Why startups are a valuable part of the education ecosystem
A lot has changed since I was in college. This gives my peers and me a unique advantage, having witnessed the arc of technological innovation span the last several decades. I’ve seen jobs altered, created, and eliminated as the needs of the labor market changed - it’s been a remarkable and rapid period of job growth.
However, what has happened during this period has left many people with outdated skills or without employment as traditional education hasn’t kept up with employment opportunities. In this blog post, I’ll explain how this has happened and why academic institutions need to engage with startups to best understand labor market needs and trends.
Defining the skills gap
The skills gap can be defined as “the difference between the skills that employers want, and those that are available from workers looking for a job.” With technological development far outpacing the change within the education industry, students are not being educated at the pace required to fill today’s jobs.
“The skills gap can be defined as ‘the difference between the skills that employers want, and those that are available from workers looking for a job.’”
This disconnect is largely a result of education having remained the same, in curriculum and structure, while the labor market has evolved. Educational institutions place a valuable, but arguably outdated emphasis on traditional knowledge and skills. This can be in direct contrast to employer’s needs today for workers with tangible and technical skills.
In the last ten years, we’ve seen an increase in the skills gap as the pace of innovation has escalated. Older and experienced workers are finding themselves left out of this growth, and graduating students are facing a job hunt without possessing the required skills. In our world of fast and easy digital communication, this shouldn’t be happening -- we have the resources for viable solutions.
The power of startups
Traditional education does have a place of importance; history, philosophy, literature, and linguistics play an important role in giving students context and understanding of our world. Without this, we’d just be educating students on the future and not the past, and the past often informs the future. However, great understanding doesn’t always lead to employment and advancement.
Rather than convert the curriculum of traditional institutions, I believe that schools should partner with startups to understand the current needs of technology, and employers to help close the skills gap. Startups are a valuable connection to industry developments and the labor market, providing institutions with a pulse on innovation and employment requirements.
“Rather than convert the curriculum of traditional institutions, I believe that schools should partner with startups to understand the current needs of technology, and employers to help close the skills gap.”
As early adopters of technology, organizational behavior, and methodologies, startups are also a great indicator of coming trends. Academic institutions can leverage this knowledge for the development of future course material, or in partnerships (read more about this in a recent blog post). At ODEM, we’ve been working to cultivate this part of our business, creating relationships with institutions in order to build upon students’ base of knowledge for deeper, more specific domain expertise.
The ODEM advantage
Readers of my blog will know that we’re driven by the impact of student- and educator-driven learning. Layered on top of a traditional education, ODEM levels up your skillset to make employment easier. By placing students and educators at the center of education, ODEM makes education more accessible, engaging, less costly, and most importantly, student-specific.
“By placing students and educators at the center of education, ODEM makes education more accessible, engaging, less costly, and most importantly, student-specific.”
One of the technical skills we’re focused on developing amongst graduates, and a known passion of mine, is blockchain technology. The blockchain skills gap was documented in a 2019 Hired report stating that the need for blockchain engineers is up 517% in the past year. Our Marketplace is an example of how blockchain has proliferated within computer engineering; the ODEM Marketplace is built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, which allows international parties to directly connect and transact without intermediaries.
“Education and training must be the driving factor behind addressing staff shortages and the skills gap in blockchain-based roles. However, the pace of change in technology -- and the ascension of blockchain -- has meant there is a lag between the skills required today by forward-thinking companies and how quickly the educational system can educate the next generation of blockchain talent,” according to a recent article from Open Access Government.
The article also underscores ODEM’s thesis that, “those employed to deliver blockchain programs could be located anywhere in the world, so education needs to be deliverable where the participants choose to live and learn, as a set curriculum under a job-now-job-tomorrow syllabus.”
Through our implementation of blockchain technology, ODEM strives to deliver education to people across the globe, including underserved and unbanked populations. We want to provide people everywhere with the skills to find meaningful employment. Our blended learning programs make this possible, allowing students and educators the opportunity to customize their engagement, connecting online via our Marketplace for online courses, or in-person for a classroom setting.