By 2020, about 40% of the US workforce will be temporary workers. The median tenure of workers age 25 to 34 is 2.8 years. The average working American changes their job 10 to 15 times during the lifetime of their career. When was the last time you spoke to someone who has been with their employer for more than 10 years? We are witnessing the death of workplace loyalty. No one, unless they helped create it, stays with their current employer in the long term. With a US unemployment rate of 4.1% and a global unemployment rate of 5.78%, the demand for professionals in most fields is sky high, giving workers the economic freedom to jump from job to job without fear. We are in the golden age of choice.
You can see it in almost every field. 12,798 of Google’s employees are poached from other major tech companies, with more than 4,000 from Microsoft alone. In the US National Basketball Association and National Football League, players are starting to sign shorter and shorter contracts, looking less for stability and more for control. The death of major companies such as Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual has scared an entire generation of employees. No one wants to be the guy stuck on a sinking ship; we all want lifeboats.
So with a workforce chasing options and an economy incentivizing that mindset, we must have an education system and professional development programs that are properly preparing young and old professionals to compete in a constantly changing and adapting world, right? The answer to that question is… kind of? Students are forced to take classes in different fields of study and offered a multitude of diverse training opportunities from clubs to study aboard, which is great, but the minute students graduate, their education is over. I was recently surprised to discover that the average employee does not receive professional development outside of job training. The Siegfried group giving employees at least 20 hours of leadership development every quarter is more than most employees will receive in their career. So unless you can stop working for a couple of years and go back to school, you are stuck with what you chose when you were in school.
I understand that employees are much more likely to leave, so employers are less likely to receive the (often long-term) benefits of training their employees’ soft skills such as leadership or networking, but now we are stuck in a funny situation. Even though employees are constantly changing jobs, they are not learning anything new. We have an economy that supports constant movement, but an education system that forces stagnation. But that will soon change as new technologies, specifically blockchain and open ledgers, are implemented in our society.
Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin and Ethereum, is revolutionary and will change the way the world interacts in many ways. But for now, we will be focusing on the effects of open ledgers on education. Open ledgers will allow everyone to see an up-to-date ledger of any record, without the worry of any “fudging” or human error. There can be no more lying about credentials because everyone will be able to see that there is no record of you ever receiving them. This transparency of records not only reduces fraud, but it increases freedom and promotes continuous learning.
I am currently a business student, so assume I end up working as a financial advisor or economic forecaster. If one day I decide I hate my career and always wanted to be a mechanical engineer—regardless of whether I already have the skills to be an engineer—I must have a degree to support my education. I need a certification to show others I can be trusted to possess mechanical engineering skills, so more than likely, I need to attend a 4-year university for any employer to seriously consider hiring me. But with an open ledger, I will not need to do this. I can just take the mechanical engineering classes needed to for the job and apply. The open ledger will change how we verify education because all records can be trusted, so I just need classes to support my skills, not 4 years full of miscellaneous classes that may have nothing to do with my job. Blockchain will change the certification process, thus changing education.
This means the giant barrier of learning new skills or joining a new field and the time needed to earn a degree will be destroyed. The multiple years and numerous credits needed to be an engineer just went down to half the number of credits and a year and a half. Employees will be able to not only gain new skills by taking classes on the fly, but they will not have to worry about earning some certificate to support their education (besides a grade) because classes will carry enough weight to show the learning. Fifty-year-old college students will not be an unusual sight anymore because there will be an economic benefit for continuing to learn, without the giant economic cost of an average of US $37,172 of debt after earning a 4-year degree.
If this concept is hard to envision, compare is what is happening to the US television market right now. In the past, if you wanted to watch a specific show on TV, you had to sign up for a full cable or satellite package to watch just that show. But now you can just sign up for a streaming service such as Netflix and watch 1 show for a fraction of the price. Consumers will have complete control of their education, just like they have complete control of their media engagement.
The Master of Business Administration degree, 4-year degrees and the concept of “not having an option” are dying. Sooner than we think, economies will be more than half freelance work, full of consultants and job hoppers. The education system will quickly adapt to that, with workers constantly learning and adapting, and blockchain technology is on the precipice of changing everything.
James Massaquoi is a student at the University of Delaware (USA). He is an advocate, consultant, a Stanford d.school Innovation Fellow, teacher and entrepreneur. Having founded and worked with many startups in the education, healthcare and political spaces, he is an active member of the greater Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA) entrepreneurial community. He is working towards a CPA upon Graduation.