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Upwork releases Q1 2018 Skills Index, ranking the 20 fastest-growing skills for freelancers

Blockchain secures No. 1 spot on newest skills index, showing promise in ability to transform how information is stored

For those seeking to learn hot skills, Upwork also debuts a list of relevant courses from top eLearning providers

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - May 1, 2018 -Upwork, the largest global freelancing website, today released its newest quarterly index of the hottest skills in the U.S. freelance job market. The Upwork Skills Index ranks the site’s 20 fastest-growing skills in a quarterly series that sheds light on new and emerging skills as an indication of hot freelance job market trends. According to a recent report, 53% of hiring managers surveyed cite access to skills as biggest hiring challenge, and the majority (59%) are already utilizing flexible talent.“As skills become more specialized, companies either need to invest in reskilling to prepare workers for the jobs of tomorrow or leverage freelance professionals who are nearly twice as likely as traditional employees to proactively take reskilling upon themselves,” said Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork and co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Future of Gender, Education and Work. “Many of today’s Fortune 500 companies are already doing this, and adoption of flexible workers will increase as hiring gets harder.”The 20 fastest-growing freelance skills in Q1 2018 experienced more than 130 percent year-over-year growth in demand, while demand for the top ten skills grew more than 400 percent compared to the same time period last year (Q1 2017).

The top 20 fastest-growing skills, Q1 2018:

  1. Blockchain
  2. Tensorflow
  3. Amazon DynamoDB
  4. Voice over
  5. Subtitling
  6. Art direction
  7. Content strategy
  8. Computer vision
  9. Microsoft Power BI
  10. Augmented reality
  11. Chatbot development
  12. React native
  13. Media buying
  14. Go development
  15. Information security
  16. Scala development
  17. Instagram API
  18. Adobe Premiere
  19. Machine learning
  20. AngularJS development

Key Insights

Blockchain is on pace to be the new “Cloud” of the 21st Century

Blockchain (#1) appears to be the next uncharted, highly talked about technology similar to what the “cloud” was back in the mid-2000's. Its growth exceeded 2,000% for three quarters in a row on Upwork.com, and in Q1 it experienced more than 6,000% year-over-year growth, making it the fastest-growing skill out of more than 5,000 skills on the site. The initial hype has evolved into enterprises taking blockchain seriously; major companies such as Samsung and IBM are already leveraging it in innovative ways, while Salesforce ($CRM) is planning on unveiling a blockchain offering for its customers during Dreamforce in September. A recent survey by SAP ($SAP) found that 92% of business leaders view blockchain as an opportunity; the World Economic Forum just released a toolkit to help executives better understand whether blockchain is an appropriate and helpful tool for their business needs, and as more executives try to navigate this technology, there is soaring demand for talented experts familiar with it who can help demystify it and explore potential uses.

Gartner forecasts the business value-add of blockchain to exceed $3.1 trillion by 2030, indicating that it shows promise in terms of utility for business and is a technology that’s here to stay.Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming ubiquitousAlarmism is still common when it comes to AI’s impact on the future of work but it’s petering off as more tech leaders, including figureheads like Elon Musk who once called AI “an existential risk for human civilization,” now envision it augmenting our strengths, not replacing them. Increasing demand for AI-related skills, including computer vision (#8), augmented reality (#10) and chatbot development (#11) suggests that not only are companies embracing independent talent to find new and emerging skills but freelancers are also preparing themselves for a future where old jobs are becoming obsolete and innovation is progressing faster than ever.

Google ($GOOG) recently announced Learn with Google AI, a resource that makes machine learning (#19) education available to everyone; and they also held their annual TensorFlow Developer Summit this month, where they explored how TensorFlow (#2) is being used in machine learning to solve challenging problems that impact everyone around the world.Data security specialists are in high demand in light of looming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deadline, Facebook data scandalThe European Union (EU) has created new set of privacy regulations (GDPR) designed to protect the data privacy rights of European residents, and the deadline for becoming compliant is May 25, 2018. Organizations that conduct business in the EU and are not compliant by that date will face a massive penalty, and while some are searching for Data Protection Officers to manage their data, there is also a surge in demand for information security (#15) specialists who can provide guidance for companies looking to retrofit their privacy policies to comply.

