For any college graduate, it’s a pretty easy sell.

Get your degree. Enter the job market earning six-figures off the bat. Head down a career path that has you on your way to developing the new Internet for Fortune 500 companies.

That’s the reality many students are finding in 2019, who have the skill set to develop blockchain technology. Some of the biggest and most successful companies in the world are desperate to find blockchain architects, and they are willing to pay well for that new hire.

But for students interested in learning those skills, they will find that actual blockchain courses at Universities are still hard to come by. The fact is, the rest of the world, still has not quite caught on to blockchain and the value of decentralization, and it could still be years before that happens. There are some Universities that offer blockchain courses on the curriculum, but they are top-tier schools. They include Duke, MIT, The University of California, Berkley, Stanford, and Cornell.

However, now you can add the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) to the list. In the spring of 2019, UNLV officials added a new course to the curriculum. CS 789: Fundamentals of Blockchain Technology, was the first course offered by UNLV that teaches students about cutting-edge blockchain technology. In that class, students also learned about how smart contracts factor into a blockchain, cryptography, consensus algorithms, security and scalability issues, and they reviewed various case studies of companies that have found success using the technology.

AXEL at UNLV

At AXEL, our team was fortunate enough to have spent a portion of the Spring 2019 semester giving presentations about blockchain to UNLV computer science students. AXEL’s team of blockchain experts taught students about how masternodes work, the value of Proof-of-Stake (PoS) cryptocurrencies, and how blockchain ties into our decentralized and distributed platform, AXEL.Network. AXEL Chief Marketing Officer, Jeremy Forsberg, spoke to the students about mass adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

The classroom appearances by AXEL led into two big events on the UNLV campus in the first week of May. The first event was ‘Blockchain Career Day’, hosted by AXEL. This was an event aimed at giving students an idea of how to break into the blockchain development industry, and what they can expect in terms of salaries and benefits. I informed our crowd that blockchain engineers are making anywhere from $150,000 to $175,000 per year, and are on par with the salaries of artificial intelligence experts. According to CNBC, the demand for blockchain engineers has increased by 400 percent since late 2017.

Members of our development team followed up my introduction by talking about the technology that makes up blockchain, and why it’s important for students to not only be able to succeed on the development side but also find real use cases of blockchain for the companies they are trying to work for.

“In the history of technology, the things that have made people successful is by creating technology, creating solutions, that make things cheaper and faster,” he says. “If you can go to a company and say I can do this cheaper and faster, they will listen.”

Jeremy closed out the seminar by giving the students an idea of just how great the need is for blockchain developers in Nevada, and across the world.

“I was actually having to go out and search for people for blockchain jobs,” he told them. “So you guys are actually in a good time right now. You saw the demand up there. The demand is there, but the skills aren’t.”

UNLV Blockchain Day

Three days after the career seminar, AXEL was back on campus for the newly created ‘UNLV Blockchain Day’, which drew over 100 attendees including UNLV students, faculty, industry leaders, technology experts, and blockchain developers. AXEL was a main sponsor of the event, and one of our developers served as the keynote speaker. During that keynote speech, he explained the core function of blockchain.

“It’s a distributed ledger, which represents an organization, an entity, a thing,” he said. “It’s also a means for a community to agree on how we are going to agree – how we are going to get along and how we are going to keep track of that ledger. And once we all know the mechanism of agreement, we all know how to follow the rules of that agreement. And lastly, whatever is agreed upon, whatever is written in that blockchain, is immutable. It will be there forever for everyone to view and in case any questions arise at any point in time in the future, we can go back.”

Following the keynote address, Jeremy took part in a panel discussion about the mass adoption of blockchain technology, and he was asked which projects currently stand out.

“The projects that I’m really, really liking are the ones that are completely re-addressing the balance of digital identity.” He said. “As we go forward into the digital economy, our identity is going to become the most fundamental thing that we can do battle over. And I think all of us, whether we know it or not, have had our identities breached in some way or another.”

Jeremy Forsberg, AXEL CMO

UNLV students also took to the main stage, presenting their individual class projects where they were tasked with developing a decentralized application to serve on a blockchain, or come up with technology that somehow incorporated blockchain.

UNLV graduate student Zachary Laney gave an interview with us, talking about what he presented.

