Welcome to the third part of our "Learning and Development 2024" series. Here we look at the opportunities and possibilities of corporate learning to counteract skills gaps and expertise shortages (caused by rapid digitalisation, among other things). The L&D area includes learning and development, blended learning (1st article in this series), learning development, self-directed learning and a learning culture in the corporate context. In previous articles, I have dealt with the topic of learning and development in the field of IT consulting.
Blockchain 2024 and beyond
A year ago, Nasdaq stated “Blockchain development has become one of the most highly-demanded skills of the century” in an article addressed onto the blockchain talent shortage crisis. LinkedIn already signaled that issue in 2020, and you find articles on that awareness going back even further. The trend has slowed down recently, but there is no doubt, the demand, use cases and implementations will rise across all industries. We also listed it in our article “11 IT Trends of the Future” and also dedicated three more articles about blockchain in supply chain management (SCM), finance, sustainability and healthcare. Blockchain is going to be huge.
The demand for qualified professionals will therefore be just as high. However, the market is of course just as inadequate here as it is for the general shortage of skilled labour that we are currently experiencing. So we can't wait for (young) professionals to graduate from university. The good news is that the world has responded to this skills gap by offering resources, training and bootcamps. There are even some YouTubers who offer courses on the subject and share their knowledge online, sometimes for free. So there are two questions that need to be answered:
- What are roles and positions that will be requested in that near blockchain future?
- How can the workforce be educated to fill the void in that blockchain future?
Blockchain Roles – Preparing for a Blockchain Future
The further we move into the blockchain era, the more important certain roles become. In the following, we will look at key positions. We will explain how you can prepare your employees to fill these positions or advance into this area through upskilling or reskilling. We have identified four critical areas:
Blockchain Developers and Blockchain Engineers: These are the technical architects of the blockchain world. Their roles involve developing the blockchain systems and ensuring they run smoothly. The complexity of blockchain development, requiring knowledge of new programming languages like Solidity and specific development tools, adds to the difficulty in finding qualified talent. We will explore which existing non-blockchain roles could be best positioned to re- or upskill to become blockchain developers and engineers.
Technical and Non-Technical Blockchain Professionals: Companies need both technical professionals (engineers with a deep understanding of the technologies) and non-technical professionals (senior employees who can make decisions involving the application of blockchain to business objectives). We'll discuss how learning in a corporate context can prepare your workforce for these diverse roles.
Blockchain Consultants and Advisors: With the increasing adoption of blockchain across various industries, there is a growing need for consultants and advisors who can guide businesses in integrating blockchain technology into their operations. They require not just technical know-how but also a strategic mindset to understand how blockchain can align with business objectives.
Blockchain Project Managers: Overseeing blockchain projects, these managers need a blend of technical understanding and project management skills to ensure successful implementation and integration of blockchain solutions.
To cover vacancies in the area of blockchain developers and blockchain engineers, it makes sense to train employees who are already closely involved in the topic. Without this, the learning curve is too steep and not realistic in terms of L&D measures or corporate learning.
For the other areas, we will show you how you can organise your learning and development strategies accordingly. The aim is to reduce the potential skills gap in blockchain technology and knowledge and prepare your employees for it. By focusing on specific learning paths and development strategies, your organisation can reduce the fear of falling behind in blockchain skills and remain competitive in this rapidly evolving field.
Software developers who are most likely to transition smoothly and quickly into blockchain development typically possess certain skill sets and backgrounds that align closely with blockchain technology requirements. Here's an overview of the types of developers who may find it easier to become blockchain developers:
Developers with Strong Programming Skills: Knowledge of programming languages like Java, C++, or Python is crucial for blockchain development. These languages are commonly used in blockchain, and proficiency in them enables a more straightforward transition.
Developers Experienced in Data Structures and Cryptography: Blockchain heavily relies on data structures for creating an immutable and efficient system. Also, cryptography is a fundamental part of blockchain for securing data. Developers who are already familiar with these concepts will find it easier to adapt to blockchain development.
Developers with a Background in Databases and Networking: Understanding distributed systems, which are a key component of blockchain technology, requires foundational knowledge in databases and networking. Developers with experience in these areas would have an advantage.
Back-end Developers: Since back-end developers are involved in designing and developing APIs, conducting performance tests, and backend development according to protocols, their skill set is quite relevant to blockchain development.
Developers with Experience in Web Application Development: Since blockchain development often includes working with decentralised applications (dApps), developers with a background in web application development frameworks have a head start.
Transitioning to blockchain development also involves learning specific blockchain technologies and concepts such as Ethereum, dApps and smart contracts. This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on background, motivation and the depth of previous skills.
Engineers with certain backgrounds and skill sets are particularly well-positioned to transition into blockchain engineering due to their existing knowledge. Here are types of engineers who may find it easiest or fastest to become blockchain engineers:
Software Engineers: Especially those with experience in back-end development, data structures, algorithms, and cryptography. Knowledge of programming languages like Java, C++, Python, and Solidity is beneficial.
Computer Network Engineers: Understanding of distributed systems, network architecture, and security protocols is fundamental in blockchain technology, making network engineers well-suited for the transition.
Cybersecurity Engineers: Proficiency in security protocols, cryptography, and secure network architecture is crucial in blockchain. Cybersecurity engineers' skills in these areas make them suitable candidates.
