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Upwork releases Q2 2018 Skills Index, ranking the 20 fastest-growing skills for freelancers

Blockchain secures No. 1 spot on skills index for second consecutive quarter

70 percent of fastest-growing skills are new to the index, underscoring rapid evolution of skills

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - July 31, 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. It sheds light on new and emerging skills and provides real-time validation of current trends in the labor market and tech industry.

According to a recent report, because freelancers are often equipped with the specific skill sets teams require and are well-suited for the increasing volume of project work, more than half (59 percent) of HR managers opted to utilize freelance talent last year. Of these, 57 percent expect to use even more freelancers in the next 10 years.

“As technological change and the knowledge economy continue advancing, so will work requiring more skills,” 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 jobs will change as the world’s needs change and automation progresses, but shortages in local talent pools and the skills businesses need can be overcome with freelance talent, who are nearly twice as likely as traditional employees to proactively upgrade their skills.”The 20 fastest-growing freelance skills in Q2 2018 experienced more than 150 percent year-over-year growth, while demand for the top ten skills grew more than 500 percent compared to the same time period last year (Q2 2017).

The top 20 fastest-growing skills, Q2 2018:

  1. Blockchain
  2. Google Cloud Platform
  3. Volusion
  4. Risk management
  5. Product photography
  6. Rapid prototyping
  7. Google App Engine API
  8. SCORM
  9. GitLab
  10. Go development
  11. Apple UIKit
  12. Enterprise architecture
  13. Tensorflow
  14. Atlassian Confluence
  15. Apple Xcode
  16. eLearning
  17. Customer retention
  18. Articulate storyline
  19. Node.js
  20. Scala development

Key Insights:

Fortune 500 companies continue to incorporate blockchain into existing infrastructure

Blockchain (#1) topped the list as the fastest-growing skill in Q2 out of more than 5,000 on Upwork.com for the second consecutive quarter. Its year-over-year growth has exceeded 2,000 percent for the past four quarters, and it experienced more than 3,500 percent year-over-year growth in Q2.Blockchain (a decentralized way to record information digitally) shows huge potential for businesses, causing a spike in demand for experts familiar with the technology. A recent Deloitte survey found that 74 percent of all respondents said their organizations see a “compelling business case” for the use of blockchain. This is supported by announcements from Fortune 500 companies such as Google, who just announced support for distributed ledger technology frameworks on Google Cloud Platform (#2), Amazon ($AMZN), EY and Microsoft ($MSFT). Gartner anticipates blockchain’s business value-add will grow to slightly over $360 billion by 2026, then surge to more than $3.1 trillion by 2030, and blockchain has been the no. 1 search term on gartner.com since January 2017.Go development (#10) (a programming language that can be used to create a blockchain), also appeared on the list.eLearning soars as society move towards a model of lifelong learningAs work changes, 54 percent of the U.S. workforce are not very confident that the work they do will exist in 20 years.

Reskilling is critical, and eLearning (#16) has become a key method in staying up-to-date with emerging skills and industry best practices. eLearning-related skills, including SCORM (#8) (a set of technical standards for eLearning software products) and Articulate Storyline (#18) (a software for creating interactive courses) both saw a surge in Q2. Businesses are enlisting freelance specialists to create strategies and solutions that provide on-the-job training for employees, who are almost half as likely as freelancers to participate in skill-related education.eCommerce continues to see gains over physical retailOnline shopping makes up 13 percent of retail sales worldwide, and its share has steadily increased over the past decade. Greater Internet access and technology improvements have made online shopping more convenient, and eCommerce platform Volusion (#3) is rapidly growing as more small and medium-sized businesses look to set up online stores. Its growth spiked during the same quarter the company announced the successful migration of its 30,000 eCommerce stores to Google Cloud Platform (#2), the second fastest-growing skill in Q2.

