Why Today’s Students are Primed For the Conceptual Age

I’m reading Daniel H. Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future”. In it, Pink presents some really compelling reasons why we are moving out of the Information Age of the last half of the 20th century and into the Conceptual Age, where success is going to be less based on “book smarts” or left-brained thinking and more based on high concept, high touch right-brained skills like design and creative writing.

This excellent book ties in nicely to some recent observations I’ve made.

We have three co-op students working with us right now, they attend Algonquin College’s Interactive Multimedia Developer program. In addition, we have a video editor/shooter freelancing with us, he is a recent grad of the Television Broadcasting Program at Loyalist College. Coincidentally, I am a graduate of both programs. I graduated in 1990 from the TV Broadcasting Program and 1997 from the Multimedia Program. Aside from tremendously dating myself with that claim, the comparison between where I was at upon graduation from these courses and where these guys are at is quite remarkable.

The work that these recent grads are able to produce is impressive, to say the least. They design, shoot and edit like people who have been in the business for years, and their work ethic is terrific. They take initiative and are excellent problem solvers. I would have no issue with leaving them in a room full of clients to represent us.

I’ve been wondering what is so different about these guys. Why did I seem so unprepared when I graduated from college? And the other day it dawned on me. These young guys were born in the late 1980s. When computers and the internet started to get popular in 1996-98, these kids were only about 10 years old. That means that they have been using computers and the Internet for a large portion of their lives. They are of the generation that learned about web site design in high school. And, they have probably always had access to some sort of video recording equipment, be it their parents’ Handycam or a camera at their high school.

By comparison, my first computer course was offered when I was in 10th grade, and it was pretty useless (BASIC programming and WordPerfect version 1.2). Personal video cameras in those days cost about $2000 and weren’t really marketed to the average consumer. Serious hobbyists like my Dad were the only ones that bought them, which was fortunate for me as a budding TV producer at the ripe old age of 15. My brother first showed me the Internet in 1996, when I was 26 years old and had already had 1 career under my belt.

My point is, young people today are FAR more experienced with technology by the time they hit college because they have been dealing with it their whole lives. These days, college really only serves to streamline their knowledge, give them some practice and issue them a piece of paper – still good things to have, but definitely a different spin than when I was in college.

What does this mean as an employer? When I graduated from TV school there was NO WAY I would have gotten any more than a gofer job at a network TV station. Nowadays, students are graduating from college and jumping right in to decent entry level jobs at good agencies doing real design, development and production work. Why? Because the average college graduate, at 22 years of age, probably already has 10 or 12 years of experience working with computers, designing their own web sites and making their own videos. As time goes on, this trend will become even more obvious. Why? because I expect my 7 year old nephew to start making his own web site any day – and he’s already a better cameraperson than me.

It’s not just the Conceptual Age, people…it’s the Conceptual Generation.

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One Response

  1. I couldn’t help noticing that a certain amount of regret or longing coming though the tone of this piece. As a veteran gofer, I was once offended that young new hires were bypassing my position and doing damn good jobs, so I went back to school, and I’ve seen this exact phenomena in action and am quite marveled by it.

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