Building the AI-ready workforce: A collaborative effort between government, tech companies and education providers

To follow the trend of future work, upskilling and reskilling, and digital transformation, we are posting a series of articles to analyze government policies and practices to learn how countries are taking strategies to build their workforce for these challenges. In the previous article, we examined how Singapore is helping mid-career PMETs to switch to the tech sector. Our second stop is Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has shown strong commitment to the implementation and development of AI as it seeks to diversify the economy, reduce the dependence on oil and shift away from public sector-driven welfare within a strategic framework called Saudi Vision 2030. According to estimates by PwC, the contribution of AI to the national economy in Saudi Arabia will reach US$135.2 bn by 2030, around 12.4% of its total GDP.

Saudi Vision 2030 comprises a host of ambitious targets for the labor market, including lowering the unemployment rate from 11.6% to 7% [1], increasing female participation from 22% to 30% [2], and bolstering the private sector with a special emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to increase their contribution to GDP from 20% to 35% by 2030 [3].

Under Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is spending heavily on the communication and information technology (ICT) sector. The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that spending on IT in Saudi Arabia will exceed $11 billion in 2021. In addition to Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom has launched its National Strategy for Data and Artificial Intelligence (NSDAI) and last year signed a series of partnership agreements with international tech companies last year to advance AI in Saudi Arabia. One of the key pillars of the NSDAI is to build an AI-ready workforce in the Kingdom.

The growing industry is putting high pressure on a domestic labor market that lacks a sufficiently large and experienced national ICT workforce. Saudi Arabia is highly reliant on expat workers, and many of its professionals, including most in ICT, are sourced internationally. This has hampered many private companies and especially SMEs due to high recruiting costs. Furthermore, as skilled talents are increasingly in short supply globally, Saudi Arabia needs to focus on its young domestic population.

With 60% of the population under 30 years of age in 2020, Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s youngest populations. However, youth employment remains low in the Kingdom, and 16% of Saudi youth between 20 and 24 are classified as NEET (not in education, employment or training) [4]. Several reports indicate that there is a notable gap between the future-proof skills requested in the labor market and those possessed by the young people, and that the Kingdom is lacking an effective skill matching mechanism. Current skills gaps include STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math), soft skills, and industry-specific international skills due to a lack of vocational training [5]. Therefore, part of the NSDAI agenda is to provide professional AI training to Saudi university students, researchers and developers, as well as up- and reskilling opportunities that enable Saudis to utilize AI and data in both the public and private sectors. Programs including the National AI Capability Development Program and the National AI Talent Cultivation and Onboarding Program have already been set up by the government as a collaboration between tech partners and education providers to attract, develop and retain AI talent in Saudi Arabia with a target of creating 20,000 AI and data specialists and experts by 2030.

As countries embark on the journey of digital transformation, their governments and public employment services (PES) seek suitable solutions to support them in the increasingly important role they play in job matching, enhancing employability, addressing skill gaps and aligning education offerings with market needs. To learn about how JANZZ.technology assists PES in tackling these challenges, please visit our product site for PES or contact us at info@janzz.technology

 

[1] Readiness for the Future of Work, ATKearney and MISK.

[2] KSA Vision 2030: Strategic Objectives and Vision Realization Programs 61.

[3] KSA National Transformation Program Delivery Plan – 2018-2020

[4] International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database.

[5] Building the talent pipeline in Saudi Arabia, City&Guilds Group

The importance of localizing ontologies, illustrated on the education systems in Peru and Colombia

In one of our recent posts, we explained the difference between an ontology and a taxonomy. Although choosing an ontology over taxonomies is an important step towards smart and accurate matching, it is not the only aspect to consider. Even if you are only interested in a monolingual ontology, but even more so with multilingual ones, localization is another key feature. For high performance and satisfactory matching results, it is simply not enough for the ontology to cover your language of choice, especially not if that language is spoken in several countries. The system needs to truly understand context, including regional or national variations in occupational, legal, educational and linguistic matters. For instance, certain occupations may require official certifications or authorizations in one country, but not in another. And most often these certifications will have different names depending on the country they are issued in. A certain job title may be widely used in one country, and completely uncommon in another, e.g., joiner in the UK, Australia and New Zealand – a type of carpenter. This term is practically not used in the US (even though the largest US trade union for carpenters is called the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America).

