Specialized workforce needed as crypto and blockchain courses enter colleges
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the need for candidates specializing in cryptocurrency and blockchain has become more apparent than ever before. This could be attributed to the fact that major companies are announcing job positions for candidates who are knowledgeable in alternative payments and emerging technologies.
For example, global software giant Apple has recently announced plans to recruit a new business development manager with alternative payment experience. Other leading companies, such as PayPal, Venmo and Tesla, have also been seeking out talent with blockchain and cryptocurrency expertise.
Colleges ramp up blockchain and crypto courses
Several colleges and universities are offering specialized courses to help students better understand the blockchain ecosystem. For example, director of X-Labs and Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator Jocelyn Weber told Cointelegraph that there is an increasing demand for talent in this field, noting that the University of California, Berkeley is seeking to support the workforce of the future. As such, UC Berkeley will likely continue to expand course offerings in blockchain technology:
“UC Berkeley has been offering blockchain courses for over five years now on a variety of topics and in a variety of formats and lengths. The most recent one offered by Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship was ‘Building with Blockchain for Web 3.0,’ in which Parity Technologies provided support for, along with other protocols.”
Weber explained that UC Berkeley’s Building with Blockchain for Web 3.0 course allowed students to learn the entrepreneurial and technical skills needed to launch their own blockchain startup and pitch it to judges on a demo day. Parity Technologies — the company behind Polkadot — helped design the course curriculum and has even advised students hoping to launch their own startup.
According to Weber, courses that include initiatives such as startup building are one of the ways UC Berkeley strives to bring the latest technologies and developments into its coursework. “This provides our students with the tools they need to enter the workforce with the most relevant knowledge,” she said.
In addition to UC Berkeley, the University of Wyoming is also becoming a blockchain hotspot for education. Steven Lupien, director of the Center for Blockchain and Digital Innovation at the University of Wyoming, told Cointelegraph that UW has introduced a blockchain minor into its curriculum:
“This is an interdisciplinary minor available to students in our College of Business, Engineering and Applied Sciences, Ag and Natural Resources, and School of Energy Resources. The University has also stood up the Center of Blockchain and Digital Innovation to assist the academic units with faculty training, course design and to work with the university’s outside stakeholders.”
Lupien is aware of the impact that digital assets are having on businesses. He noted that it’s the responsibility of educational leaders to prepare students to become productive members of the work community. “It’s important for them to understand this technology and its applied use cases and how it will impact their futures,” Lupien said.
It’s also noteworthy to point out that courses focused on financial literacy around cryptocurrency are being offered to students as well. Most recently, Electric Coin Company — the company behind the cryptocurrency Zcash (ZEC) — partnered with the Bronx Community College on a pilot program called “Crypto in Context,” which specializes in understanding cryptocurrency in the real world.
Andre Serrano, strategic partnerships at Electric Coin Company, told Cointelegraph that some of the most successful products in the industry are built and used by people who have already benefited from the current financial system. However, Serrano mentioned that “Crypto in Context” was created on the premise that others can learn from and build alongside the communities who have been most impacted by the failures of today’s status quo:
“Financial literacy is the knowledge that enables people to make responsible financial decisions — choices that affect our everyday lives. Our goal for this pilot program was to open the door for increased engagement in the Bronx and empower bi-directional learning in context. If we are not elevating their voices and compensating them for their feedback, we are failing.”
Serrano shared that “Crypto in Context” was open to all students and faculty at Bronx Community College, noting that 25 students have registered for the free virtual course. He also remarked that 70% of the program participants were female, coming from a range of academic backgrounds. This is notable, especially as the number of female crypto investors continues to grow.
In addition, Serrano mentioned that 80% of the students enrolled in the course downloaded a digital currency wallet. “Over the course of six weeks, students earned a total of 2.3 ZEC for completing tasks and optional assignments,” he said.
How important are these courses?
While blockchain and cryptocurrency courses are important for industry growth and adoption, it may be too soon to understand how these learnings will impact students looking for jobs in the field. For instance, candidates applying for positions at Apple or PayPal may come from traditional finance backgrounds yet have little knowledge of crypto simply because it’s so new.
Although this may be the case today, some industry innovators are hopeful that cryptocurrency and blockchain courses will help bring in better talent moving forward. Nilesh Khaitan, crypto lead at Venmo, told Cointelegraph that a lack of awareness and overall knowledge about crypto is the number one problem when it comes to the adoption of digital assets:
“People generally have no idea where to begin their research or knowledge. A course sculpts a curriculum and a journey towards becoming knowledgeable in the space.”
Khaitan further pointed out that there are a number of non-engineering role job opportunities in the crypto space, such as business development, community marketing and more. “Having a non-tech curriculum is equally important to drive the knowledge of crypto without diving into the deep technical aspects of it,” he commented.
Moreover, blockchain and cryptocurrency courses can be beneficial for those already familiar with the space. Guy Malone, a certified Bitcoin professional, told Cointelegraph that he recently completed the University of Nicosia’s Introduction to Digital Currencies course. According to Malone, although he understood the importance of Bitcoin (BTC), he wanted to take a deeper dive into crypto by taking courses:
“I know that by taking some of the courses, or obtaining one or more of the verifiable credentials that do exist to date, that I could perhaps provide a greater sense of confidence for interested parties.”
Will blockchain and crypto courses go mainstream?
Although useful, it may take some time for all major universities and colleges to start offering blockchain and cryptocurrency courses. For example, Lupien noted that limited resources are a challenge for universities looking to expand their curriculum. “As a nascent technology, there are few faculty that have both the academic credentials as well as the experience to effectively teach this technology — but that is changing rapidly,” Lupien said.
Moreover, students might question the relevance of these courses due to the fact that crypto and blockchain aren’t entirely mainstream. Piergiacomo Palmisani, vice president of the Blockchain Acceleration Foundation — a nonprofit organization helping universities incorporate blockchain curriculum — told Cointelegraph that for students, the challenge is to get them interested enough to choose a career in blockchain over a safe and well-paid job in tech, finance or any other field. “I believe that, as more success stories come out of the crypto industry, students will be more attracted to it,” he said.
As for the universities and colleges already offering blockchain and crypto courses, advancements seem to be underway. Weber shared that while UC Berkeley doesn’t have plans to offer students a degree in blockchain technology currently, there is a possibility moving forward: “I would never rule it out as a future possibility, especially as a minor offering.”