In the 2016 print edition of the Top 500 Guide there is a fascinating article called A Tipping Point for E-Commerce noting the U.S. Commerce Department’s observation that in 2015 online retail sales saw $341 billion in purchases, an increase of 14.6% from 2014. This rate is 5x as fast as the 3.1% growth of in store sales. The tide is continuing to roll in. There are a lot of industries that this will affect but one of them at the top of my ‘concerned meter’ is those completing higher education degrees and entering the workforce. They have mostly grown up with the internet but have not been fully impacted by a business economy that is still struggling to adjust to the global and internet-connected world. I know that because I have been in the business world and many industries, much less companies, specifically those that were thriving before the 2000’s may still be doing business as usual thinking that the old ways are still the best. America’s current public education system is built on the industrial era’s factory and farming model. Even the advanced degree of an MBA only teaches practices for a large industrialized, process oriented company. These and many other factors are contributing to the un-informed college graduate. This affects me personally, as an adjunct at Dallas Baptist for 5 years now and teaching the creative, communication major, or the one interested in advertising and ideas. I really want these students to be informed with basic exposure to what it is really like in the real world. The creative world is different. It’s not just about being a creative anymore. You have to be able to understand and be flexible in the digital world.
In the current era of ‘Free’ there is more opportunity than ever before. But, as a result, there is more information overload. You cannot just be creative or have an idea and it be enough to succeed with new models of business. There is a large dose of unpreparedness for the real world coming out of the current education model.
What to Do About the Lack of Digital Awareness in Higher Education
First, college’s need their business and creative students to be aware of new digital industry terminology that most of our parents and current business executives do not speak. Things like digital KPI’s, generic vs brand search, and programmatic advertising are all groundbreaking concepts very important for all business executives to know. Second, experiences. Internships, real-life case studies, and classes heavy on the practical are extremely necessary in training these students and working to prepare them for the world they are entering. There needs to be a growing network of companies partnering with education systems not just for jobs after college but for on-site tours and projects that could help each support the other. Why not let the education centers bring students in to help assess the traditional business model as a consultant of sorts? The business will share their wealth of knowledge and background in the industry and provide a hypothesis that they may need fresh ears on to help solve or at least provide a unique perspective and see what the college’s students can provide by way of a report on specific problems or hypothesis that the business executive doesn’t have the time or resources to solve. And who knows, the employee might find a student that is prime for the picking.