Of course, this issue is not just limited to job titles and authorizations. It is also essential to understand implicit skills, i.e., those not mentioned in a job description or candidate profile but that can be derived from other information such as education and training. And required education must be factored in as well. Suppose, for instance, you are located in a Spanish-speaking country and looking to hire someone with a bachelor’s degree, i.e., who has completed undergraduate university studies. In Peru, you may ask for a Bachiller. However, in Colombia, this term will give you matches with candidates who have the equivalent of a high school degree: a Bachiller Académico or a Bachiller Técnico. If you ask for a Licenciado, another common term in Spanish-speaking countries that often corresponds to a bachelor’s degree, your Colombian candidates will have a degree more or less equivalent to a Bachelor of Education in the US.

 

Localizing Ontologies

 

To avoid unsatisfactory to outright useless matching results, an ontology must be carefully enriched with country-specific information such as linguistic variations, localized job titles, mapping of national classification systems and details from the country’s education system including names of degrees and diplomas, and – ideally – curricula and taught skills. This may require extensive work by subject matter experts familiar with the country in question. But it is an investment well worthwhile that will dramatically improve matching results and all associated services such as career counseling, education/job matching platforms, labor market analytics and more, as well as enhance usability of interactive services and features, for instance, with smart suggestions and typeaheads that actually make sense to the users.

You may have already found out the hard way that using standard taxonomies like ESCO does not really work in your country. If not, don’t do it. Go straight for a well-localized ontology. At JANZZ.technology, this is one of our key services for new country clients and we have successfully implemented localizations of our ontology JANZZon! for countries across the globe. If you want to enhance your system with the extensive knowledge from the world’s largest multilingual job and skills ontology, or learn more about our highly performant ontology-driven products and technologies, feel free to contact us at info@janzz.technology.

A resume of CV parsing. Great candidate experience vs. ATS optimization – is a trade-off truly inevitable?

In recent years, online job and candidate searches have become increasingly important and a growing number of CVs and resumes is now available in digital form. Despite recurring announcements of their demise, and even if the delivery format and selection of information has changed, the need for details on a candidate’s professional background persists. Thus, more and more businesses are turning to automation tools to handle the increasing volume of CVs and resumes. However, because these documents are not standardized, the available recruitment automation tools are faced with significant challenges and are known to screen out good candidates. So, an essential and far from trivial question is how to process this information to produce smart, meaningful data that can be utilized by recruiting tools to pinpoint the best candidates for the vacancy at hand.

Even with the rapid advance of AI-based systems, most ATS parsing algorithms are outdated and unintelligent, often causing essential resume information to get distorted or lost. Candidates are thus advised to submit a standardized resume that is neither visually appealing, nor shows any personality, to avoid being sorted out by the system. This is in stark contrast to the wealth of online advice on how to stand out from the crowd with an appealing modern resume. It also undermines efforts to improve the candidate experience. But there seems to be a general consensus that a trade-off is inevitable: either hirers choose to obtain quality resume information in the first step of the recruiting process – and run the risk of disgruntling best-in-class candidates. Or they improve the candidate experience by not asking too many questions and then simply make do with potentially jumbled parsed resume information – running the risk of great candidates falling through the ATS.

Here at JANZZ.technology, we refuse to ignore these challenges and simply hand the problem off to applicants. Our mission is to help improve both the recruiting and the candidate experience by providing efficient application processes whilst ensuring the candidates’ freedom of individual expression. With our cutting-edge parser, we already have the text processing down, using strategies from deep learning models trained specifically for CV content to semantic technologies that translate the myriad variations in occupational jargon to a common vocabulary. As for visual aspects such as formatting, layout and graphical representations, we are currently very actively engaged in the R&D phase, developing pioneering technology to tackle this.

