The half-life of professional skills is 5 years

Daily Briefing

The half-life of professional skills is 5 years

A third of the professional skills students need to be successful will have changed by 2020

As technology continues to disrupt the workplace, students must build a habit of lifelong learning if they want to succeed in their chosen careers, argues the Adobe Communication Team for the Adobe Blog.

To demonstrate the necessity of lifelong learning, experts at Adobe point to recent research by the World Economic Forum, which suggests that the half-life of a professional skill is just five years. The research also predicts that by 2020, more than a third of the skills we need to be successful in the workplace—regardless of industry—will have changed.

“The world of work is changing,” says Alex Gay, Adobe’s director of product marketing for educational institutions. “But that’s nothing new—it’s been changing all along. However, it’s far more poignant now, with the increase in technology, and how that technology plays within our day-to-day activities.”

This means colleges will face new opportunities to enroll adult learners and provide training programs to employers, Adobe suggests. For example, some community colleges are partnering with tech industries to deliver ongoing skills trainings to students. And some companies are offering one-day boot camp sessions to give learners an in-depth introduction to a topic. Others are offering MOOCs to provide learners with coursework on demand.

The flexibility of these programs is appealing to both experienced professionals and recent grads. “People who have come into the market don’t want to go back to school,” explains Justin Mass, head of digital learning innovation on Adobe’s global talent development team. “They’re working professionals. Maybe they have family or other obligations. But they do want to get this feedback and upskill in these areas.”

And while some headlines paint a bleak future for workers struggling to keep up with technology, the Adobe team is more optimistic. “This isn’t something students should be afraid of,” Gay argues, “but rather excited about it.”

And soft skills will outlast any technical skill, the Adobe team points out. “The best advice I can give to a student is to develop your critical thinking, communication, and creative problem-solving skills,” he continues. “That’s what the businesses of tomorrow want—problem solvers. Combining those with a desire for lifelong learning, will make you better prepared for what comes next” (Adobe Communications Team, Adobe Blog, 9/18).