Law’s Looming Skills Crisis

The trillion dollar global legal industry has a looming skills crisis. Its roots extend far beyond law grads entering the marketplace lacking practice-ready” capability or the vanishing, client-subsidized, on-the-job-training firms once provided to young associates. Law’s skills crisis derives from the profession’s insular, self-regulated, anachronistic conceptions of what it means to be a lawyer, think like a lawyer, and competently represent clients in the digital age.

Legal Culture, Education, And Training Are From Another Era

Law is mired in the mindset and training of the third industrial revolution. The Academy is detached from the marketplace and trains students for practice-centric careers that few will have. Many lawyers still function as they did a decade ago and retain the legal mindset that divides the world into “lawyers and ‘non-lawyers.’” The profession acknowledges the emergence of legal operations as a component of legal delivery, for example, but rarely grants it equal status or accords it a meaningful voice in management decisions. Even when a legal ops professional is a licensed attorney, s/he is, is relegated to second-class status compared to “practice” attorneys. This is emblematic of a profession that talks innovation but walks in place.

The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report examines the skills required in the digital age, the fourth industrial revolution. Critical thinking and problem solving, key elements of traditional legal pedagogy  remain core skills in the digital marketplace. Other critical workplace skills–notably emotional intelligence (EQ), creativity, cognitive flexibility and collaboration– are now equally important workplace competencies. These contemporary skills—and others including project/process management, data analytics, design, business basics, digital basics, risk prediction/management, and talent management—are largely ignored by the legal Academy and most executive education programs.  They are also undervalued by industry talent managers even as they have become essential to satisfy rapidly changing legal buyer expectations. These skills are also foundational elements of new legal positions to be filled now and many more as-yet to be created. The good news is that legal professionals have more career paths, lifestyle options, and geographic nimbleness than ever before. The bad news is that relatively few in the industry are prepared to fill the new roles.

A growing list of clients demand transformed legal services. What does that mean? Legal professionals must meld law, technology, and business and apply principles of digital transformation to the legal function. They must be proactive, data-driven, client-centric, and collaborative. They must appreciate that clients want solutions to business challenges, not legal tomes. Global perspective and cultural awareness are also critical, because law, long provincial by design, is now global. Legal professionals, regardless of by whom or where they are employed, will succeed in the 2020’s only ifthey develop specific transformative skills that emanate from an understanding of key principles of digital transformation.

Law’s skills problem goes even deeper; it is cultural. Many lawyers still cling to self-perpetuated myths that have been debunked by clients. The long list includes:  lawyers—not clients—decide what’s “legal work” and when their services are required; all work performed by lawyers is bespoke or at least differentiated; and only lawyers are qualified to deliver legal services. Legal culture is slow to embrace data, technology, new delivery models, multidisciplinary practice, regulatory reform, collaboration, diversity, gender pay equality, the distinction between the practice of law and the delivery of legal services, client-centricity, and digital transformation. Law is rooted in precedent; it looks to the past to prepare for the future. That is no longer the world we live in. Erik Brynjolfsson, a preeminent digital transformation expert, writes in The Second Machine Age that we are now “into a time when what’s come before is no longer a particularly reliable guide to what will happen next.”

Legal culture responds to the warp speed change—when it does at all– with buzzwords, denial, and self-congratulation. The packed calendar of industry award dinners celebrating pioneers, innovation, diversity, and other self-declared advances belies data exposing law’s dreadful scorecard on diversity, gender pay equality, advancement opportunities for non-white males, and other legal guild cultural holdovers. Then there’s the disconnect between the lawyer and client view of industry performance. Law’s net promoter score lags other professions and almost all industries. Legal culture needs a jolt; client-centricity, the ability to respond rapidly and effectively to new risk factors and challenges, data-driven judgments, and agile workforces are among law’s transformational musts.

The Legal Industry Is Unprepared for Digital Transformation

The legal industry is failing to keep pace with the speed, complexity, and accelerating rate of business transformation. A recent KPMG survey confirms digital transformation is a key strategic priority for CEO’s. It is also time sensitive—85% of enterprise decision makers think they have a two-year timeframe to make significant inroads on their digital transformation before sustaining adverse financial impact and/or lagging the competition. McKinsey reveals the high stakes of digital transformation– data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers; six times as likely to retain customers; and 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result.

Gartner reports that only 19% of in-house legal teams are well-prepared to support enterprise digital transformation. Most legal professionals—including General Counsel and their teams—are unequipped to deliver the transformative legal services business clients demand. To service digital clients, legal professions must be proactive, agile, collaborative, digitally-experienced, and function at the intersection of law, technology, and business. Global perspective, cultural awareness, agile teams, constant learning and improvement, are critical transformative skills and competencies presently considered outside the core knowledge of the law.

There is a widening gap separating client expectations and the ability of legal professionals—in-house, law firms, or other provider sources– to satisfy them. This is due in part to a failure of lawyers and legal professionals to appreciate how  technology and cultural transformation are enabling digital transformation of global businesses at scale. Business clients are demanding a different, more holistic and impactful kind of legal service. They expect the legal function not only to protect the enterprise but, equally, to collaborate with business units to create enterprise value. This is not what lawyers and legal professionals were taught at law school or acquired in traditional legal practice.

A Two-Fer Solution: Solving Law’s Distribution and Skills Crises

Law has long had a distribution problem—plenty of lawyers but an imbalance between the corporate and retail (individual and SME) market segments. Unequal distribution and sky-high pricing have fueled the access to justice crisis wherein approximately 80%  of Americans and a majority of businesses in need of legal assistance cannot afford it. Derek Bok famously quipped, “There is far too much law for those who can afford it and far too little for those who cannot.”

