Five questions about the future of work in blockchain

30 May 2022

Jobs in blockchain are a growing part of the labour market—but what are these jobs and do workers have the skills to do them?

Blockchain is a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) that records and shares information in a business network.  It allows for transactions and assets to be tracked. Assets can be ‘tangible’ (house, car, cash, government services, land) or ‘intangible’ (intellectual property, patents, copyrights, branding), and encompass virtually anything of value.

Blockchain is accepted in the UK and internationally as both an emerging technology and emerging skill set, and the global blockchain market is predicted to grow from $7 billion to over $160 billion by 2029.

This surge in demand is creating many new jobs, with current blockchain vacancies far outstripping vacancy rates for other jobs. How can the industry predict the type of jobs being created and the skills needed to do them during this period of rapid growth? Our research, supported through a Digit Marie Jahoda Visiting Fellowship,  uses a novel methodology using current job advertising data to describe the nature of the current employment market in blockchain and provides a basis to forecast future demand and potential skills gaps. This analysis offers insight into five key questions about current and future employment in blockchain.

1 What kind of jobs are currently available in blockchain?

The current skills requirements for blockchain workers are heavily concentrated in ICT and computer science. Blockchain workers are typically young, with graduate level education. The vast majority of emerging blockchain jobs (81%) are concentrated in three occupational groups: Software and Applications Developers and Analysts; ICT Services Managers; and Business Services and Administration Managers. It is anticipated that key roles for now and into the future are Blockchain Developers, Architects and Managers.

Source: ‘Blockchain Skills Forecasts 2022 – Factsheet’, CHAISE (2022), thanks to the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia from Vocational Education and Training (CPI) and Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)

2 What impact is blockchain currently having on the labour market?

As blockchain technology is still developing, its labour market impact remains relatively limited. The estimated demand for blockchain workers, expressed as a proportion of all new jobs, remains quite small in the UK (0.3%), Ireland (0.9%) and other EU countries (1.4% on average). The labour market for blockchain workers across Europe is estimated to produce around 30,000 new jobs over the next five years. However, there is an overarching consensus that blockchain is an area of constant evolution with high-growth potential; in the coming years increased awareness about the transformative power of blockchain technology is likely to bolster demand both for the technology and the skilled workers to operationalize it. Currently, lack of knowledge, experience and ineffective communication are key challenges for fulfilling rapidly increasing job vacancies in the sector.

3 What do we need from the next gen of blockchain workers – and will the workforce be able to provide it?

We reviewed the competencies most often sought in blockchain job adverts. Technical skills for coding, solutions design, frontend/backend development, and the development of decentralized applications were most often required. Business skills for case development, product development, product management, marketing, and finance skills were also highly desired. Finally, the transversal skills for co-operation, teamworking, self-determination, self-competence, and communication skills, were in demand.

Yet, there is a lack of formal education in the field of blockchain and informal education cannot fully cover the competencies needed. European forecasts estimate only 15,000 out of the 1 million ICT graduates will hail from blockchain specific courses from 2020 to 2026. These imbalances are not concerning for the vast majority of countries at present as supply of general ICT graduates greatly outweighs the demand for blockchain professionals in most countries. However, as blockchain demand grows, the lack of skills-specific training in ICT graduate populations could act as a constraint on growth. Our research suggests that there is a need to expand specialist blockchain, and more broadly, emerging technology training courses to ensure availability of a competent and versatile workforce in the future.

4 Who are the blockchain employers?

Startups are currently dominating the scene because they tend to be agile, fast moving, singularly focused and unwavering in their efforts to make the blockchain project and network successful. Further, there are an increasing number of corporate early adopters using blockchain technologies.. It is generally expected that the demand for blockchain skills is likely to grow rapidly as the technology continues to develop and adoption spreads across sectors. For example, blockchain has shown great potential in supply chain management to enable faster and more cost-efficient delivery of products, enhance products’ traceability, and improve coordination between partners.

In 2021, the majority of blockchain employers were operating in the ICT (52%), financial services (23%), gaming (5%) and other (20%) sectors. Increased investment in blockchain technology has been observed by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and companies in such diverse areas as food and agriculture, visual intelligence solutions, decentralised cloud storage, healthcare, education, insurance, energy and utilities, secure data encryption, digital advertising, research and consulting. There is growing interest from national governments, favouring blockchain technology’s ability to increase transparency and security within governmental bodies.

5 How can we forecast the future of work in blockchain?

In our research, we locate advertised blockchain related jobs within the occupational classification framework and produce forecasts for both total blockchain professionals and newly qualified blockchain graduates for 2020 to 2026. Data from Eurostat and a survey of CHAISE consortium partners (across EU countries) are used to estimate the supply of both ICT and blockchain-specific graduates for each country for the period. These forecasts can be utilised as a key input into any national, or EU level, skills strategies designed to ensure that the growth of blockchain employment is not restricted as a consequence of skill mismatches. Due to the dynamic nature of such emerging technologies, the forecasting will be repeated annually as applications of the technology become more widespread throughout the economy.

Blockchain Skills Conference

Please register and join the upcoming ESRI (virtual) Blockchain Skills Conference on 1 June at 10am (GMT). The conference is created and supported in association with the Erasmus+ CHAISE Blockchain Skills for Europe, Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (Digit) and Blockchain Ireland’s Education, Skills and Innovation Working Group.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) is part of the CHAISE Project which is a Sector Skills Alliance financed by the Erasmus+ programme to “design Europe’s strategy for blockchain skills”. All publications and outputs from this project are available here. The consortium consists of global leaders in blockchain and DLTs, including academic and industry partners, and sectoral organisations and communities.

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