To find out more about the challenges and latest advances in CV and resume parsing – and to take an intriguing walk through the history of the CV – read our white paper:

A resume of CV parsing. Great candidate experience vs. ATS optimization– is a trade-off truly inevitable?

And if you want to use our state-of-the-art semantic parsing tool and benefit from the top quality in multiple languages, all services are also available via API and can be easily integrated into existing ATS or platforms. For a demo or quote, feel free to contact us at info@janzz.technology

Building the AI-ready workforce: A switch for mid-career PMETs to the tech sector

According to the Future of Jobs Report 2020, the World Economic Forum estimates that 85 million jobs will be displaced while 97 million new jobs will be created across 26 countries by 2025 through an AI-driven shift in the division of labor driven. AI technology will have a profound effect on the nature of work for many jobs and our workers will require reskilling or constant upskilling to prepare for changing and new jobs. To follow this trend, we will post a series of articles focusing on government policies and practices regarding these challenges to learn how countries are developing strategies to build their AI-ready workforce. Our first stop is Singapore.

As many other countries, Singapore has a tech talent shortage. According to Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, in charge of the national Smart Nation Initiative, Singapore will require an additional 60,000 tech talents in the next three years. Its education system is producing 2,800 ICT graduates per year, which leaves a gap of 51,600 in three years’ time. As one of the most important business hubs in the Asia Pacific region, Singapore has attracted tech giants to setup headquarters in this city-state. However, many international businesses are concerned that the tight local tech talent pool is slowing down their speed of development. [1]

In its National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, Singapore plans to establish more local talent pipelines in order to raise both the quantity and quality of its AI workforce in the long run. Among the various programs aiming to meet the demand for ICT talent is TeSA Mid-Career Advance, a program under the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) initiative for mid-level ICT and non-ICT professionals aged 40+ to make a switch to tech-related careers through company-led reskilling and upskilling.

This newly designed program is supported by government, industry and the National Trades Union Congress. They believe mature workers should also benefit from opportunities created in the fast-growing tech sectors and that the digital momentum must reach all segments of the economy and society. Currently, ten companies have partnered with the program, offering around 500 tech jobs. Eligible mature workers can be hired and trained in a variety of tech jobs by one of these ten partner companies for up to 24 months.

According to the Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran, TeSA Mid-Career Advance is targeting 2,500 place-and-train opportunities over the next three years. As a start, the government will invest 70 million SGD for the initial job placements under the program. Participating companies will receive government subsidies as a contribution to the additional training costs and salaries. [2]

Besides meeting the tech talent demand, the program is also an attempt to fight against the issue of displacement of mature workers, another long-term challenge faced by Singapore. Based on the 2019 Labor Market Report from Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, 6,790 locals were laid off that year, over half of which were professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) aged 40 and above. The 6-month re-entry rate of all laid-off local workers by age group was 65.8% for workers aged 40-49, and 52.2% for the over-50s. These rates are considerably lower than the 82.5% and 76.3% for workers aged below 30 and 30-39, respectively.

The perceived difficulty adjusting to the tech industry at later stages of a career is a concern, as most in-demand tech-related roles are becoming more technical in nature and it can be challenging to pick up skills such as programming languages, software proficiency and data analysis when transitioning from unrelated fields. However, the tech talent shortage is across the entire spectrum of roles so there are also many opportunities in “tech-lite” roles such as technology project managers, digital sales advisors and “for-tech” roles that contribute non-tech knowledge to the development of solutions (e.g., an HR professional working on an HR tech solution). In these positions, the domain knowledge and expertise brought in by experienced PMETs will contribute in creating technology applications that meet business needs. [3]

Despite various successful approaches in Singapore, Wong Wai Weng, chairman of tech trade association SGTech, believes that more proactive efforts should be made, before displacement occurs and before jobs are lost. At JANZZ.technology, we also believe public employment services (PES) must act now to prepare for further shifts and turbulences in the labor market. We provide comprehensive AI-driven solutions and services tailored to the needs of PES across the globe, helping them to actively match jobseekers to suitable jobs, strengthen their labor market resilience and design and implement effective active labor market policies (ALMPs). To learn more about our solutions for PES please visit our product site for PES or contact us at info@janzz.technology

 

 

 

 

[1] https://techwireasia.com/2020/09/is-singapore-facing-a-tech-talent-crunch/

[2] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/70-million-programme-help-mid-career-get-tech-jobs-training-12494274

[3] https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/brunch/skillsfuture-forum-2020/saving-the-senior-execs-career

If not now, then when? Digitalizing PES in times of COVID – and what it costs.

