4 Years of School for 40 Years of Work?

October 12, 2015 By Chris Johnson

Consider this.

Someone graduating from college in 1972 who entered the workforce then is likely winding down their work career now.

If they worked an office job (or otherwise used office technologies), they’ve had to adapt to the following innovations since their last formal education:

  • The Fax Machine. The first commercial Xerox fax machines appeared in the late 1960s, with broader adoption following through the 1970s.
  • The PC. The use of the office PC started in the mid-1970s and spread over the next decade. One couldn’t possibly overstate the impact of this.
  • The Windows Operating System. After its 1990 release, and subsequent domination of the office software landscape, workers had to learn Excel, Word, Powerpoint, Outlook, Access, and others. Each had its own learning curve.
  • The Internet. Other than the PC, nothing has transformed work as much (over this time period, anyway). We can use 1995 as a reasonable date here (now a full 23 years after our friend graduated from college). This facilitated an entirely new way to work. (And an entirely new way to get distracted.)

internet cat

  • Email. People send and receive an average of 100 emails a day, or 26,000 annually. But pre-late-90s, no one sent any at work. Workers had to learn not just the operational mechanics, but those that truly wanted to leverage the technology, had to begin to understand the art & science of subject lines, tone, tracking, and inbox management.
  • Web Search Engines. These quickly followed the advent of the internet, and required real know-how in order to harness their power. The search engine offered a massive new advertising opportunity that completely reshaped corporate marketing, sales, and advertising strategies.
  • Google. Yes, it’s primarily a search engine, but hard to argue it’s not its own category (when a search engine makes a self-driving car, it gets its own category). For work purposes, there are hundreds of tools including Google Analytics, Google Drive/Docs/Sheets, that are either required knowledge or represent a powerful opportunity to improve what you’re doing.

Google self driving car image on Uncubed Edge

  • The Smartphone. Sure, kind of a mini computer, and some of the know-how transfers, but for developers, and designers it was a whole new knowledge requirement.
  • Facebook. With nearly 1.5 billion on the platform, some 30 million businesses have created Facebook fan pages. Software development, customer service, HR, sales, marketing, and operations teams have all incorporated Facebook in to their strategies.

Then in the last five years, due to the heightened pace of software development, the number of software tools used in the workplace cropping up has only accelerated. This includes Yammer, which launched in 2008 and claimed 80% of the Fortune 500 by 2012, and Slack, which was anointed the fastest growing workplace software ever just 18 months after launch.

This is a staggering list.

And it’s really only a tiny sample of the things workers have had to learn. It doesn’t even contemplate that entire professions have been created over that time span (as in, our friend literally couldn’t have learned about them in school).

The point is that even with this pace of change, we’re still largely assuming that one round of schooling is enough to get us to through a half-century’s labor until retirement.

It’s an absurd assumption.

We simply need better tools for lifelong vocational learning. And in our view, we need that insight to come directly from industry.

We’re working to make Uncubed that solution for digital careers. It’s a living body of education, taught by those using the very same techniques and skills in programming, product/design, and business to fuel the fastest growing companies on earth. As these skillsets (and the tools required) evolve, we’ll continually add new courses.

uncubed edge classes

It’s our mission to help you excel at modern work. That education you got is great – we just don’t think it should be expected to carry you through the next 40 years of work.

(Join now to access of all our content for free.)


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