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Training Becoming a Never-Ending Process

Education environment has changed By G.A. "Andy" Marken

"An organization's ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive business advantage."

- Jack Welch, former chairman, GE

No technology in history has grown as quickly as the Internet. Backbone bandwidth demand has been doubling, not every 18 months as with Moore's law but every 3.5 months.  That's a 10X growth or 1,000% a year.  The increased bandwidth is also fostering video technology and applications to expand almost as quickly.

With it has come a complete change in who we communicate with and the way we communicate with them, as well as how we work, and worst of all, how long we work.  While life here in Silicon Valley is akin to working at the edge of disaster, we like to believe that the rest of the country -- in fact, the globe -- is in much the same state of chaos.

Education Environment Has Changed
When I went to college eons ago, we sat in a classroom, listened to the instructor, took copious notes and regurgitated the information on a test.  With two degrees we set forth to conquer and change the world.  Unfortunately we didn't change the world.  Technology changed the world.  The rapid changes in technology are so prolific that it has forced us to become lifelong learners.   Rather than a rigidly structured process, learning is becoming a self-directed process.

There has been more information produced in the last 10 years than during the previous 5,000.  A weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come in contact with in the last century in his or her lifetime.  The change has been the Internet/Web as well as the value of and how we use information.   

To understand how quickly life has changed and continues to change for us consider a recent study regarding e-mail conducted by Forrester Research and John Carroll University:
? 1.1 trillion email messages sent annually worldwide
? 3 billion messages sent worldwide daily
? 200 million users sending messages daily
? 250+ million corporate e-mail addresses
? 100 million personal email addresses
? 25 million subscribers to AOL
? 15.6 million users of Lotus cc:Mail
? average cost of e-mail per user per year -- $750
? average value of email per user per year in terms of productivity -- $2,800
? average cost of company to send 20 messages -- $1.05
? average time spent daily reading e-mail -- 50 minutes
? average time spent responding to email -- 60 minutes

In addition, according to a recent issue of BusinessWeek, every day 10,000 new Web sites are added to the Internet.  Increasingly these sites are video-enabled.  All of this has forced technical people to broaden their knowledge areas and forced people to deal in a rapidly changing environment of uncertainty.

New Type of Worker
Peter Drucker, in his book Post Capitalism Society, notes that already an estimated two-thirds of U.S. employees work in the service sector.  Knowledge is becoming one of our most important products.  This calls for a different type of worker, because a degree and technical experience are far less important than the currency of your business skills.

No one can say what technology platforms will dominate the next century or what lies beyond the Web and enterprise resource planning.  As a result, corporations and educational institutions must adapt their training programs to prepare workers for unseen changes.  Experts who track technically-based career development and training see some trends emerging, including:
? Business skills are becoming as important as technical skills in defining the success of professionals
? New technologies such as Web-based learning and video-on-demand coursework is rapidly supplanting classroom training
? Technical professionals must view education as a continuing and self-directed process.

Many organizations have begun to identify core business competencies for technical professionals and make learning them mandatory.  Increasingly they have to learn communications skills,  budgeting and finance, strategic planning as well as project and performance management.  Firms are rapidly adding on-the-job training by matching people with appropriate learning tools.  On-line video-on-demand courses, workshops and seminars are required for people at all levels and of all disciplines.  Some firms have gone so far as to establish required courses, electives and degree certificates.   

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Related Keywords:classroom, instructor, technology, lifelong learners, self-directed process, information, training, enterprise resource planning, video-on-demand, courses, on-line training, seminars, technical workers


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