The current worldwide pandemic has catapulted the labor market into a state of unprecedented turbulence. According to the OECD, the impact on jobs just within the first three months has been 10 times that of the 2008 financial crisis. Entire sectors such as hospitality, civil aviation and cultural sectors have been hit hard, resulting in mass job losses and collapsing self-employed incomes. On the other hand, e-commerce and supermarkets, courier and logistics services, manufacturers of food or hygiene products, pharmaceuticals and others have thrived, creating new opportunities by dramatically increasing their workforce. Even if some of these jobs are only temporary, they can be lifesavers for those in need of income.

Amidst these turbulences, Public Employment Services (PES) have faced a historical stress test, being inundated with a number of new jobseekers far beyond what their often outdated systems are typically designed for – if such systems are in place at all. With youth struggling due to the closing down of entry-level jobs and apprenticeships, and low-paid workers, women, ethnic minorities as well as self-employed and informal workers among the hardest hit by the crisis, existing vulnerabilities have been exposed and inequalities amplified. Now more than ever, PES must find new ways to best serve their people in this crisis and in future. These vulnerable groups need to be reconnected with good jobs as quickly as possible to avoid potentially long-lasting scarring effects. And PES need to be prepared for further shifts and turbulences in the labor market with innovative digital solutions that help strengthen labor market resilience by ensuring efficiency and scalability as well as providing creative placement solutions and valuable, timely insights – into the labor market and for jobseekers and employers.

Even if a country’s PES is only just being built up, now is the right time to initiate a digital transformation. In fact, there may never be a better time – especially for countries that are just getting started. A well-designed solution does not require a perfect starting point. It does not need a lot of in-house data or even a well-organized PES. It performs well in markets with only few highly skilled professionals and supports transitions from the informal to the formal economy. In addition, choosing a mobile-first approach geared towards self-service features over a cumbersome expert system plays to the strengths of one of the most affected groups of the pandemic: young people, who are used to taking matters into their own hands, finding information and discovering their options with their devices. The digital transformation has begun and those who want to be part of it must act now.

To ensure effective digitalization in these challenging times, PES should look for solutions with:

Full profile matching based on ontologies for a wider variety of fitting placement solutions

Instead of simply comparing job titles, jobseekers can be matched based on their full profile of skills, education, previous experience and many more relevant criteria. This will particularly help those who need to seek new lines of work due to collapsing economic sectors, where matching on job title alone is ineffective. In addition, using labor market-specialized ontologies enriched with country-specific content helps identify hidden skills based on education and experience. This can substantially improve jobseeker profiles and thus broaden the search for suitable jobs and candidates, whilst significantly increasing the accuracy of matches.

Searchable jobseeker profiles and simple recruitment processes for enhanced visibility and virtual mobility

Providing jobseekers with a platform to present themselves with a searchable, well-structured profile enhances their visibility and gives them the opportunity to be found by potential employers. To avoid bias, the open profile should only contain professional information. Integrating the first steps of selection and recruitment process into the system reduces the need to travel in person until a real opportunity presents itself. These features improve both visibility and virtual mobility for jobseekers, which is especially important for vulnerable groups such as low-paid or informal workers and minorities and in times of increased remote working and hiring. Easy-to-use recruitment processes also encourage smaller businesses to transition from informal candidate search, e.g., by word of mouth, to online vacancy posting, making their business and open positions visible to a wider pool of jobseekers.

Non-discriminatory, explainable matching for unbiased and transparent results

Matching processes must be explainable and auditable to ensure transparency and accountability. Moreover, solutions should be designed in a way to guarantee that by default the best candidate with the best aptitude in all individual criteria achieves the best match – regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability or other personal characteristics. This ensures that all jobseekers have equal opportunities, including youth, women and minorities.