Rebecca Sandefur, a sociologist and MacArthur “genius” Fellowship recipient, contends  lawyers are not required to resolve many common legal issues. Ms. Sandefur turns the access to justice crisis on its head, asserting that it is not a matter of unmet legal need but the byproduct of a complex, inward-looking web of rules lawyers have created. She’s right on both counts. Sandefur’s solution: lawyers must collaborate with other disciplines, use new tools–notably technology, and create new paradigms focused on achieving better client/societal results.

Sandefur’s prescription for law is already being filled in the corporate legal market segment.  A handful of elite enterprise legal service providers(ELSP’s) are transforming the legal function and expanding its impact by melding practice and delivery capability.  Their tools include platform technology, multidisciplinary expertise, data to predict and mitigate risk, global footprints, ability to scale, and deploying lawyers when and if differentiated legal expertise is required. ELSP workforces are multidisciplinary, integrated, and possess the gamut of contemporary skillsets necessary to meet client demands in the digital age. They deploy the tools—especially technology—create new delivery paradigms, engage in collaboration with other disciplines, and achieve better results than traditional models. These elite providers are the embodiment of Sandefur’s theory at scale.

There is a unique opportunity to tackle law’s distribution and skills challenges as solutions for the two converge. Recommendations include: ((1) education and training that is use-case driven and tailored to specific market segments; (2) retail segment training focused on new delivery models that are multi-disciplinary, utilize paraprofessionals, automate, and “productize” services to improve access, lower cost, compress resolution time, and leverage legal expertise (a distributed platform model); (3) closer alignment between legal buyers and legal educators/training programs; (4) law school curriculum/career services differentiation based on geography, market , etc. (not all law schools are Harvard); (5) micro-credentialing; (6) required digital training for all legal professionals; (7) regulatory overhaul that better serves clients/societies and is designed to foster competition, innovation, and multi-disciplinary practice (8)  skills mapping throughout one’s career; (9) multiple legal professional tracks keyed to function (think: medical industry); and (10) competency-based education and training directed to solving client challenges

Conclusion

Many in the legal industry wonder how law students and early to mid-career lawyers will acquire necessary training. This presupposes that their training should be the same as past generations. It should not;  how, when with whom, for whom lawyers are engaged is different today than it was even a few years ago. The sooner the legal industry recognizes this, the more successful it will be in addressing its skills gap.

Here’s What You Can Expect From Artificial Intelligence At Work

Artificial intelligence is more dangerous than nuclear weapons. That’s according to Elon Musk, who warned against the dangers of this technology at South by Southwest in 2018.

Not every entrepreneur agrees. Zeb Evans is the founder and CEO of ClickUp, a company that offers project management solutions for businesses.

Evans is based in San Francisco and founded ClickUp in 2017. While running a previous business, Evans felt frustrated with having to use several different types of productivity and project management software.

“You don’t know where tasks are, you don’t know what people are working on, you certainly don’t know where to find things or put things,” he said. “When I exited that company, this was the problem that [I] wanted to solve.”

ClickUp claims more than one million users, including teams at Google, Samsung and Uber. Now Evans believes artificial intelligence will radically change project management software and how we approach work.

No More Meeting Headaches

Consider scheduling meetings with team members, a bane for many executives and employees in larger companies.

Artificial intelligence should take care of this administrative overhead and even ensure meetings run more efficiently.

“You can just press a button and whoever you need to meet with is optimized for the schedule, for everybody,” said Evans.

“That meeting is transcribed, and the system will automatically flag follow-up items and notes or reminders that need to be done, using recognition to index the video recordings and who’s speaking.”

Goodbye To Bad Planning

Have you ever underestimated how long it takes to complete a series of tasks or even a project? If so, you’re probably struggling with planning fallacy.

This is a common cognitive bias whereby people working on a project give off-target predictions. It’s the bane of engineers’ or developers’ work lives, because they are often asked to provide targets to the wider team.

Reasons for this bias include wanting to impress a boss, excess optimism and lacking all the facts.

Artificial intelligence is unlikely to struggle with these problems.

“We can tell with a high degree of accuracy which people estimate wrongly and on which type of tasks and by how much,” Evans said. “Then … you can see this project is most likely going to be off by a few days or a few hours.”

You’re Not Out of the Job

Even if you don’t believe AI is dangerous as Musk does, futurists have cautioned it could replace people’s jobs.

Some traditional roles are ripe for automation by technology, for example, concierges, credit authorizers and clerks. However, Evans believes artificial intelligence will simplify most people’s work lives.

“That’s what our aim is along with everybody in our industry. It’s not to get rid of people, it’s not to displace jobs, it’s to help people be more efficient and more productive in what they’re doing,” he said.

It makes people happier when AI can help us in positive ways. We get this all the time from people that are just ecstatic when they’re creating a task and we can assign it to somebody automatically, and they don’t have to think about that.

Taking Musk’s predilection for hyperbole into account, anything that saves entrepreneurs time can only be a good thing.

Emotional Intelligence: The 8 Evolutionary Steps to Master Emotional Skills

Three are the main categories in which we can group the capabilities that drive people to outstanding performance.

Pure technical skills are knowledge-based depending on the different fields in which we are operating. Accounting for someone working in banking, laws of physics and materials for engineers or dates and history for a tourist guy.

Cognitive abilities, otherwise, are brain-based skills we need to carry out any task from the simplest to the most complex. They are related to the mechanisms of how we learn, remember, problem-solve, and pay attention, rather than with actual knowledge. Perception, or the recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli; attention or the ability to sustain concentration on a particular thing and to manage competing demands in our environment; memory, motor skills, language, visual and spatial processing or executive functions are the best examples of them.

