For Europe to Lead in Blockchain, it Needs to Focus on Education
The minister for commerce of Gibraltar writes about what his jurisdiction is doing to prepare for the future.
The past 12 months have fundamentally changed the blockchain landscape, with the technology’s advocates across the globe assertively decoupling its perceived potential from the volatility of the crypto market, which for too long, have been incorrectly intertwined in public opinion. The explosive bitcoin price surge towards the end of 2017 and subsequent fall have not been fair representations of the state of the blockchain space. In fact, the characterization of this swirling crypto storm contrasts sharply with the calm and poise emanating from key actors in the blockchain ecosystem. There is no panic, no rush, just measured action.
While the fluctuating market prices have grabbed the headlines, unfairly undermining confidence in the underlying blockchain technology, the substantial work that has been quietly taking place in the background on the education front is more relevant to the longevity of the technology. In 2018, the blockchain education space in the United States has grown by leaps and bounds, a trend I would like to see reflected across Europe.
The firm efforts of major U.S. universities and education institutions to develop and deliver course content on blockchain technology comes amid a surge in blockchain-related jobs, as evidenced by LinkedIn’s recent 2018 U.S. Emerging Jobs report. The report identified the role of blockchain developer as the most rapidly growing emerging job in the U.S., a trend that was also highlighted earlier this year by San Francisco-based tech recruitment agency Hired, which noted that demand for blockchain engineers has increased by 400 percent since late 2017. That report also suggested that blockchain engineers are now earning as much as artificial intelligence specialists.
Given the vibrancy of the blockchain jobs market, several high profile stateside education institutions have taken the initiative to ensure there is a conveyor belt of blockchain proficient professionals equipped with the knowledge and skillset to meet industry demand. Earlier this year, New York University became the first university in the United States to offer students the chance to major in blockchain, and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), just announced the launch of its first blockchain engineering course, set to run from January 2019.
There have been similar moves in universities across the globe. In August of this year, a Coinbase report highlighted that almost half of the top 50 universities worldwide provide courses in blockchain and cryptocurrencies, but these are predominantly based in the United States. The same report illustrated that eight out of the top 10 universities that offer blockchain courses are based in the U.S., with the other two being the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, and the National University of Singapore. There is no reason why European universities can’t feature prominently in the top 10 list.
As the collective community of European blockchain evangelists and industry leaders continue to work diligently on breakthrough projects built on the principles of transparency, efficiency and security, they will need a deep talent pool to choose from as their projects expand and enter the market. While major institutions in the United States are taking the initiative and pouring more and more resources into the blockchain field of study, it is imperative that their European counterparts take the same decisive action. However, universities don’t have to act alone in this endeavor.
The framework and status of established government departments coupled with the technical prowess of blockchain experts and educational institutions can spark the creation of structured education platforms for budding blockchain professionals to develop the key skills needed to pursue careers on the chain. Initiatives such as the New Technologies in Education (NTiE) group here in Gibraltar, developed by the government and the University of Gibraltar in collaboration with some of the leading new technology companies based in Gibraltar, demonstrate the collaborative spirit at the heart of Gibraltar’s ascent as a leading blockchain jurisdiction.In Gibraltar, we have always recognized that educational development is intrinsically linked to the successful pursuit of new technological opportunities. As a jurisdiction, education has been, and will always be, one of the main strands of focus in our vision for a sustainable blockchain environment. Our ambition on this front has been central to the jurisdiction’s emergence as a bona fide leader on the global blockchain front and I’m confident that this template can fuel the efforts of other countries who want to see education and blockchain innovation accelerate in tandem.