Generation Z, Zoomers, iGeneration, neo-digital natives - call them what you will but our under-24-year-olds are all about the technology, right?

Well, yes and no.

Three Whanganui Gen Zers, all keen users of technology, talk about how it is getting them into businesses and careers but also sound a caution about the future and the impact on people. It seems Gen Z has a strong social conscience.

Brad Kirkland launched his online gaming accessories company Ubisales in late 2016.

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He financed it from part-time work and at the time was undecided just where his future would take him.

Now 19, Brad is studying for a Bachelor of ICT majoring in software engineering at UCOL and planning the next step in the development of his business - an advance on drop shipping.

"I'm developing technology to automate the process of online sales so I can step out of doing manual work; so it can self-market based on various adverts and take feedback based on sales and say that's a good campaign, market that more," Brad said.

"I'm working towards creating something that's unique in e-commerce. Sites are being constantly made by template but I'm trying to find something unique.

"We are heading to a point of lack of progression in e-commerce – nothing is new. There are now a lot of excess sites and everything is trying to be supplied by the same people. I want to create one mega-site."

Brad is putting together a team which includes his long-time mentor Warren Ruscoe of Meteor Office Products Depot, Rob Moore of Moore Law and Balance Accountants to help with professional advice for development of the business.

But despite his lifelong love of gaming, his online business and his tech studies, Brad is worried about where technology is taking us.

"Our generation is put in the position with such advanced growth in technology that we will be hit around 34 years old, coming out of the pinnacle of our careers, at that point where technology is starting to take over," Brad said.

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"We are the most vulnerable as there's a lack of regulation, a fast change that we aren't used to.

"With technology being focused so much on AI [artificial intelligence] you can see brands becoming more of a monopoly and a stretch between poor and wealthy. It's almost win-lose and no in between. Get rich or almost die trying. That's going to be quite a massive thing for our generation.

"We have to set a standard of what's the limits of automation. Where do you set the boundary of what's fair and what's not? A computer can think in binary of 01 but what makes things morally right?"

Mikayla Baldwin will move her focus from fine arts to commercial design next year.
Mikayla Baldwin will move her focus from fine arts to commercial design next year.

Another Gen Zer, Mikayla Baldwin, is in her last year at Whanganui High School.

A talented artist, Mikayla held her first solo exhibition at Whanganui Fine Arts Gallery earlier this year, her work featured on the cover of the Whanganui Artists' Open Studios Guide after winning a people's choice award and she was awarded the first Young Artist Scholarship by the Whanganui Fine Arts Collective.

A future in the fine arts seems a logical progression but Mikayla has set her sights on a four-year design degree at Massey University in Wellington.

"I picked design over fine arts because technology is moving so fast and they will need creative people who can use technology," Mikayla said.

"I'm doing a visual commercial design major so it's very computer-based. I think it would be very difficult to make fine arts into a career. You'd have to be very talented.

"It would be really cool to have my own business one day but I think I'd have to start out working for a company."

Mikayla says technology has been part of most of her life but she is concerned about the societal changes she is seeing with young people using technology and its impact on employment and society.

"When I was younger I had to ask my parents for computer time. I look after a couple of girls who are 10 and technology is a huge part of their lives. When I was young, I played with my Barbie dolls and with my sister.

"I think technology is moving so fast. It's really sad to see little kids playing games on phones all the time and not running around outside.

"I think a lot of jobs will be taken over by technology. Supermarkets already have self check-outs and I don't think in the future there will be people at the check-out any more, it will all be self-service, which is really scary because you need those jobs.

"A computer can't write an essay – you need people for that kind of thing and for critical thinking. And you'll still need people to develop the technology."

The Gen Z approach to work often focuses on projects rather than long-term careers and Mikayla thinks that could be a good way of working.

"I can't see myself doing one thing for the rest of my life. I think it's cool, it allows for variety."

Mikayla also plans to continue to create art and hopes to do Artists Open Studios next year.

Ailie McDonald's website Salt Doll is providing her with an overview of how to run a business.
Ailie McDonald's website Salt Doll is providing her with an overview of how to run a business.

An online business is helping 18-year-old Whanganui High School student Ailie McDonald get a taste of the commercial world and build her knowledge.

Ailie set up her drop shipping business, selling clothing and accessories via her website Salt Doll, about four months ago.

"I was very interested in investment but couldn't find the resources to educate myself on it," Ailie said.

"I came across a video on the internet and got into it pretty much. I find bulk suppliers online and find certain products I think will do well that don't have quite the audience.

"You put them on your site and find influencers to advertise them, then people come on to your site to buy them.

"At the moment it's more of a learning point for me. I'm not really doing it for income but maybe I will down the line. It's giving me a basic understanding of business and working with customers and setting up pages for information. It's quite a learning curve for me."

Ailie is in Year 13 and undecided about her future. She plans a gap year next year and is pondering doing some e-commerce courses.

"With people like me who are indecisive about what they do want to do, it's really good to have an opportunity to get a grasp on what something is like [by setting up an online business].

"I always had in mind that I would be working for an employer but now I feel more capable of managing my own work and creating my own business. It would be really good for me I think."

Ailie says she enjoys having her own project to focus on outside school, part-time work and other commitments. However, she also has mixed feelings about where technology is taking us.

"With technology, I see it in the social aspect that people use it as a fallback in situations they don't want to be in. Instead of talking to each other, they are looking at their phone.

"I think that's a negative of technology because it's so accessible. But for learning and having it in schools, it's a big step up if they're not just using it as a distraction in class.

"Jobs being taken over by technology is not a good thing. It's limiting everyday interaction with people."

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What is Generation Z?

Roughly defined as those born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, they're also known as iGeneration, iGen, Internet Generation, Deltas, Centennials, Founders, post-Millennials, Gen Tech, Gen Wii, Net Gen or Neo-Digital Natives.

There are about 983,000 people aged between 10 and 24 in New Zealand, compared with just over a million Millennials, 929,000 Generation Xers and 817,000 Baby Boomers, according to Statistics New Zealand.

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What is drop shipping?

It is a model that allows you to buy products individually from a wholesaler and ship them directly to your customer.

Instead of purchasing a large amount of stock, you partner with a drop shipping supplier and list their merchandise for sale. When you receive an order you forward it to the supplier for fulfilment. The supplier will ship the product directly from their warehouse to your customer and charge you only for the price of the shipped item.