Product photography (#5) also appeared on the list for the first time as sellers look to specialists who can produce quality product images, which 67 percent of people rate more important than product information, detailed descriptions and reviews.Product and integration announcements from WWDC spur growthXcode (#15) is an integrated development environment (IDE) for macOS that enables you to create apps using Swift (Apple’s programming language) for all Apple platforms, including macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS. Companies are seeking freelance developers with Xcode knowledge to build their apps, causing an increase in demand for the skill during the same quarter Apple announced Xcode 10 at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

UIKit (#11) (a framework that is part of Xcode and allows you to construct and manage a user interface for all iOS and tvOS apps) also saw high growth last quarter, making its first appearance on the list.Apple also announced an Xcode integration with GitLab (#9) that makes it easier to work with Xcode projects hosted in the popular Git repository manager. In addition to importing more than 100,000 repositories from GitHub following the competitor’s impending acquisition by Microsoft, GitLab experienced a surge in demand on Upwork in Q2, indicating its growing popularity among the development community. GitLab then shared plans to migrate its code repositories from Microsoft Azure to Google Cloud Platform (#2), which also saw a pop in demand this quarter following the news.Independent professionals serve integral role in risk management alongside CROs Risk management (#4), which involves understanding, analyzing and addressing risk to ensure an organization achieves its goals, saw a surge in demand in Q2, earning it a spot on the index for the first time. With heightened scrutiny across every aspect of business, companies are putting greater emphasis on overall risk management, and having an independent risk management function is a regulatory expectation today, according to Deloitte’s Global Risk Management Survey.

From the same study, 72 percent of institutions reported that their board risk committee is chaired by an independent director, while 67 percent have a risk management expert on their committee.New Google developments cause increased demand for programmersSpecialists for TensorFlow (#13) (Google’s machine learning platform for the masses) continue to be in high-demand as companies leverage the framework to build natural language processing apps, recommendation engines, image recognition software and other applications powered by machine learning. There was also notable demand for developers with expertise in Node.js (#19) (a popular runtime environment), which Google Cloud announced support for in its App Engine (a fully-managed application platform that lets you deploy web and mobile applications without worrying about the infrastructure).

As a result, Google’s App Engine API (#7) also saw tremendous growth. Relevant Course ListFifty-five percent of freelancers participated in skill-related education in the last six months versus only 30 percent of non-freelancers. Also on the rise is eLearning -- an industry that has reportedly grown 900 percent since 2000 and a popular method of staying up-to-date with new and emerging skills.Here is a list of relevant online courses on leading e-learning providers, including Coursera, Pluralsight, SkillShare, Udacity and Udemy for the top 20 fastest-growing skills on Upwork in Q2 2018:

  1. Become a Blockchain Developer (Udacity)
  2. Architecting with Google Cloud Platform Specialization (Coursera)
  3. How to Create an Online Store. Volusion eCommerce Scratch (Udemy)
  4. Risk Assessment and Management (Pluralsight)
  5. Product Photography that Sells: Product Shots for Video (SkillShare)
  6. Rapid Prototyping by Google (Udacity)
  7. Open APIs: Introducing Google Cloud Platform (Coursera)
  8. Learning SCORM and Tin Can API (Lynda.com)
  9. Mastering Git (Pluralsight)
  10. Web Development with Google's Go (Golang) Programming Language (Udacity)
  11. UIKit Fundamentals: Learn the iOS User Interface Library (Udacity)
  12. Lean and Agile Enterprise Architecture: Getting Started (Pluralsight)
  13. Machine Learning with TensorFlow on Google Cloud Platform Specialization (Coursera)
  14. Intro to Confluence (Server Version) (SkillShare)
  15. Introduction to Xcode (SkillShare)
  16. e-Learning Ecologies: Innovative Approaches to Teaching and Learning for the Digital Age (Coursera)
  17. Customer Success: How to Reduce Churn and Increase Customer Retention (Udemy)
  18. Learn to create eLearning courses using Articulate Storyline (Udemy)
  19. Server-side Development with NodeJS, Express and MongoDB (Coursera)
  20. Scala for Java Developers (SkillShare)

The Upwork Skills Index calculates year-over-year growth rates based on freelancer billings through Upwork in Q2 2018 versus Q2 2017. The next quarterly Upwork Skills Index will be released fall 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