The Internet Age is 25 years old and the changes it has catalyzed are hard to comprehend. In 1995, General Electric was the world’s largest company by market cap, while Amazon was just one year old, and Facebook wasn’t even born.
Can you imagine what your life would be without Amazon or Facebook? Not to mention email? Salesforce? Netflix? Pinterest? Spotify? Lyft?
Moore’s Law—now over 50 years old—is alive and well with computing power doubling every couple of years. The result of this is that in just the last 20 years the cost of computing has dropped 99 percent and digital storage capacity is basically infinite and free.
And change has been accelerating. It took electricity 75 years to reach 50 million people. It took cell phones 12 years.The Internet seven years. Twitter two years. Pokémon Go 19 days!
The Future of Work, A.D.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the future has been accelerated to the present and we have gone from a B.C. world to an A.D. world—Before Corona to After Disease. What this means is that most of the trends that were in place are getting stronger and vulnerable businesses that were becoming less relevant by the day have been made irrelevant or are literally gone.
Today that means two radical shifts for the future of work: 1) information and education, once scarce and inaccessible, is now abundant and accessible and 2) technology can now scale faster than human beings can learn.
The results of those shifts are that the half-life of your knowledge and skills is getting shorter and shorter, which has led to a massive global skills gap and created an immense pressure on companies and individuals to be continuously learning and upskilling.
In that economy, your education and skills make the difference for an individual, a company, and, for that matter, a country. The higher the education level you have, statistically, the more money you make and, for countries, there is a direct correlation between the level of educational attainment and GDP per capita.
But going back to school two or four years at a time is not a model that is efficient over a lifetime of learning, or one that can move fast enough to satiate the demands that companies have for talent.
Keeping Up with the Need to Learn New Skills
The challenge for business is that: 1) to compete, they need an educated and skilled workforce or be crushed; 2) change is happening so fast that they need to either fire their old workforce and replace it with employees with contemporary skills or reskill the employees they have; 3) the average millennial stays at a company 2.5 years.
Reacting to all of this, millennials rank providing training as the number one issue they are looking for in an employer. They sense, as we all must, that our ability to learn and gain skills is now the determinant factor in a successful life and career.
The good news is that companies are responding, and entrepreneurs are heeding the call. Companies like AT&T, JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, and PwC have all announce employee upskilling initiatives of hundreds-of-millions of dollars.
Startups like Coursera have democratized education to be something accessible on-demand over our lifetimes and companies like Degreed are leading the way, helping companies and their employees navigate this new world where our lifelong learning and skills are the currency of work.
Companies like InStride and Guild are leading on helping companies extend online university degrees to all employees as a benefit, reflecting the increased demand from employees for education.
Entrepreneurs solve problems—the greater the problem, the greater the opportunity. I’m optimistic we are going to see some transformational models emerge in this important space.
Michael Moe is the founder of GSV and the CEO of GSV Asset Management.