Finally, we come to the group of all those competencies that demonstrate emotional intelligence, exemplified around five main groups of skills fundamental to enable the best of leaders to maximize their own and their follower’s performance. Self- awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills are the key steps to master EI.

And yes, the three of them are important. But according to Daniel Goleman, when calculating the ratio of technical skills, IQ and emotional intelligence, EQ is proved to be twice as important as the others at all levels. After all, is emotional intelligence what build rapport with others and make them move in the desired direction. And these are the eight evolutionary steps to do so!

1. Identifying and labeling feelings

Anger, sadness, fear, enjoyment, love, surprise, disgust, shame. These are some of the candidates considered as primary feelings from where all the others derive and evolve. From anger, we can experience resentment hostility, indignation. From sadness, other emotions such as grief, sorrow, self-pity, melancholy. Anxiety, nervousness, concern, or consternation from fear. Joy, relief, pride, satisfaction from enjoyment. Acceptance, kindness, friendliness, or adoration from love. The list of emotions is long. Recognizing them and putting them a name according to our body reactions is the first step into the ladder of high performance.

2. Assessing the intensity and duration of feelings

Emotions display a remarkable variability in intensity and duration. Every feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states, manifest in different levels of intensity. From a light agitation or disturbance of mind to psychopathologies or extreme pathological reactions that require external guidance and special treatment.

Basic feelings have an emotional nucleus at its core. In its surrounding, we can find moods, which are more muted and last longer than an emotion. Beyond moods are temperaments or the readiness to evoke a given emotion or mood. And still beyond we can find disorders of emotions considered as clinical pathologies.  

Understanding the emotional intensity and duration of our feelings is not only essential for getting a better picture of our emotional life but also to better identify any possible emotional disturbance characterized by inappropriately strong (or weak) and long (or short) emotions display.

3. Expressing feelings

Emotions entail three main elements. A subjective component that defines the way we personally experience the emotions. A physiological component or how the bodies react to the emotion. And an expressive component that determines how we behave in response to this emotion. In this behavioral element, the expression of feelings plays an overexpanding role as t he positive management of our emotions is directly related to the positive and appropriate communication of them.

4. Controlling impulses

Strong willpower is an excellent ally of positive emotional management.Strengthening willpower helps to better educate character and positively control emotions. By controlling our own impulses and driving them to the consecution of our desired outcomes, we gain a sense of ownership and responsibility for our own lives that allow us to design and achieve the best version of us and others around us. Counting to three before answering to a toxic person or letting other person finished taking before jumping in are simple actions that we can exercise daily. As small as they may seem, is on mastering control over these little actions that we can overperform emotionally when needed.  

5. Delaying gratification

Closely linked to controlling our impulses and developing strong willpower, we found the delay of gratification. Revealed as one of the most effective personal traits of successful people, this trait ensures a long-term perspective and a sustainable approach to goals-achievement. Choosing to have something now feels good, but making an effort to have discipline and manage impulses can result in bigger or better rewards in the future.

6. Reducing stress

Stress affects social skills because it is one of the most significant barriers to successful communication. Communicating under pressure will substantially increase our chances to display negative non-verbal signals and lose control over our emotions. Reducing daily levels of stress and ensuring a calm environment are vital when we are training ourselves to better master our feelings and emotions.

7. Knowing the difference between feelings and actions.

Understanding the life cycle of emotions as well as the differences between what we feel and what we do is crucial for healthy development and mastering of social skills.

Each emotional episode is characterized by two stages. During the first stage, the emotion blossoms and strengthens over time, adding to the overall intensity of the emotion. During the second stage, the emotion fades with the speed of this recovery process being strongly related to the duration of the emotion. 

Emotional intelligence is the ability to master our emotions, so we use them in at the right time and the right way. For that, understanding the difference between what we feel and what we do is crucial. Yes, our most primitive part of the brain built upon emotions as a mechanism to ensure survival. We were feeling fear to hide, anger to kill our enemies, and sexual excitement to reproduce. But after millions of years of evolution, different layers were added to this primitive brain forming the neocortex and offering an extraordinary intelligence edge that allows us to strategize and plan long-term. It is thanks to the neocortex that we started to feel fear and chose to use it to be better prepared. That we were able to control our anger, ensuring the long term achievement of our goals even when against our momentaneous negative impulses.  That we were able to feel sexual attraction and transform it into long-lasting love and strong family ties. Is as of this moment when intelligence and willpower came into the scenes to ensure that we were able to choose over our emotions and take action in the best possible way.

And is since them that we speak about culture and civilization. About personal development and personal excellence. About humanity and humankind. And after all, about freedom.

The Equity Problem With Saying ‘College Isn’t For Everyone’

Graduation season is here. This means it’s time to cue up “Pomp & Circumstance,” sit through idealistic speeches about following your passions, and wait for that magic moment when you see your loved ones walk across the stage. Graduation season also means it’s time to listen to the increasingly common chorus of “college isn’t for everyone” detractors who question the role of college in the 21st century. But there are serious equity issues with the notion that higher education is only right for some.

For starters, it literally still pays to go to college, especially for diverse population groups. Overall, for adults ages 25 to 34 years old, bachelor’s degrees lead to median earnings that are 57% more than adults from this age group with just a high school degree. The value of a college degree means so much more for diverse subgroups. African Americans with bachelor’s degrees earn 65% more than those with a high school degree, women earn 61% more, and Asians earn a whopping 105% more.