Gap analysis for targeted job and career pathing

In times of dramatic shifts in the labor market, many jobseekers are required to identify new lines of work and change professions entirely. By determining the closest match to currently available positions and identifying missing skills, training or other relevant criteria, gap analyses can help find a path out of the employment crisis. Based on real-time labor market data and comprehensive ontologies, they can be used to counsel individual jobseekers, or even to redirect entire workforces from disappearing professions or sectors.

Smart labor market intelligence to identify real-time shifts and labor market shocks

In a turbulent labor market environment with fast and unpredictable changes, smart labor market intelligence delivered in real time as well as well-designed intelligence management tools can make the crucial difference. Processed with a powerful labor market ontology, these data can provide better, more accurate and timely insights – key to effective management and rapid response.

JANZZ systems provide all of the above features and more. We cannot create jobs, but we can help countries smooth out the effects of COVID-19 in labor markets and guide PES in a digital transformation to become more efficient and more sustainable. We can support the transition from guessing to knowing what it will take to give employment back to as many people as possible. For instance, PES can leverage our integrated labor market solution JANZZilms! to take action in key areas and rapidly respond with timely strategies that have real impact.

 

JANZZ Integrated Labor Market Solution (ILMS)

 

 

Since the beginning of March 2020, we have been able to prove how powerful and scalable our systems are. In a large European country, almost 10% of the working population has been forced to register with the unemployment office due to the impact of the pandemic. At the beginning of the crisis, the system, which was designed for about 30,000 registrations per year, was saturated with almost 400,000 registrations within just a few weeks. Although nobody had anticipated a scenario like this during the planning phase, our systems processed almost ten times the volume of transactions without any problems. Performance and stability of the systems were always fully maintained in these important times. In addition, thanks to intuitive and intelligent design, the national PES was able to both increase job counseling capacities and reduce average time to market reintegration. This way, we were able to make a valuable contribution to the government’s efforts to quickly and efficiently register, counsel and reintegrate almost 400,000 job seekers in the country.

Quick and efficient implementation – with no surprises

Our agile methods have led time and again to outstanding products – developed on time and on budget. The standard solutions can be realized in 120 – 180 days, or 90 days in a language we have already deployed before. This provides great value in terms of implementation, operation and maintenance. Moreover, prices are fixed over several years, ensuring financial predictability. For instance, the full bundle solution JANZZilms! including all components such as matching and gap analysis, profiler, ontology, several languages, parsing, dashboards and much more, with up to one million active/concurrent users costs around USD 1 per user and year after implementation. As a complete SaaS solution, no further investments for the systems and hardware, regular maintenance, SLA’s or updating processes etc. are necessary. For larger systems with up to 5 million users in all roles (e.g., PES counsellors, job seekers, companies and job providers, third party providers like education etc.) the price drops to around 60-70 cents per user and year. With even larger systems, the price quickly falls below 50 cents per year.

Moreover, our solutions run in secure, GDPR-compliant cloud environments that are perfectly suited for any IT infrastructure including simpler setups in emerging markets. They also offer great accessibility for all users – from digital natives to tech newbies, on mobile and small screen devices and with slow internet connections.

For more information on how our services and solutions can help strengthen your labor market resilience, visit our product site for PES or contact us at info@janzz.technology. If not now, then when?

Analyzing skills data. Can you see the gorilla?

This is the fourth and last in a series of posts about skills. If you haven’t already, we recommend you read the other posts first: Cutting through the BS and Sorry folks, but “Microsoft Office” is NOT a skill and The poison apple of “easy” skills data – are you ready to give up that sweet taste?

In the third post of this series, we discussed the challenges and opportunities of online job advertisement (OJA) data. Suppose we have the perfect definition of a skill and have extracted all relevant information, including occupation, required experience and training, explicit and implicit skills, etc., from clean, duplicate-free OJA data. What now?

