What is the half-life of your IT knowledge? In 1962, economist Fritz Machlup coined the phrase “knowledge half-life” to describe the time it takes for half the knowledge in a particular domain to be superseded. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the half-life of IT knowledge decreases every year.
According to a recent article in the IEEE Spectrum, the half-life of an IT professional’s career is now about 10 to 12 years—or less. And as IT professionals know, staying relevant for even that amount of time takes dedicated, ongoing self-education, also known as “upskilling.”
The same IEEE article says that IT professionals need to spend seven to ten hours a week, 48 weeks a year, gaining new knowledge in order to stay current.
It’s no wonder that the number of IT staff in training over the past 12 months ranges from 72 percent in Japan to 97 percent in India and Thailand, according to CompTIA’s 2013 global workforce survey.
Although training is on the rise for workers in almost all industries, IT upskilling outpaces the global average. This can be explained in part by the incredible pace of innovation and evolution in today’s technology. But, as I’ve mentioned before, IT professionals are also natural problem solvers who are more engaged in their jobs and happier generally when they are learning new skills.
Even though opportunities for continuing self-education is one of the top factors affecting employee satisfaction and engagement, training programs are often the early casualties of budget cuts, points out Tim McAward, vice president and Americas product group leader for engineering at Kelly Services, Inc., which produces the annual Kelly Global Workforce Index.
But that’s not stopping IT professionals from gaining the skills they need to stay relevant. “There are more individuals thinking they need to be responsible for their own upskilling so they can be more employable,” McAward says.
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