These numbers highlight just one flaw of the “college isn’t for everyone” notion. We must continue to prioritize college education because levels of educational attainment still have a dramatic impact on the economic success of our overall population, including a disproportionately strong impact on the earnings of our diverse subgroups.

Earning gaps aside, other equity issues refute the “college isn’t for everyone” narrative. With rapidly accelerating technological advances caused by increased automation and artificial intelligence, jobs paying under $20 an hour are 20 times more likely to disappear than jobs at the higher end of the spectrum. Futurist Alvin Toffler famously stated that the illiterate of the 21st century will be “those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” So, even though it might be tempting to push young people into college-not-required high wage, high-tech manufacturing jobs immediately after high school, doing so must be done with the knowledge that learning how to learn is inherently more valuable than learning how to perform a job function. A two-tier system where some young people learn specific skills to keep them employed for a little while and others learn agile skills to last a lifetime is inherently inequitable.

Lastly, it is hard to hear experts claim that college is no longer necessary without asking a clarifying equity question: college is no longer necessary for whom? The over-representation of students representing the 1% of the wealthiest families in the United States at elite institutions suggests that college is still necessary for this overwhelmingly white population. Maybe they value the undeniable boosts to social capital resulting from being part of alumni networks that create lifelong connections that span generations. Perhaps they appreciate the intangible, but priceless benefits a broad liberal arts foundation provides, like equipping students for the 21st century challenge of solving problems across disciplines. Affluent families are allegedly willing to lie, cheat and pay boatloads of cash to get their children into selective colleges, apparently owning the fact that merit is less important than access. It is inequitable to support a “college isn’t for everyone” mentality that treats higher education as an obvious expectation for students from privileged backgrounds and as a luxury good for others.

Simply put, as long as a four-year college degree continues to be a valid predictor of lifetime earnings with a multiplier effect for diverse populations, a key to long-term success in the 21st century workforce, and a reliable pathway for increased social capital, high schools ought to prepare all students to have a legitimate opportunity to successfully complete a four-year degree.

The Soft-Skills All Successful Freelancers Need And Where To Find Them

My background includes a stint as the Chief Learning Officer of one of the largest U.S. banks. Each year we trained literally tens of thousands of employees, and created one of the most respected leadership academies in the industry. In fact, the chief financial officer of the bank, our principal sponsor, credited our learning and development activities with adding millions of dollars annually to the bank’s bottom line, and helping to create a number of new business lines.

So, it might not surprise readers if I gave some thought into a soft skills curriculum for freelancers. The starting point: what I’ve called the big six entrepreneurial skills that top freelancers consistently demonstrate (see my Forbes article referenced here). Alongside of each, here are annotated recommendations for what learning and development experiences would best support the mastery of these skills, and examples of online training programs in each skill area. The six big entrepreneurial skills are based in part on LinkedIn’s work.

Portfolio Management. Knowing how to plan and manage your time is a must for all professionals, but freelancers have the additional challenge of managing a portfolio of clients and assignments, and must choose what work and clients to seek to attract. Portfolio management starts with a strategic S.W.O.T. (assessing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) in order to maximize the freelancer’s return on time and expertise. Putting the two together, that’s the essence of leadership for a “solopreneur”.

     Required soft skills:

  • Strategic thinking. A variety of online programs provide the tools to develop and test your business strategy and plans: analyzing your capabilities, assessing risk and opportunity areas, define upcoming challenges, and building a strategic roadmap and action plan for success. Example: imd.org/st
  • Time management. Online or in person programs are geared to help identify priorities for time and attention, and convert these priorities into a short and longer plan to maintain focus and balance. Example: franklincovey.com/Solutions/Productivity/time-management-fundamentals.html

Continuous Improvement; Skill-Proofing. We know that the speed of innovation is increasing, and the half-life of skills is decreasing; Successful freelancers anticipate change requirements and identify, prepare for, and gain the skills needed to succeed today and tomorrow. Upwork found that top freelancers invest in skill-proofing their career. And, as I wrote in my Forbes.com blog (“Freelance Revolution”), a study by Adecco and BCG showed that freelancers were more prepared for changing technical skill requirements, and more invested in skill-proofing their careers than full-time employees.

     Required soft skills:

  • Technical conference attendance. Technical conferences provide both formal and informal opportunities to identify critical needs for change and skill proofing. Attend at least two technical conferences each year, if possible in person to benefit from the networking.
  • Change management. Online and in person programs in change management provide a framework for identifying, preparing for, building support for, and implementing effective change plans. Example: https://online.hbs.edu

Relationship Management. Collaboration is a generally important professional competency, but top freelancers have an additional burden; strong networking and relationship management. This means building and maintaining effective relationships with multiple stakeholders: the organizations that hire them, client colleagues with whom they’ve worked, freelance colleagues with whom they collaborate and learn with and from, and the online talent marketplaces on whom they depend. Capable freelancers view these relationship categories as a portfolio of critical relationships, communicate effectively and regularly and build productive personal relationships.

Required soft skills:

Project Execution Discipline. It goes without saying that top freelancers keep their commitments.  Dan Schwabel, a fellow Forbes contributor describes  four execution disciplines: (a) focus – clear identification of what matters most, (b) leverage – how to best utilize the time and resources available to you, (c) engagement – building relationships with co-workers that broadly invests ownership and commitment, and (d) accountability – taking ownership for the result

     Required soft skills:

  • Project management. There are many online and in person programs that provide the tools and skills for effective project management. Example: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/project-management/
  • Agile, lean methods. The methodology for agile and lean project management is widely available and a critical freelance skill. Example: https://digitaldefynd.com/best-agile-courses

Creativity and Innovation. Creativity is the ability to create meaningful new ideas, methods, and solution concepts; innovation is how creativity is converted to a plan of action, product, service, or way of working. Both are learned skills. Successful freelancers combine creativity with rigorous analysis and problem solving to convert their ideas into practical, innovative, solutions.

