense of aloneness plaguing this generation. They don't have the skills to relate to one another without a smart phone or a computer by their side. So when we provide a place where students can come together and work with their hands side by side with one another, a deep sense of belonging begins to form. Some people call it bonding, but I tend to think of it as developing story.
Having a story to tell as it relates in the midst of a project connects people on another level. I've heard former staff tell of the times they lifted logs from one area of the property, lined rocks in the road, or dug ditches for water to flow to our irrigation ditch. All of that type of work orchestrates a life long story of remembrance WITH one another.
We can't simply make life so easy that our next generation forgets the sweat equity it takes to build a successful project. That's why we're pulling the rakes and shovels out today to model what it looks like to work.
I'll write more later and let you know what else I find.