8 Reasons Why We're Not Prepared For The Future

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The world is changing faster than we can imagine. Students who enrolled in university today have different expectations from those that are graduating this year.

Fascinating statistics out of Amherst College, in western Massachusetts. These stats were cherry-picked from a bigger list available at Academic Commons in the post, IT Index. The school enrolled 438 first year students this fall and has a total student population of over 1600.

It’s painfully obvious that the workplace is not ready for these types of graduates. If you think blocking Facebook and access to YouTube is going to increase productivity, take a look at how these future employees work and what their expectations are/will be…

8 Reasons Why We’re Not Prepared For The Future:

1. Percentage of applicants who applied online last year: 89%.

2. Students in the class of 2012 who registered computers, iPhones, game consoles, etc. on the campus network by the end of the day on August 24th, the day they moved into their dorm rooms: 370 students registered 443 devices.

3. Number of students in the class of 2012 who brought desktop computers to campus: 14.

4. Number that brought iPhones/iTouches: 93.

5. Total number of students on campus this year that have landline phone service: 5.

6. Mac or PC? Of the four classes currently on campus the classes of 2009 and 2010 are more likely to own Windows, while the classes of 2011 and 2012 are more likely to own Macs.

7. Average number of emails received per day: 180,000.

8. Percentage of email that arrives on campus that is spam: 94%.

If you don’t see the link between your business, what you’re doing online and what you’re doing in the mobile space, you’re going to be in for a huge surprise in the next 3-6 years. Students entering the workforce clearly see having a laptop as being "tethered". We’re going mobile… and it’s happening fast.

What do you think business must do today to connect to their future employees?

(hat tip to Jim from Twist Image).


  1. Coming at this from the point of view of a teacher of these young students, not only are employers sorely lacking in preparedness for the Mobile Generation, but teachers are too.
    The education system is still living in the dark ages – “tethering” students to desktops in giant computer labs on archaic networks.
    My students are extremely advanced, particularly when it comes to software. Most tools are intuitive to this generation, who has been using software since they were old enough to sit up on their own.
    Perhaps the emphasis should not be on teaching them how to use Photoshop or Premiere (since most of them already know it) but teaching them how to create quality content.
    Students these days are not held back by technology. They see it as central to their social interaction and their lifestyle. They are already computer wizards – let’s help them become employable, creative wizards too.

  2. I am from the UK. My son is studying media at Uni, we went out and bought a new mac from the apple store, while he was chatting to the sales person (who looked like a little boy to me!) I was watching the young people using the stuff on display. Apple are smart in encouraging this. They looked like fish in their water, they were holding peer to peer discussions with the staff I was amazed by the clarity of the insights I overheard. It was all about connecting their various devices easily. The really know what they want.

  3. These kids may be using the tech, but in my experience so far, not many understand how to use it for influence and spreading ideas….
    Many go as far online as using Facebook and MySpace and end there. There still aren’t that many who really blog like you do here Mitch.

  4. I agree with Susan’s point that the focus should be on new trends and teaching students to make creative, quality content.
    I have friends still in school, and some IT courses are still covering topics like how to create a Word document.
    Universities need to think about bringing in young, recent graduates who understand the new online culture and can help them to adapt and better serve students. The traditional teaching model used by most of these schools is just too outdated by now.

  5. Great post. We truly do need to change our way of thinking and fast. As Susan Pointed out most of these kids already now this stuff and we should be teaching them to make better and high quality materials! I feel that both the educational system and the business world is totally unprepared for this new “tethered” generation, we need to start moving in a direction not to better suit these upcoming students but the ones that follow, and we need to do this now. We are playing catch up instead of adapting.
    As a side note……. I like the stats about the Macs…. since I am a loyal user! lol

  6. I work at Concordia University in Montreal, and I can say we’re completely not ready for mobile. In fact, we’re still playing catch-up to the world in terms of the web alone. One of the major hurdles is the lack of funding in education – we simply don’t have the resources to even cover the basics – forget thinking ahead to mobile. Add on top of that an administration very green to mobile and the web, and you have an equation for mediocrity.

  7. Adam – we’re going to see some zig and zagging with Blogging. While young people are using these social platforms, I think they’re going to realize pretty soon how cool it can be to integrate them into work.
    Rommil – I’m not sure if people saw the news item that Concordia banned Facebook from their tethered computers too. So crazy because they can still be accessed via mobile.
    I think the bigger conversation amoung these great comments is not about how schools are not up-to-speed on technology, but not even close when it comes to mobile… especially considering that mobile is becoming “the Web” and more and more students only access the Web from their mobile at an ever-increasing rate.

  8. <3 this blog design — familiar yet fresh. Heard about this blog from Seth Godin’s Triiibes.
    This post reminds me of what Alvin + Heidi Toffler prognosticated decades ago.
    A reality is that the majority of students won’t be well-prepared, but there’ll be a few who share insights as you do — they’ll be ignored by peers but go on to make waves of big change.
    Happens every generation.