Data Engineers: Experience with large-scale data processing, database management, and data analytics aligns closely with blockchain's focus on data integrity and efficient data management.
Systems Engineers: Knowledge of system architecture, especially distributed systems, and experience in managing complex projects can be advantageous for blockchain engineering.
DevOps Engineers: Skills in software development and operations, including continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD), are valuable in the blockchain development process.
AI and Machine Learning Engineers: While not directly related, engineers in this field often have strong programming and algorithmic skills, which can be beneficial for understanding blockchain algorithms and smart contract development.
Transitioning to blockchain engineering typically requires additional learning and skill development, particularly in blockchain-specific technologies and concepts. This includes understanding blockchain architecture, consensus mechanisms, smart contracts, and familiarity with specific blockchain platforms like Ethereum and Hyperledger.
Let's now take a look at how you can use Learning and Development for the other blockchain roles and areas of responsibility in the remaining article.
Strategic Learning Initiatives for Blockchain Readiness in Corporations
A crucial aspect of blockchain readiness is strategic learning initiatives. To develop an effective learning strategy, it is, as always, important to know where your organisation stands in terms of blockchain skills. We will guide you through the process of identifying skills gaps and creating strategic learning pathways. The ultimate goal is to create a comprehensive framework that equips both your technical professionals and strategic decision makers with the necessary blockchain skills.
- Assessing Current Skill Levels: Begin by assessing the current level of blockchain knowledge and skills within the organisation. This involves identifying the existing gaps in blockchain expertise, particularly in technical roles and decision-making capacities.
- Customised Learning Pathways: Develop tailored learning pathways for different roles. For technical professionals, pathways should focus on blockchain development skills, such as smart contract programming and understanding blockchain architecture. For non-technical professionals, the focus should be on understanding the business applications and strategic potential of blockchain.
- Blended Learning: Utilise a blended learning approach combining online courses, workshops, and hands-on projects. This approach allows for flexibility and caters to diverse learning styles, crucial for understanding a complex subject like blockchain. Read more in our article on blended learning.
- Collaboration with Educational Institutions: Partner with universities or online learning platforms to provide employees with access to specialised blockchain courses and certifications. This collaboration can help in keeping the learning content updated with the latest blockchain developments.
- Partnerships with Industry Leaders: Form partnerships with blockchain industry leaders and technology firms. These partnerships can provide insights into industry trends and access to advanced training resources.
- Mentorship and Peer Learning: Establish a mentorship program where employees can learn from experts in the field. Encourage peer-to-peer learning sessions where employees can share knowledge and practical experiences.
Fostering a Proactive Learning Environment for Blockchain Innovation
Creating a learning environment that embraces and drives innovation in blockchain (and beyond) is necessary in future business development. We will explore how you can cultivate a workspace where exploration and practical application of blockchain becomes an integral part of your organisation. This includes setting up innovation labs and fostering cross-functional teamwork. Insights into cultivating a culture that actively supports and accelerates blockchain learning and experimentation are important aspects of our observations.
- Innovation Labs: Set up innovation labs where employees can experiment with blockchain applications. These labs serve as a safe space for trial and error, encouraging creative problem-solving.
- Cross-Functional Teams: Encourage the formation of cross-functional teams that include both technical and non-technical staff. These teams can work on pilot projects, facilitating knowledge transfer and collaborative learning.
- Learning Culture Advocacy: Leaders should advocate for a learning culture that embraces technological advancements. This involves recognizing and rewarding continuous learning and experimentation.
- Interactive Workshops and Hackathons: Organise workshops and hackathons focused on blockchain technology. These events can spark interest and provide hands-on experience in developing blockchain solutions.
- Feedback and Adaptation: Regularly gather feedback on the learning initiatives and adapt them based on the evolving needs of the workforce and the blockchain industry.
Integrating Blockchain Forecasts into Corporate Learning Agendas
The strategic integration of blockchain forecasts into corporate learning agendas is a crucial aspect of preparing for the future. The central theme here is the intersection of market intelligence and learning strategy. It's about taking those high-level insights about blockchain's future – the technological advancements, the market shifts, and the emerging opportunities – and weaving them into the fabric of our learning programs.
The emphasis here is on the word 'integration.' We're not just reacting to blockchain trends; we're proactively embedding this knowledge into our educational initiatives. This means regular reviews of our learning content, aligning our training goals with business strategy, and ensuring that our workforce is not just aware of blockchain’s potential but is fully equipped to leverage it.
The goal is to create a learning agenda that is as dynamic and forward-looking as the blockchain technology itself, ensuring our workforce is not just adapting to change but driving it.
Conclusion: Crafting a Future-Ready Learning Strategy in the Age of Blockchain
As we draw to a close, our focus shifts to encapsulating the essence of a future-ready learning strategy in the blockchain era. This concluding chapter is about stitching together all the concepts we've explored – from fostering a proactive learning environment to integrating strategic forecasts – and painting a picture of what a comprehensive, adaptable, and forward-thinking learning strategy looks like in this context.
The key takeaway here is the holistic approach to learning in the age of blockchain. It’s about creating a culture where continuous learning is valued and supported, where strategic foresight informs learning objectives, and where adaptability is ingrained in the very DNA of our learning strategies.
This is your call to action. It's an invitation to lead in a world where blockchain technology is not just a tool, but a catalyst for transformation – in our businesses, in our industries, and in our approach to learning and development.