“My presentation is about providing an alternative to current group key encryption protocols.” Laney says. “Current group key encryption protocols are very complex, they require every party to participate, and the utilize a central third party as the trust anchor. In my project, we’re using distributed immutability to redesign the group key encryption process completely, and by doing so, we’re achieving great results. It’s faster and cheaper.”

Zachary Laney , MS UNLV

Laney is getting his Masters in Computer Science from UNLV and talked about preparing to graduate at the end of May and enter the job market.
“I was out of the military approximately two years ago. The military paid for my degree, so currently I am in the job search process, and I’m just keeping my options open,” he says. “Originally I wanted to do cybersecurity, but blockchain just exploded within the last year and because of this, there are just so many job opportunities blowing up everywhere. And, as someone who values myself, as well as the particular trade that I’ve chosen to learn about, I want to make sure that I find the right fit in the company that I’m going to work for.”

AXEL and UNLV have also continued to forge deeper bonds with Dr. Kim, who has been a long-time collaborator on our blockchain project. He is currently Chief Information Officer with AXEL providing valuable insight and innovation the evolution and security of our blockchain network and technical developments. 

As a Las Vegas company, having Dr. Kim with us on our journey and the relationship with UNLV is a fundamental component to establish Nevada as the go-to-state for blockchain innovation and skills. Working together we want to foster the next generation of innovation for blockchain, distributed technology and more right here in Nevada and helping the growing job market around the industry.

In addition to the thriving job market in blockchain, the state of Nevada is starting to come along with legislation that would make it easier for businesses to use the technology. Haley Summers, a research analyst for Blockchains L.L.C., also spoke at ‘UNLV Blockchain Day’, and gave an interview with us about the pending legislation that could put Nevada on par with Wyoming in advancing blockchain adoption in business.

“Wyoming has done a lot of incredible work, they passed 13 different blockchain-related bills, and they are really setting a precedent for what we can define on a legal basis and look at in different regulatory areas,” she says. “Nevada is taking a very pragmatic and business-friendly approach, which is what we typically do. Back in 2017, the legislature passed SB 398, and it took some really big cues from what Wyoming did, and did some very practical-like things for Nevada as well. The first thing it did was provide a basis of understanding for blockchain technology, it defined it for us. While it’s an older technology, its implications are new, so we had to first make sure if a judge saw a case brought to it related to blockchain technology, that they wouldn’t just shut down a poor business because they think that this isn’t safe, I need to throw it out.”

Haley Summers , Blockchains LLC Research Analyst

Summers pointed out that the bill put forth a legal framework to set a clear understanding of blockchain technology for businesses. But she says it also ensured that it would be tax-free for our assets, and protect businesses from being targeted for additional taxes or license requirements strictly based on the use of blockchain.

Summers said Senate Bill 398 will put Nevada on par with Wyoming in establishing the basic framework to allow businesses to use blockchain. She added that more bills are currently being added on top of that to ensure that businesses are compliant with government regulations.

It’s clear that Las Vegas is fast on its way to becoming the next big technology hub. And UNLV could be playing a big role in that as we speak. The city has all of the elements working in its favor to serve as the birthplace of revolutionary companies of the next Internet.

All you have to do is look at how Silicon Valley become a technology epicenter. It did not become a $3 trillion neighborhood overnight, with Apple, Google, and Tesla just showing up on the block. It was a process that evolved over the course of 100 years, starting with San Francisco becoming a hub for the early telegraph and radio industries. And then you can fast forward to the 1940s, and we can talk about Hewlett Packard manufacturing radar and artillery technology for our military in World War II. But then something happened in 1969, that really helped make Silicon Valley become what it is known for today.

That was the year the Stanford Research Institute became one of the four nodes of ARPANET, which was the government research project that would go on to become the Internet.

That’s the point where we are at today. The beginning of an industrial revolution that is going to change the Internet as we know it. Who will be the key players? Bitcoin? Ethereum? Ripple? Tron? Axel?

Which city will be the site of that lightning strike moment for mass adoption? And which University will come up with the project, or produce the graduate who will make that happen? Could it be UNLV? Absolutely. Could this industrial spark originate in Las Vegas? Certainly.

Nelson Mandela may have said it best:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Nelson Mandela

Well, that education is happening as we speak. Right here, in Las Vegas.