This is the point in many related projects where the data is made accessible in form of, say, an interactive website for interested users. Sometimes there will be a disclaimer stating that the data is not representative or that it is biased in some way. The idea of these websites is to provide information for policy makers, employers, education providers, career starters, etc., so that they can make informed decisions. This is certainly a noble idea. But a disclaimer does not change the fact that these users are still being given a distorted picture. They are enticed to make fact-driven decisions – without being given all the facts. How is a student supposed to make an informed career choice, e.g., trade or profession, if there is only information available for the professional route? How is a policy maker supposed to decide which training projects to allocate funds to if the data is biased towards certain industries or occupations? How is an education provider going to align curricula with market demand if there is no information on how critical a given skill is for a job?

Let us take a look at some of the challenges in analyzing this data.

Increased number of advertisements is not equal to actual expansion of demand. OJA data can only approximate gross changes in demand because the data includes both new positions resulting from growth as well as existing positions left vacant as a result of staff turnover. This means that the future of a given occupation cannot be predicted purely based on the growth of the number of OJA for that job. The same is true for skills.

Frequently mentioned requirements are not necessarily crucial requirements. Even assuming that we have been able to extract all implicit skills (for instance, occupational skills that hirers assume are implicitly obvious to prospective candidates, or skills presumably acquired in training/education), there are still challenges here: First off, there may be a tendency to demand more than necessary for vacancies that are easy to fill and less than necessary for hard-to-fill positions. Also, certain positions tend to ask for education that, per se, is not necessary. An example of this is a STEM degree for quantitative professions. There is rarely need for a graduate’s expert knowledge in physics or biology in consulting, but STEM students typically also acquire skills such as critical thinking, complex problem solving, quantitative reasoning, communication and presentation skills, etc. It is these transferrable skills that such employers are interested in. So simply counting mentions of skills will not reveal the most in-demand skills that are truly relevant to employers.

Implicit skills extraction comes with its own challenges. Profiles for jobs and educations vary greatly on various levels. There is neither a standard skill set for a given occupation, nor is there one for a given education. [1] For instance, the skill set acquired in vocational training for carpenters will depend on the duration of the training (e.g., 1.5 years in Nicaragua vs. four years in Switzerland), or the choice of specialty, and many more factors. Some of the skills required for a nurse in an urban private clinic will differ from those needed by a nurse in a rural state-run hospital, even if they have the same specialty. Thus, skills demand cannot be directly extrapolated from jobs/education demand either.

Ignoring these and other challenges leads precisely to the common misinterpretations we have discussed in this series. One could also call this inattentional blindness, a phenomenon that was famously demonstrated in the “gorilla experiment”. In the experiment, the study participants were told to focus on a specific detail in a video of two teams passing a ball. Mid-way through the video, a gorilla walks through the game, stands in the middle, pounds its chest and exits. More than half the subjects missed the gorilla entirely – and were sure they could not have. Similarly, by focusing on “easy data” and the current publications with their quick and dirty interpretations, we run a big risk of losing sight of what is right in front of us. We think we have a shortage of skills in certain areas and miss the utterly obvious. To illustrate this, let us take a closer look at the most in-demand skill of 2020 according to CEDEFOP data: adapt to change. This also happens to be one of the current global buzz skills.

Note: We will be using several examples from CEDEFOP’s online OJA data tool Skills-OVATE over the course of this post. This does not mean that these data are in any way worse than that of other OJA data providers, we are not here to mock anyone. We simply want to provide real facts from real data in the spirit of a fact-based discussion and we decided to focus on one source for consistency.

Among the top 10 occupations that require the skill adapt to change are Athletes and Sports Players, Aircraft Mechanics and Repairers and Firefighters. Here are all skills listed in the CEDEFOP data for these occupations, ordered by count:

Analyzing skills data. Can you see the gorilla?

These lists are right in the comfort zone, containing many of the current buzz skills. But what about the crucial skills and knowledge [2] that workers in these occupations actually need? Shouldn’t aircraft mechanics have knowledge of aircrafts? Or firefighters be able to tolerate stress? And using office systems cannot possibly be a key skill for athletes and sports players.

So now what?

