It goes without saying, but blockchain technology – and more specifically, Ethereum – is huge. According to data compiled by ConsenSys, as of July 20, there were over 35 million unique addresses on the Ethereum network, 16,678 live Ethereum nodes, 1,552 Ethereum Dapps, and 60 live decentralized token exchanges. Although the community is growing and evolving, it is already a behemoth.
This expansion of the cryptospace is all well and good, but like with any industry, there needs to be a workforce. Because of the esoteric nature of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology, there are not a lot of engineers, developers, and programmers equipped with the knowledge and skills required to work on projects in the space.
Or the talent does exist, but companies and organizations are not tapping into it. In any case, there is a disconnect between the ideas of the decentralized future and their technical execution.
To give a little more context on the state of blockchain talent: According to reporting from TechCrunch, "Blockchain-related jobs are the second-fastest growing in today's labor market." Apparently, there are 14 job openings for each blockchain developer. Yet a report from Forbes maintains that even with high salaries for blockchain engineers in Silicon Valley (the average is $158,000), there is a gap in experience with Solidity, a major programming language used to write EDCCs (aka smart contracts).
To combat this shortage (or misalignment) of talent, organizations are turning to education. If skilled blockchain engineers are in short supply, then companies want to train them.
One example is Truffle University, which was announced yesterday via reddit. The training program aims to mold blockchain engineers who are fully proficient not only in blockchain development, in both theory and execution, but also with Truffle's entire Ethereum development suite.
Additionally, upon completion, the program promises to match participants with blockchain developer positions so they can immediately start their careers in the industry. Truffle University is confident that attendees will land jobs afterward – if not, it agrees to refund the cost of the program.
The university is still in development, but Truffle CEO and founder Tim Coulter indicated that he plans for it to be built around the participants. "[The program] might be in person, but we will explore online opportunities too," he said.
Truffle is a "spoke" of ConsenSys, but its blockchain education program is not the only one under ConsenSys' belt. Another arm of the New York-based blockchain organization, the ConsenSys Academy, began its Developer Program in 2017. The online course provides participants with end-to-end training in Ethereum development. When asked about this specific course, Coulter said that although the Developer Program and Truffle University are both affiliated with ConsenSys, there are a few key distinctions:
"The difference is where engineers land, and type of training. We're working very closely with Consensys academy. Their developer program offers top sudents [sic] employment by Consensys, whereas Truffle University matches students with external employers. Content may differ slightly as Truffle University is offered directly by the folks that wrote Truffle, and so might have a larger Truffle focus."
Of course, there are other blockchain training opportunities available outside of ConsenSys. Certain higher education institutions – for example, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Arkansas – offer training in smaller doses, such as through certificate programs or elective courses. These opportunities, however, are generally limited in scope or are too general for the developer crowd.
Dr. Omri Ross, an assistant professor in the University of Copenhagen's computer science department, lectures at a tech-focused program called the Blockchain Summer School. He believes an emphasis on technical knowledge and expertise is important when training the next generation of blockchain talent. Ross told ETHNews:
"Today, the number of people that actually understand blockchain technology thoroughly is very limited. Also, not many know how to code for the blockchain. This is a particularly important point because any code written on the blockchain is immutable and cannot be easily changed later on. This makes it imperative that the quality and code level of projects is very high. Although there are many conferences in the blockchain space, most are purely focused on marketing and not on teaching people about the technology."
Following Ross' sentiment, programs like Truffle University are popping up because they do delve into the nitty-gritty of blockchain technology. Businesspeople, marketers, and other professionals are needed in the cryptospace, to be sure, but projects will not materialize if developers do not possess the technical skills needed to build them.
At the end of the day, the talent pool remains small. Only time will tell if the continued development and promotion of blockchain educational offerings is able to successfully mitigate the shortage of blockchain engineers, developers, and programmers.