     Required soft skills:

  • Design thinking/managing creativity and innovation. Design thinking is a robust methodology for developing creative, innovative, solutions to challenging business problems.  Many sources provide online or in person workshops that teach design thinking and innovative skills. Example: ideou.com/design-thinking/class

Rigorous Self-Assessment and Self-Insight.  This last skill underpins all the others. Socrates famously wrote: “The unexamined life is not worth living … The nearest way to glory is to strive to be what you wish to be.”  The foundation of self-insight is self-assessment, a discipline that for freelancers should be dual focused, both inside/out (“Am I doing what I find value and satisfaction in doing?”) and outside/in (“What do others see as my strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and priorities for self-improvement?”). Successful freelancers regularly review their performance and prospects as would any entrepreneur/business owner, and set targets for change, assistance and improvement.

     Required soft skills:

  • 360 feedback. 360 feedback helps freelancers understand their strengths and weaknesses through feedback from colleagues, clients and others with whom we work. Many online services provide 360 feedback surveys and help individuals interpret the results and develop plans for self-improvement. Example: https://www.qualtrics.com/qualtrics/360

There you have it: a short list curriculum for freelance success together with educational providers of training to get you started. There are many areas of learning and development not mentioned in this article that would improve the performance and long term success of freelancers. But, the areas mentioned for each of the big six entrepreneurial skills are the necessary few.  More is good, but these are the fundamentals.

What Are The Best Paying And Most Sought Skills For New Grads And Freelancers?

Two interesting surveys came across my desk this week, and the combination is likely to be of interest to many of my readers. One of these surveys, conducted at Glassdoor, describes the best paying entry level jobs for new graduates in 2019. The other report, from Upwork, the online talent marketplace, is based on new Upwork data describing the specific skills that are most in demand from Upwork’s U.S. freelancers, and freelancers who are remotely doing much of their work in the U.S.

Why review these surveys, and why in combination? Here’s my thinking. If you are a new or new-ish grads, you may be wondering whether a freelance career is an attractive alternative for your immediate future, or trying to decide whether full-time employment is at least your immediate course of action, the combination of these data are for you. In either case, it’s useful to stay in touch with market trends.

And, if you are still in university wondering in what areas to specialize, these data are a useful though incremental source of insight.

By the way, whether your interest in freelancing is immediate or eventual, you might want to read this article on making the transition to a freelance career.

So first, the Glassdoor survey reported by Bloomberg reviews the highest paying entry level jobs for new grads this year:

What they found

  • The highest paying entry level job is data scientist, which has a median base salary of $95,000. As more companies across various industries continue to invest in technology and collect mass amounts of data at scale, data scientists play an increasingly vital role in organizing and analyzing data to produce valuable insights that can inform key business decisions.
  • Software engineer and product manager, also tech roles, are the second and third highest paying entry level jobs, paying $90,000 and $89,000 respectively.
  • In fact, apart from I bank analyst and physical therapist, the highest paying entry level jobs are tech roles, demonstrating how employers are in need of talented tech talent and are willing to pay high salaries for individuals ready to develop their careers in these fields. We see several different types of engineers making high entry level salaries, likely due to the specialized education and extensive skills training required to succeed in these roles.

Upwork also released a quarterly review of their Skills Index which ranks the top 20 fastest-growing skills in the U.S. freelance job market, based on data from their platform.

What they found

  • Upwork points out three key factors driving the results of their survey: time of year (e.g., tax expertise), tight labor markets and a rapid fire introduction of new technologies or new applications of critical technologies like data science:
  • The overall findings were characterized this way: “Labor markets overall are tightening, and for many skills, employers are increasingly struggling to find available workers in their local areas. As a result, the array of skills that employers are finding through digital platforms is growing, including technical skills like Hadoop and Kubernetes as well as non-technical skills such as taxation and urban planning.î
  • Importantly, the survey points out that the 20 fastest-growing freelance skills in Q1 2019 experienced more than 170 percent year-over-year growth, while demand for the top 10 skills grew more than 370 percent year-over-year. More evidence that the freelance revolution is large and growing and continuing to evolve.

The top 20 fastest-growing skills, Q1 2019:

  1. U.S.Taxation
  2. Hadoop
  3. Robotic process automation
  4. Explainer videos
  5. Computer aided manufacturing
  6. Financial planning
  7. Urban design
  8. Software documentation
  9. Salesforce commercial cloud
  10. Geospatial
  11. Julia development
  12. Kubernetes
  13. Magento
  14. Employee training
  15. Shopify templates
  16. CPA
  17. js framework
  18. Leadership development
  19. Architectural rendering
  20. Podcasting

Here are selected comments from the report on why these 20 skills led the way.

