The Gig Economy
“Living to work is not the plan” states Camryn Harris a Gen Z resident in our area who spoke eloquently and with confidence during a very provocative discussion over dinner. “ I am not willing to accept a career that allows me to live a lifestyle, but rather I am going to chose a lifestyle and build my career around it”. Shocked and the table is silent as Harris explains that “travelling a path that will place her in a work force without consideration of the lifestyle just doesn’t fit the bill”, and frankly, the bills are enormous when considering post secondary education to fulfill a commitment to get a degree. “Before I even consider a career, I need to be clear first what kind of lifestyle I would like to have, and then I will use my skills and my abilities to find or create work that will allow for it. Naturally, if that path includes school, I am happy to go, but not until I know for sure that it will yield the right result, and we are not talking about money, but rather the lifestyle. that is what I am focusing on here”.
This perspective, although provocative can easily be dismissed with the thought that these generations simply don’t want to work. That is not the case and a misconception that is facing many Millennial, Generation X or Generation Z workers that are now 19 – 30 years old and are entering our workforce. Having heard the expression that that we need to be nimble for these workers to survive, its a head scratcher as to what to do next. Is this a real thing?
“Well yes it is”, states Brock Dickinson, Adjunct Professor and Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Waterloo. “A new presence is about us with the ‘Gig’ economy. This language is derived from the concept of a musician who signs up for a Gig, a short term project that has quick goals and time commitments. Now we have workers here who are looking for their own Gig economy, be it Uber, or AirBnB, consulting, freelance writing, and more independent careers where they can be open to the imagination of opportunities around them rather than being restricted by a shift or a timeline for which they are accountable for. In many of the examples above, and for people with entrepreneurial spirits, the ability to craft their work to match the lifestyle is rising everywhere”
And its buzzing in Georgian Bay, where Elizabeth Louter is officially a bee keeper as a side hustle and has found herself a member of the Gig economy. One small bee hive kit, provided to her by her husband on Valentines day has turned into 6 hives and honey production. Her new Gig also now allows for the production of bee lip balm, bee wraps, bee candles and forthcoming bee beer, (a partnership brewing with Sawdust City.. another Gig entrepreneur).
Is this an interruption of the work spaces in this area? “Yes, it absolutely is”, states Joanne Smith owner of several Tim Hortons in and around Muskoka, and Midland. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to find workers who are willing to commit to a schedule and a work life that requires on time performance and actually working a shift. We are frustrated and have seen a need to bring in foreign workers to support the job performance here”.
So how do we respond to this? As economic and community developers, Venture Muskoka believes, and Professor Dickinson agrees, that the way to support this Gig economy is to ensure that the training available and the menu of options for training may not necessarily include post secondary multi year courses,
but rather acute triage courses on bookkeeping, marketing, sales, and small business. Partnering with small business enterprises and Muskoka Futures may well be a good reliable opportunity to attract the attention of people like Camryn and Elizabeth. It would be remiss of us to ensure that the ability to transfer skills between the generations of work schedules, deadlines and the ability to meet expectations, a set of skills essential for any type of entrepreneurship be it necessity or opportunity.
This brings back the important skill sets that Joanne Smith offers with scheduled work weeks and on time performance. Perhaps it is a marriage of both worlds as there needs to be multiple streams of income in order to survive while these Gig workers follow their passion. This type of worker is important and the ability to support the Gig economy does match where Muskoka is headed in terms of attracting these are groups to be a part of our communities.
If it is bee farming, or craft brewery or a combination of both, it makes good sense for communities to rally and support this shift in worker abilities. We draw reference back to the creative workspace and also Rural on Purpose article written in June 2019 here on Venture Muskoka. They way we do business is changing. Gig Economy is here. Why? Well Harris states, “If you want to assign blame, take a look at the cost of education? It is no longer affordable to attend school just to get a degree. The only way this could even be considered now, is if there are courses I need for the lifestyle I am not willing to negotiate”.
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