It is estimated that Chromebooks now make up 60 percent of all laptops and tablets in U.S. K-12 classrooms. As an employer, the sheer size of the $43 billion education tech market might not seem to matter much unless you employ educators. The vast majority of employers don’t, however, and it is tempting to simply look at this figure, give a curt nod, and move on.
After all, the amount of money being spent on tech for education isn’t really something that involves employers in the current workforce, right? The devices fifth-grade students are working on day in and day out has little bearing on productivity and the bottom line at this moment. But moments are fleeting, and before you know it, those same fifth-graders will be your new recruits. And when that day comes in the near future, those now-grown students will be educated for the workforce fully ingrained in Google’s cloud-centric ecosystem.
Google’s dominance — and Chromebook dominance, by extension — is only growing at this point. It wouldn’t be a far cry to estimate Google Chromebooks inching closer to 70 percent of the education tech market share in the coming years. Think about that for a second: millions of students learning to write, code, create and analyze not on Windows laptops, but on Chromebooks. If you, like me, are part of a generation that grew up on Windows, that thought is hard to process. However, if the tool in our hands during our formative school years was a Mac or Linux machine, that would be the machine we took with us out of school and into the workforce.
That exact storyline is getting ready to begin playing out right before our eyes. Students are already beginning to leave school having used Chromebooks as their primary computing device for years on end. Gone are the ideas of saving and hoarding local files and in their place, cloud computing allows for constant, easy and real-time collaboration. Forget buying boxed software on discs for your laptop. Instead, this upcoming generation understands and values the web and its ability to instantly deliver rich, powerful applications via an internet connection.
The way we work is fundamentally changing, and the students using Chromebooks in the classroom are on the front lines of a new workforce that may know how to get around a Windows device, but will prefer the light, fast and connected life that a Chromebook delivers. Employers need to ready themselves for this change and begin thinking of how their infrastructure needs to evolve to create a workplace bent toward this new way of working.
The generation that will soon enter the workforce will approach work and where they choose to work based on many factors, and tech will most certainly be one of them. Just as location, environment, hours and benefits change the way workers perceive a business, the choice of tech is an equally dominant deciding factor for many younger workers.
Where generations before them would simply work with what they were given, younger generations are going to make employment decisions based on both hardware and software on offer for them as an employee. When deciding between two similar jobs, this generation will choose the workplace with the tech they are more comfortable with over the one that is using outdated modes of operation.
Are employers ready for this new workforce? Employers need to begin the conversation now to see what — if anything — needs to happen to take advantage of cloud-centric computing and to open the doors to hardware options outside of Windows laptops. It will take time, but this change is coming one way or another. Employers that take the time now to get it right will be poised and ready for an upcoming workforce that will get the job done in a very different way than generations past.
Robby Payne is the founder of Chrome Unboxed and web developer at Heartland Communications Consultants. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.