These changes will take effect during a time where security continues to be top of mind due to a series of data security breaches, including the recent Facebook ($FB) and Cambridge Analytica data scandal.Popular development languages see soaring demandSpecialists for React native (#12), a development framework that’s used to build native apps using React, appeared on the list for the second quarter in a row, underscoring companies’ desire to build mobile apps that use the same user interface (UI) for iOS and Android apps (i.e. build an app once and play it twice without additional coding). Go development (#14), a programming language created at Google in 2009 also appeared on the list for the second consecutive quarter. According to HackerRank, Go is the No. 1 language with the biggest gap between what developers don’t know and what they are looking to learn, with more than one-third (38%) of developers indicating they’re planning on learning it next.

Scala development (#16), combines object-oriented and functional programming in one concise, high-level language, trails closely behind at No. 3 and appeared on the index for the first time. According to the 2018 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, Scala developers in the U.S. are among the highest paid. AngularJS development (#20) was part of the fastest-growing skills for the seventh quarter -- more than any other skill in the index’s history.Marketers seek out specialized roles to help scale and meet project needs 67% of CMOs say they’re planning to increase their digital advertising spend in 2018.

Demand for voice over (#4), subtitling (#5) and media buying (#13) supports that claim as companies shift their marketing spend away from traditional agencies such as Omnicom ($OMC), Publicis ($PUB) and WPP ($WPP) and towards freelance talent. There was also a surge in demand for core marketing functions. With the growing number of channels available, marketers are seeking experts in art direction (#6) to ensure consistency in their brand’s look and feel across all touchpoints as well as content strategy (#7) professionals who can holistically plan, develop and manage content across channels.

Instagram API (#17) also experienced a spike in growth in Q1 as companies struggle to understand the recent changes Instagram deployed to their API in an effort to better protect people’s information in the wake of Facebook’s data breach.

Relevant Course ListFive years from now, more than a third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed. Reskilling is therefore critical as this rapid evolution of skills takes place.Here is a list of relevant online courses on leading e-learning providers, including Coursera, Udemy, PluralSight, Lynda.com ($MSFT), SkillShare and Udacity for the top 20 fastest-growing skills on Upwork in Q1 2018:

  1. IBM Blockchain Foundation for Developers (Coursera)
  2. Learning Path: TensorFlow: Machine & Deep Learning Solutions (Udemy)
  3. AWS DynamoDB Deep Dive (PluralSight)
  4. Voice-Over for Video and Animation (Lynda.com)
  5. Learn All About Creating Subtitles (SRT) and Closed-Captions (Udemy)
  6. Learning Art Direction (Lynda.com)
  7. The Fundamentals of Content Marketing (SkillShare)
  8. Become a Computer Vision Expert (Udacity)
  9. Microsoft Power BI - A Complete Introduction (Udemy)
  10. Getting started with Augmented Reality (Coursera)
  11. Build Incredible Chatbots (Udemy)
  12. Become a Professional React Developer (Udacity)
  13. Descriptive Customer Analytics: Media Buying (Coursera)
  14. Creating Web Applications with Go (PluralSight)
  15. Information Security: Context and Introduction (Coursera)
  16. Functional Programming in Scala Specialization (Coursera)
  17. Consuming the Instagram API (Lynda.com)
  18. Video Editing with Adobe Premiere Pro 2018 for Beginners (SkillShare)
  19. Machine Learning for beginners (Udemy)
  20. AngularJS: Get Started (PluralSight)

The Upwork Skills Index calculates year-over-year growth rates based on freelancer billings through Upwork in Q1 2018 versus Q1 2017. The next quarterly Upwork Skills Index will be released summer 2018.

About Upwork

Upwork is the largest global freelancing website. It enables businesses to find and work with highly skilled freelancers. As an increasingly connected and independent workforce goes online, knowledge work — like software, shopping and content before it — is shifting online as well. This shift is making it easier for clients to connect and work with talent in near real-time and is freeing professionals everywhere from having to work at a set time and place. Our company’s mission is to create economic opportunities so people have better lives.Upwork is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San Francisco and Chicago. For more information, visit our website at www.upwork.com, join us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Christina Schultz