Today, almost half of the world’s top 50 universities now offer at least one course on cryptocurrency or blockchain in their curricula.
A giant leap forward. But with the emerging technology on the cusp of mainstream adoption, is this enough?
An ever-increasing demand for blockchain job skills across industries continues to surge, where for every one blockchain developer, there are 14 new job openings.
As executives rally for blockchain-based solutions in their respective sectors, education initiatives are needed more than ever, not only to upskill tomorrow’s workforce, today but to inform decision makers themselves, as confusion among C-suite executives continues to be a major roadblock on the path to blockchain’s mass-adoption.
Teaching not only for today but tomorrow
The demand for blockchain developers has surged in recent years as the technology has gains credibility in the eyes of mainstream players. The initial supply of talent proved to be insufficient and with that scarcity came the challenge of attracting developers with lucrative pay packages and benefits, where experienced developers earn an annual salary of over US$200,000.
For those looking to implement blockchain-based solutions, the skyrocketing costs associated with hiring have been a hindrance.
However, in 2018, an Upwork report found that blockchain took the number one spot as the fastest growing skill in Q1, experiencing more than a 6,000% year-over-year growth.
Developers and budding talent entering the industry were enticed in part by the technology’s potential but also by the lucrative financial benefits. The rise of blockchain labs such as Blockchain at Berkeley or the National University of Singapore’s CRYSTAL (Cryptocurrency Strategy, Techniques, and Algorithms) Centre conveyed a willingness for academic communities to converge with the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry in order to foster much-needed conversations on the lack of blockchain initiatives and support in higher education.
By creating an open community of academics, thought leaders, and experts, coupled with the real-world expertise of existing projects, blockchain education can continue to position itself as a necessity.
Concurrently, course offerings have appeared throughout numerous higher education institutions, not only focusing on cryptography and cybersecurity, but on topics as esoteric as the “Anthropology of Money”.
By developing courses that focus on the financial, legal, and social implications of blockchain, institutions are able to cultivate a broader pool of talent, armed with interdisciplinary skills and insights.
With this in mind, tomorrow’s workforce is far better poised to tackle the industry’s challenges as it continues to develop over time, while meeting the ever-growing demand for blockchain-savvy professionals.
Beyond “innovation for innovation’s sake”
Issues in blockchain implementation span beyond a scarcity of talent. Executives may have ambitious aims to adopt an innovation-first approach towards technology but, as decision makers, they too need to understand blockchain.
According to the Global Blockchain Business Council’s survey of institutional investors, 63% believed that senior executives at large corporations have a poor understanding of blockchain. This lack of knowledge can serve a deterrent for investors looking to enter the space via established foundations of enterprises seeking to utilize blockchain-based solutions.
Beyond courses designed for undergraduate and post-graduate students, universities have equally taken the time to develop executive education curricula for professionals seeking to deepen their knowledge on blockchain.
Institutions ranging from University College London (UCL) to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business have developed courses specifically targeting managers seeking business skills in blockchain technology. Aside from tech fundamentals, courses explore use cases, business models, and regulation at a regional level.
However, outside of the classroom, executives also have the ability to participate in enterprise consortia dedicated to the exploration of blockchain technology in a specific industry.
These collaborative networks allow enterprises to experiment with the technology in accordance with mutually-shared goals and objectives.
By playing a part in setting standards and developing infrastructure for a specific use of blockchain, consortia generate positive network effects, generating greater utility of the technology as a whole while educating members.
Beyond education, C-suite executives are responsible for fostering a corporate culture that embraces and drives change and innovation in their organizations. Amid blockchain’s popularity, calls for “innovation for innovation’s sake” will be met with weariness as much as trepidation by the blockchain industry and institutional investors alike.
Senior leadership must learn to develop beyond the “first-mover advantage” mindset – demonstrating that an understanding of blockchain goes beyond comprehending the technology but is an awareness of when its implementation is both viable and necessary.
Beyond the classroom
Blockchain education initiatives also give rise to increased opportunities in research and development that can drive greater growth for the blockchain industry as a whole.
Fintech and blockchain hubs around the world - including Singapore, San Francisco and London - have given rise to university-based blockchain labs that serve as pillars for innovation, research and development. Such hubs are poised to approach existing problems and limitations in the industry with a more technical, research-based approach.
Coupled with the institutional support from academic bodies and backing from enterprises and government bodies, these labs present a well-rounded reflection of the industry and provide access to a wider range of resources that are financial, advisory and academic by nature.
Innovation is rooted in pushing the boundaries of the concrete, not the speculative. Ultimately, education is critical in bridging the gap between the technological promises that blockchain hopes to fulfil and the existing dearth of talent that hinders its implementation.
As more players continue to join the space, their continued investment in developing resources will enable sustained growth, innovation, and lasting interest of a wider audience beyond the echo chambers of the cryptosphere.
This article was first published on Questex, on 11 February 2019. Information is correct at the time of publication.