First off, we should move away from generalizing lists and easy statements. As we have seen in this series of posts, these are clearly not conclusions we can sensibly draw from the available data. Instead, we should move towards more differentiated interpretation and communication – even if it is less sexy. In addition, we should steer clear of normalizing and summarizing skills into generic groups when communicating results. Broad terms such as sales & marketing, computer skills or teamwork abilities may be useful for statistics, but they simply do not convey any useful information in other contexts. Sales skills differ dramatically depending on whether they are sought for a position in retail, selling advertisements for magazines, machinery or an entire power plant. Given in their context, there are millions of skills and these cannot sensibly be squeezed into, say, the just over 13,000 ESCO skills without losing critical information – even if the majority had been parsed and extracted properly, which is clearly not the case in general.

We must find ways to determine crucial skills and distinguish them from buzz skills. Expert knowledge as used to create job-specific skill profiles in taxonomies such as O*NET and ESCO tends to be inaccurate or too generalized because of the wide variety of skill profiles for a given occupation. Thus, determining crucial skills will presumably remain a huge challenge until hirers start to consistently highlight which skills are truly necessary and which are not in job advertisements. In the meantime, skills should at least be analyzed as they arise in the context of an occupation, depending on regions, industries, etc., recording must-have skills in OJA data when available and supplementing this with survey data from both employers and employees.

If the aim is to make the data available to users such as students or policy makers, we should gather and provide additional information where OJA data are insufficient and explain how to look at the data instead of (at best) adding simplified disclaimer blurb. The information must be supplemented to provide a balanced picture of in-demand occupations and skills. By solely relying on OJA data, we are actively pointing even more young people away from occupations and industries in dire need of new talent: skilled trades and construction, nurses, care workers and more – many of which are still clearly “futureproof”. And we are encouraging continued potential misallocation of billions in funding for upskilling and reskilling in the wrong areas. Then again, it may be less expensive than gathering additional data through time-consuming surveys and other costly means and paying for extensive vocational, technical or higher (re-)training… And of course, there is also the challenge of measuring skills supply, which is another key aspect for informed policy making for the labor market. That, however, goes far beyond the scope of this post.

Oh, and we should perform basic sanity checks.

According to CEDEFOP data from 2020, 2% of advertised bartender jobs in the EU require skills in conducting land surveys, aquaculture reproduction, collecting weather-related data or analyzing road traffic patterns.

Analyzing skills data. Can you see the gorilla?

Did you know that 1 in 25 musicians, singers and composers is required to know Java?

Analyzing skills data. Can you see the gorilla?

Does anyone really require freight handlers to know yoga or Bihari? Or should someone maybe go back and check the data collection processes?

Analyzing skills data. Can you see the gorilla?

Sadly, it is very easy to find examples like this, you can find many more in data from any one of your favorite OJA data providers. (Again, we are only using examples from CEDEFOP for consistency, not because their data is any worse than that from other sources.) The only conclusion we can draw from this is that these dashboards and statistics are simply not checked. Otherwise, this could not possibly go unnoticed. It does, however, also shed light on what the authors of the ESSnet Big Data report (mentioned in the previous post) meant by “the quality issues are such that it is not clear if these data could be integrated in a way that would enable them to meet the standards expected of official statistics.”

And because more and more institutions and organizations work with the same few data providers – along the lines of “if everyone works with them, their data can’t be that bad.” – the same mistakes are made over and over, multiplying faster and faster. Quoted, posted and shared everywhere by more and more people. The thing is, repeating them often enough does not make these mistakes better or truer. And now, as of January 20, 2021, the time has come to move past alternative facts. So, let’s start looking for fact-based alternatives.

 

[1] For more on this, take a look at this study or our whitepapers on standard skill profiles and education zones.
[2] CEDEFOP data is based on the ESCO taxonomy, which includes knowledge in its definition of skills.

JANZZ named as a Sample Vendor for Skills Ontologies in Gartner Hype Cycle for HCM Tech 2020

We are proud to announce that JANZZ.technology has been identified by Gartner as a Sample Vendor of Skills Ontologies in the Hype Cycle for Human Capital Management Technology 2020. This recognition validates the innovative approach of our solutions for businesses and public employment services based on our unique multilingual job and skills ontology.

