Union Catholic Regional High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, proudly displays the following motto on its main building: “Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow.”
And that motto isn’t taken lightly.
Sister Percylee Hart has been stewarding the school into the future ever since she became principal 38 years ago. In 1980, she merged Union Catholic’s separate boys and girls schools, turning the high school co-educational.
Now, in 2018, Union Catholic is teaching its juniors and seniors about cryptocurrencies.
Timothy Breza, a 28-year-old history and financial literacy teacher, first broached adding cryptography to his Business and Personal Finance class at the start of this school year. A few students had approached him in September and October, asking what he knew about bitcoin and other digital coins.
“If one student’s talking about it, many of them are talking about it,” Breza said. “So I figured we needed to include it.”
The class, an elective available to juniors and seniors, covers topics like earning money, budgeting, credit cards, taxes, investing, entrepreneurship and how to create a business plan.
With the approval of the administration, Breza has now added a section on cryptocurrencies, focusing on the history of cryptography and the applications of blockchain technology.
But while cryptography may be new to high schools, it’s already a popular topic at colleges across the country.
Dan Boneh, a professor of cryptography at Stanford, told CNBC last year that security and cryptography represent the second-most popular subject in the university’s computer science department, behind only machine learning.
LinkedIn says there are now 28 times as many people citing cryptocurrency skills on their profiles and 5.5 times as many people with bitcoin skills as there were in October 2013.
But how’s it actually playing out in the workplace? That depends on whom you talk to.
SingularDTV, a blockchain entertainment studio, said it isn’t necessarily prioritizing applicants with formal cryptocurrency education over those without.
“The biggest trait or skill we look for is high energy,” said Chief Strategic Officer Shreesh Tiwari.
The company, which employs around 75 people globally, is expecting to “easily double” in size in the next 12 to 18 months.
Coinbase, on the other hand, is largely pleased by the change.
“As we hire new grads, they have a stronger base and a deeper understanding of what they’ll do here and why,” said Nathalie McGrath, director of people.
The digital currency marketplace currently employs just shy of 250 people and plans to “double in the next year,” she said.
In addition, McGrath said it’s great time for recent college graduates to apply.
“We’re now in a place where we can hire new junior folks and we’re equipped from a structural perspective to be able to mentor those individuals and provide a really good growth opportunity,” McGrath said.
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