  • U.S. tax reform spurs growth in financial skills. Tax season in the U.S. and the 2018 tax reform bill led U.S. taxation (#1) to be the quarter’s fastest-growing skill. Tax season also spurred demand for†Certified Public Accountants (#16)†and†financial planning (#6)†specialists.
  • Automation. Robotic process automation (RPA) (#3) a spot on the index for the first time. Startups like Automation Anywhere are providing solutions to large companies to help automate tasks and processes traditionally done manually. Forrester estimates that the market will grow to $2.9 billion in 2021 (from $250 million in 2016).
  • City infrastructure. As remote work adoption increases and more people live and work where they choose, city infrastructure is also changing. Urban design (#7) specialists are helping keep up with this evolution by arranging and designing public spaces, transportation systems and amenities for residents, tenants and visitors. Geospatial (#10) technologies, which map and analyze the Earth’s surface, and Architectural renderings (#19) also saw significant growth as the public and private sector alike look for ways to optimize current and future space.
  • eCommerce tools. Global eCommerce sales will reach $4.8 trillion by 2021, and 2.1 billion shoppers will buy goods and services online. Experts were highly sought-after last quarter to help companies deliver personalized customer experiences across mobile, digital and social platforms, and companies look to build new online storefronts to increase online revenue. Shopify templates (#15), leveraged to help storefronts deliver a unified experience, also appeared on this quarterís list for the first time.
  • Employee learning and development. Businesses are investing more dollars in developing workers, and employee training (#14) saw high demand as a result. Development extends beyond technical skills and into soft skills such as leadership development (#18), which also appeared on this quarterís list. Companies are turning to freelance specialists to create an overall strategy to ensure their workforce is prepared for tomorrow.
  • Connecting with customers. Marketers are taking it back to the basics and investing in freelance specialists who can create explainer videos (#4) that help customers better understand complex products or services. Podcasting (#20) has also become a popular way to meet customers where they are; they’re easy to consume and help businesses connect directly to listeners, regardless of location.

School Cuts Mean Children Are Missing Out On Vital Life Skill

Children are missing out on a vital life skill as a result of school cuts.

Large numbers of children are being denied the opportunity to learn about food preparation and cooking at school, according to a new study.

And the deficit is making it harder for the growing hospitality industry to recruit the next generation of chefs and restaurateurs.

Almost one in three children do not study a food-related subject at school, according to a survey of U.K. school children and parents.

The problem is particularly acute in primary schools – for children aged five to 11 – where 44% are not taught a food subject.

But even in secondary schools – for children aged 11 to 16 – almost one in five – 17% – are going without, even though 62% said they would take a food-related subject if it was available.

A budget squeeze has meant many schools have been forced to cut back on subjects outside the core curriculum, while league table pressure incentivizes schools to focus on a narrow range of subjects.

The introduction of the English Baccalaureate, where Latin and Ancient Greek count but food technology, along with other ‘marginal’ subjects such as art and music, do not, has also skewed the range of subjects schools can offer.

The lack of opportunity to learn about food preparation means 97% of school leavers have written off working in the hospitality industry, according to the survey carried out for industry recruiters Caterer.com.

This comes despite growth in the hospitality industry running at a healthy6% a year for the past five years, with a turnover of £100bn ($127bn) last year.

The industry also employs around 2.3 million people, an increase of 21% since 2013, and representing 7% of all U.K. employees.

Almost nine in 10 (89%) of secondary school students said their school had given them no information about careers in the hospitality industry, even though a third (34%) said they would be interested in a career in hospitality.

Tom Aikens, the youngest British chef to be awarded a Michelin star, said difficulties in finding recruits had worsened in recent years.

“I am constantly looking for the next stars in the industry and struggling to find the skill set we need due to the drop of new talent emerging from the education system,” he said.

Neil Patterson, director at Caterer.com, said the diminished food offering in schools was deterring young people from entering the industry, and called for the government to enhance the was it was delivered in schools.

But although the lack of opportunities to learn about food is a problem for the hospitality industry, a more pressing issue is the failure to teach a vital life skill.

Learning how to feed themselves – and, in time, their families – is one of the most important things young people can learn, and will have perhaps a bigger impact on their lives than just about any other field.

Of course there is an argument that parents should be teaching their children to cook, and they should. And schools should be about more than teaching life skills.

But sadly many parents are deficient in these skills themselves, with the knock-on effect of rising rates of obesity and its associated health problems. If we are to break this cycle, and give young people the ability to feed themselves in a healthy and sustainable way, then food has to get back on the school timetable.

Predicting Hospitalization: Machine Learning Models On The Rise

Introduction

Machine learning models are on the rise. This is due to their potential for advanced predictive analytics, which is creating many new opportunities for healthcare. From models that can predict chronic ailments like heart diseases or acute diseases like infections and intestinal disorders, the capability of machine learning to predict infectious as well as non-communicable diseases is on its way to delivering considerable benefits to doctors and hospitals.

This is transformative as, over the years, a large number of people have been getting diagnosed with infectious as well as non-communicable diseases which require complicated and costly treatments. These can be temporary or long term treatment, which may require hospitalization and at times re-hospitalization. Individually and collectively, these are adding to the rapidly rising healthcare costs. It seems emerging machine learning models could offer a much earlier prediction of which patients will develop which specific disease, and thereby create effective intervention methods to help prevent the onset of illness, hospitalization, or re-hospitalization. This begins the much-needed healthcare transformation. That raises an important question: Will these models be used for denying people insurance based on what models predict?

Acknowledging this emerging reality, Risk Group initiated a much-needed discussion on Machine Learning on Insurance Data to Predict Hospitalization with Dr. Don Vaughn from the United States on Risk Roundup.

Technology Triggered Transformation of Healthcare

Along with the machine learning intervention models, mobile apps, wearable sensors, electronic health records, DNA analysis, and predictive analytics that are now more accepted are contributing to the ongoing healthcare transformation. Besides, many forms of remote care (telemedicine) and self-care are also booming, sometimes to the displeasure of medical professionals. Moreover, due to advances in healthcare consumer technology, consumers are now purchasing high-tech wearables and connected devices by the millions. This is leading to much greater awareness of human disease indicators, and consumers are getting more involved in self-care and wellness. As consumers begin to demand digital access to health records, it will likely drive cloud adoption of electronic health records and perhaps a centralization of health records. The growing healthcare data will drive further growth in machine learning models to fundamentally transform healthcare practices.