  9. Hi Mitch,
    I DO need to throw in my ‘two-cents’ here…
    As a TV technical-type, who has been working in the industry for 24yrs thus far, I have seen many changes in technology, and I have had to adapt and do plenty of ‘on the job training’ in order to keep up with technology and function effectively as a TV editor.
    What I CAN say, is that there are always people who prefer the old technology – the comfort-level to adapt to change is based on the individual, but also on the budget, and the nature of the product that is being produced for the client.
    Even the ‘dinosaur’ technology can be utilized, and the employee can adapt to work with the tools provided – IF the skills of that EMPLOYEE are rich and flexible.
    Training/mentoring our next generation of employees to be adaptable and creative with the tools that they are provided…is a HUGE aid to improve the quality of work/product you will put-out.
    Digitize THAT concept and see where it takes you.

  10. Hey Mitch,
    I think we gotta go cue a lil Bob Dylan talking about these times a changing… and hope the rain aint to hard!
    I get very impatient with the slowness of the change’s rate.. I feel like we’re living in the dark ages sometimes..
    I mean.. think for a second what are the best practices for the sound engineer, or how about graphic design? Ok.. so what’s up with those punk rockers?
    I just think what we need is a new way of relating to our times.. to the phenomenon of stasis..
    Seems to me that people can be pretty amazing things.. assuming there not stuck in some compartmental thing.. with the blinders on in there conceptualization of there career / business / etc. But it feels to me like this is just the legacy of.. well the business traditions we inherit.
    I think social media / digital media / whatever.. it’s fundamentally about a granulisation of like.. the basic building blocks of business.. and man, you can configure those blocks any old way you like.. but even among the thought leaders of the space.. I think that there’s a way the notions of “best practices” are like.. well they encourage a kind of group think around this stuff..
    I think the best practices are like.. true because of there ecological context.. the confluence of forces.. of which they are a crystallization.
    Of course you gotta understand I’m an artist.. I mean I fundamentally believe in experimentation as a means of moving forward… and that absolutely any direction can be interesting.. And it is the habbit of the greats.. to take giant steps and leaps out into that unknown.. and the route to the unknown is precisely to go against the inherited value system.. the best practices..
    I mean.. ok.. what are the traditional best practices for like.. sound engineers and graphic design? Ok, and then one day Punk Rock comes along? Or how about those crazy bastards who first started to decided distortion was cool?
    So I think what is really needed is a new way of relating to the phenomenon of stasis. I mean be like Buddha, sitting at the still point while the temporal flux flows around.. I think this is a fundamental need.. just for reasons of change management..
    Or that’s the kinda crazy sorta thing I’m always thinking anyway.

  11. Mitch:
    Unless I’m misreading this, the statistics show that only 14 *desktop* computers were registered by students, not laptops.
    But if you look at the study results, you also see 85% of classrooms have an LCD project and computer/laptop hookup, that Internet bandwith is through the roof, that large attachments are still being sent.
    I’m not seeing an either/or trend in these numbers; I’m seeing that mobile devices AND laptops are getting heavy use.
    Bryan Person
    LiveWorld social media evangelist
    LCD projector and a computer or laptop hookup: 85%.

  12. Coming from a student perspective – I think this post is really interesting. I am in my graduating year (2009) and consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to technology and social media. This is becoming a huge aspect of the PR industry and knowing how these new types of technology work is really important. In the next five years, it is pretty likely that social media and new technologies will be just as common as knowing how to use Microsoft Office, or Powerpoint. Having said that, I think that there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Although it is important to know and understand these technologies, I think my generation needs to continue to know when to draw the line with it. Overall though, I think that its important for bosses to see this as a growth opportunity as opposed to something that will hold us back.
    As for how employers need to connect with their future employees, just engage us. Teach us the things we may not fully understand and trust that we know how to use these technologies. We don’t think we know everything, we just have grown up learning different things.

  13. Thanks for sharing, Mitch. I’d love to see similar stats for larger universities and especially public ones. I could be wrong but I think students at Amherst might be better off than at other schools.
    But I think the biggest lesson is in taking technology for granted. I’m old enough to remember life before the web and even email took over, but I’m young enough to be shocked when I find a business or other service that doesn’t have a website. If it’s hard to find, it doesn’t exist, to many of us.
    Also agree with Bryan above – the number of laptops is missing from the stats. Even today’s hypermobile youth might find it hard to write term papers on an iPhone!

  14. You bring up an interesting point on the lifestyles and culture of new graduates. When I graduated from college in 2007, just about everyone I knew had a laptop and worked wherever they could find an internet connection (which was everyone on campus). We found inspiration from working in new places.
    Today, most of my college friends are tied to a single cubicle, which becomes somewhat less inspiring, especially for those in more creative roles.
    I would love to see a push toward more open office environments that allow employees to get away from an assigned single location to find inspiration elsewhere on a regular basis. This is the type of office environment that will attract the next generation of college grads.

  15. I don’t think that the main focus should be on teachers using Web 2.0 tools. I mean, it is a very important thing, but that’s not the problem now. The problem is how to make your business environment suitable for these tech savvy young workers. The cultural change in business environment needs to take place. Otherwise there will most probably be a conflict of generations.
    On the other hand, young employees might b seen as a source of innovative ideas and techniques that are necessary to some businesses. They will bring Facebook, Twitter, Flickr to their workplaces and will look for business 2.0 and management 2.0 technologies.

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