It is therefore essential to understand and evaluate how machine learning is driving the transformation of the healthcare ecosystem and re-shaping administrative, diagnostic, therapeutic, and clinical healthcare functions to help deliver affordable, accessible, reliable, transparent, and effective medicine and healthcare all over the world.

Machine Learning Model

Many ongoing efforts use machine learning to predict hospitalization. Some of the emerging machine learning models consider the history of a patient’s insurance records and predict whether an individual patient will be hospitalized in the following year, thereby alerting the particular health care system. This may allow timely preventive actions.

The growing healthcare data (electronic healthcare records, insurance data, genetic testing data, wearables data, and more) will drive further advances in machine learning models. We must ask, however, which data sources are credible? And, do the records get updated in real time? Are the machine learning models able to access this data in real time?

As machine learning models advance and as diverse data sets are applied to get more accurate and credible forecasting, healthcare data security will perhaps play a much more significant role in how healthcare accepts further advances in machine learning models and applications. That brings us to an important question: Is healthcare data secured? And, how do we protect individuals from bearing the cost of higher premiums due to the prediction of a pre-existing condition? In other words, it will be interesting to see how this application of machine learning works with existing and future healthcare policies.

What Next?

Data privacy and security are distinct challenges in this field. Like any other technology in healthcare, changes cannot be brought in without overcoming diverse regulatory barriers from across nations, interoperability challenges with legacy hospital IT systems, and limitations on real-time access to crucial patient data essential for building advanced machine learning models. The time is now to evaluate the promise and perils of machine learning models for the healthcare industry.

The Real Story Behind The College Board’s SAT Adversity Score

The College Board has for years been trying to rescue its floundering flagship, the SAT. The newly announced adversity score is just the latest unforced error from the testing giant. 

For almost a decade, the company has been fighting for market share. In 2012, it hired David Coleman, fresh from his work as architect of the language portion of the Common Core Standards. The theory was that Coleman could lead a redesign of the test that would bring it in line with the Common Core, so that students steeped in the new standards would be well-prepared for the SAT. The alignment would also be a selling point for states looking for a high school exit exam, and within a few years, the College Board was lining up states to make the SAT their official test, giving the company a captive market. On top of that, Coleman proudly announced that his new, improved test would be a tool for eradicating social injustice; the test would be a great leveler.  

But a critical part of Coleman’s strategy was to get the new test to market quickly. The new test was well under way by the beginning of 2014. Itlaunched in the 2015-2016 school year.  

There were problems. PSAT scores from the fall of 2015 were late. Test prep experts were advising students not to take the new SAT at all. In an attempt to clamp down on cheating, the College Board implemented some last minute measures for the March 2015 test that added to the confusion and chaos. By 2016, a former employee was publishing concerns about the test, including flawed items and an inadequate development process. Reuters reported on how the rush to redesign had brought Coleman into immediate conflict with some of College Board’s test designers. That report followed a five-part Reuters series in March of 2016 that laid out a whole series of problems, focusing particularly on terrible security problems. 

Meanwhile, colleges are increasingly dropping the SAT requirement, and research continues to suggest that high school GPA is a better predictor of college success than SAT scores.  

Coleman’s notion of the SAT as a means of opening college to all wasn’t working out. A stinging report showed that the SAT redesign had made it harder for female students to score in the higher bands. And after being dogged for years by charges of racial and economic bias, the College Board’s own data (most recently reported in the Wall Street Journal) shows that when you break out the scores by racial subgroups, there are obvious gaps. As a group, white students still score higher on the test than black kids.  

The College Board has tried to level the playing field by partnering with Khan Academy to provide high quality free test prep. This is meant to counteract the test prep advantage that students from wealthy families receive. For example, in Pittsburgh, you can purchase a thirty-two-hour test prep package–for $4,800. Success Academy, the charter chain based in New York City, is currently looking to hire a P/SAT Curriculum Developer to create a full PSAT and SAT curriculum. And of course recent news has highlighted how far some parents will go to bring up those SAT scores.  

The free Khan Academy test prep is supposed to counterbalance all that, promising SAT score gains of 200 points. The problem is that the offer all butacknowledges that what the SAT measures is neither scholastic aptitude nor intellectual ability, but how good the student’s test prep was. If the SAT is only a measure of test coaching, what real purpose does it serve? 

Now the College Board has announced its Adversity Score, and it promises to be another unforced error by the testing company. 

The score promises to incorporate a dozen factors, divided into neighborhood environment, family environment, and high school environment; it does not include race. It could as easily be called a privilege score as an adversity score—on the 0 to 100 scale, over 50 is disadvantaged and under 50 is privileged. A scan of reactions over the last two days suggests that the score has few fans. Bob Schaeffer of FairTest says the adversity score is an admission by the College Board that the SAT is not a “common yardstick” but is “really a measure of accumulated advantage.” Some conservative commentators have been quick to note the David Coleman connection between the College Board and the hated Common Core. Heather MacDonald (Manhattan Institute) appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show to “slam” the score and decry how it upends the proper meritocratic system.  

Most of the critics have a point. If the test is supposed to be a level playing field, and it actually isn’t, then why not rewrite the test instead of creating a new measure to travel with it (and in so doing, suggest that the SAT score itself cannot be entirely trusted)? The score is to be kept secret from everyone but college admissions offices. What is the purpose of doing that, and what reasons will admissions offices have to keep the scores secret—and what will happen when they inevitably don’t? Is the College Board using information that they’ve collected from students, and does the adversity score thereby violate student FERPA privacy? How will certain high schools react to knowing their privilege rating? The score is supposedly “steeped in research.” Can the College Board even give a hint at what research base is being used to set their secret proprietary formula for computing the student score? And if this is a “scientific” measure, why not fold it into SAT score computations; why hand it to colleges and say, “Just kind of use it as you think best”? I reached out to the College Board for answers, but they did not reply. 

Coleman has offered several outlets versions of this comment: 

“Since it is identifying strengths in students, it’s showing this resourcefulness that the test alone cannot measure,” Mr. Coleman, the College Board CEO, said. “These students do well, they succeed in college.” 

That’s pretty clear. The SAT cannot predict if a student will succeed in college.  

You go to the grocery store and buy a box of macaroni and cheese, and as you check out, the clerk says, “You know, that box doesn’t actually have any cheese in it. Let me give you this.” And they hand you a plastic bag with some cheese in it.  

You ask, “What kind of cheese is this? How was it made? Where did it come from? How much do I add? And what do you mean the box of macaroni and cheese doesn’t actually contain macaroni and cheese?” 

The clerk ignores most of your questions. “Just use the amount that seems right. You know—just kind of eyeball it.”  

You would not go back to that store for macaroni and cheese. The SAT is in trouble, and no amount of adversity score is going to help.  

Making The Case For Open Borders

The last few years has been a tremendous time for openness in business. In just over a decade, open innovation has grown from a novelty to something practiced by most organizations. Open source has largely won the battle in software development circles, whilst open data is increasingly prevalent in science and research environments.

This movement is predicated on the belief that as individuals, institutions and indeed as a wider society, we are better off when we collaborate and cooperate with one another, and that being open is the best way of facilitating this. Most of the movements highlighted above are accompanied by large swathes of evidence to back up their value, and this evidence has eventually shifted the way business is done.

There is one area where the opposite has happened in recent years however. It’s an area where populist uprisings have resulted in opposition to openness, and where governments have subsequently worked to close the world down rather than open it up.

Open talent

I’ve written a number of times in the past about the importance of talent to businesses, and indeed of overseas exposure to us as individuals, yet across the world, opposition to migrants and migration has grown considerably.  It’s a practical benefit that researchers believe would deliver a premium of around $100 trillion to the global economy, purely by virtue of people being able to live and work where they pleased.

Of course, there are also considerable arguments about this freedom to move where we please being a fundamental human right, that no one should have their life pre-determined purely by virtue of their place of birth.

This is sadly not the case however, and protectionism is on the rise around the world, with populist politicians blaming outsiders for all manner of problems. Migrants overwhelm welfare systems, they fail to integrate into their host society, they bring crime and terrorism with them. All commonly used arguments for why leaving that 100 trillion dollar bill on the floor.

Much as we would love our politicians to use the latest and finest evidence when forging their policies, this is one area where evidence is thrown out of the window. Indeed, most of the evidence presents open borders as the single easiest method for improving living standards of people around the world, even in the richest countries of the west.

The benefits of open borders

It’s an argument made most recently by George Mason University’s Bryan Caplan in his recently published book Open Borders. The animated book takes an evidence-driven exploration of the various issues surrounding open borders, both in terms of examining the benefits and the dangers proposed by various politicians.

The avatar in Caplan’s comic takes us on a journey through the various issues wrapped up in the migration debate. He begins with a vignette about Antarctican farmers, whose endeavors in the frozen tundra don’t amount to much. Transplant them to a more fertile country however and not only are they infinitely more productive, but through the trade in their labor, so too is the local and global community.

Perhaps the most interesting section of the book is when Caplan de-constructs many of the fears surrounding the impact of migrants on host communities however. For instance, when examining the evidence for the impact of migrants on local wages and employment, he argues that even the lowest-skilled migrant actually increases the income (and the tax base) of citizens. The fallacy is based around simple arithmetic.

“Imagine you’re in a room full of NBA players whose average height is 6’7″, and suddenly a class of preschoolers bursts into the room,” Caplan says. “In a stroke, the average height of the room plumments to 4’10″…the lesson when the makeup of the population is changing, averages are deeply misleading. The average can easily fall, even though everyone is better off.”

For instance, if the average native income is $50,000, and the average foreign income is $20,000, the average combined income would shrink to $40,000, but that would not make native people any worse off.

Caplan takes a similar approach to topics such as immigration and the welfare state or concerns around the likelihood of migrants to commit crimes or terrorist acts, or even that they fail to assimilate into the native culture.

Changing minds

Society today is seemingly ever more entrenched, with precious little crossover between opposing camps, or learning from new points of view, so will Caplan’s graphical, comic like style help to convert people? Time will tell. His approach is refreshing in that he doesn’t use emotive language or accuse people of racism if they have concerns about the impact of migration on society.

He also readily accepts that his own belief in the virtue of open borders are likely to require compromise if they’re ever to materialize, and indeed offers up some suggestions as to just what that compromise might look like.

Perhaps an apt illustration of the challenges inherent in his argument comes at the end of the book however, when Caplan references the European Union and its free movement of people. Despite the evidence being pretty unambiguous that free movement has been beneficial to the long-run conditions and wages of all workers, Brexit still emerged in large part due to fears stoked around the effect migrants were having on British society.

It’s perhaps naive, therefore, to believe that Caplan’s book will serve to realign the needle back towards the free movement that has existed for the majority of human history, but the combination of a light and easy to read style with ample and robust evidence work well in making his point. In a world that seems to be veering dangerously towards insularity, it’s a timely reminder of the virtues of openness.