What is the Gartner Hype Cycle?

“Gartner Hype Cycles provide a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities. Gartner Hype Cycle methodology gives you a view of how a technology or application will evolve over time, providing a sound source of insight to manage its deployment within the context of your specific business goals.[1]

JANZZ named as a Sample Vendor for Skills Ontologies in Gartner Hype Cycle for HCM Tech 2020

Skills Ontologies, rated as highly beneficial for HCM, are currently in the first of five stages in the Gartner Hype Cycle: the Innovation Trigger. Gartner describes this stage is the one where “a potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.” We started developing our skills ontology over a decade ago, in 2009. It is now the most comprehensive multilingual skills ontology worldwide and has proven itself repeatedly over the past few years, being successfully deployed in multiple systems of any scale.

What is a Skills Ontology?

A skills ontology organizes large collections of concepts concerning capabilities, competencies, knowledge, and experience, as well as the relations between them in a data structure. It provides a basis for AI applications in areas such as talent acquisition, talent development and workforce planning. Numerous providers claim that they have an ontology when in reality, they only have a taxonomy or a library.[2] At JANZZ, we have a true ontology, JANZZon!. But it does not just include skills, it is a job and skills ontology. This means that it also encompasses occupations, job titles, work experience, training and qualifications, industries and much more. Matching skills alone without taking other information like occupations/roles into account can result in extremely inaccurate results. A retail cashier and a retail pharmacist will have skills in common, e.g., customer service skills, but their key skills, namely their specialist knowledge and their qualifications, differ dramatically. So even if all other listed skills are a match, it would be completely nonsensical to suggest a cashier for a pharmacist position. Context is essential, and one of the key types of information generated by our job and skills ontology.

Moreover, unlike other skills ontologies on the market, JANZZon! distinguishes levels of skills and their context. For instance, the level of skills required in a junior position are not the same as for a senior specialist, and the skill set of a project manager in application development is not identical to that of a project manager in interior design. These differences are represented in our job and skills ontology JANZZon! and are one of the driving factors in the astonishing accuracy of our job-candidate matching and career pathing tools.

Watch our video about the JANZZ ontology

Why not just stick with skills libraries and taxonomies?

Skills or job libraries, which many technology providers still rely on, are primarily built by experts (often psychologists) analyzing and classifying skills and skills levels related to job categories or functions. These methods are labor intensive and limited, often focusing on cross-functional skills or on a limited number of job-specific technical skills. Moreover, in the fast-changing world of work, these libraries are almost always outdated as soon as they are finalized.

The key issue with these libraries, however, is that there is no such thing as a standard skill profile for a given occupation. This means that search and matching results based on skills libraries are mostly disappointing at best. On the other hand, with the right skills ontology, you get a continuously updated, comprehensive database that provides the basis for technology that “transforms user expectations for relevance of job searches, matching of candidates to job roles, and recommendation of learning content.”[3]

The crucial advantage of a skills ontology compared with skills libraries or taxonomies is that it links synonyms as well as similar and related skills. This dramatically improves search and matching by translating the diverse vocabularies of different stakeholders, job postings and candidate/employee profiles into a common language and giving search terms context. As a result, classical keyword-based approaches can be replaced by semantic search where the system understands the meaning of search terms as opposed to stubbornly comparing strings of characters.[4] For instance, when entering the term CEO, the ontology-based system will exclude results like Assistant to the CEO. Or, upon entering the term Mechanic, it will suggest more precise terms like Auto Mechanic or Boat Mechanic. And the best people for the job can be identified much more accurately – without the noise of unsuitable candidates or the risk of top candidates slipping through the cracks.

Moreover, our ontology-based systems can recognize implicit skills in occupations ranging from Sign Painter to Cybersecurity Project Manager and use these skills to provide more satisfactory results – not only of jobs and candidates, but also in profiling, gap analyses and career pathing. The contextual knowledge stored in our skills ontology is also key to our highly performant job and CV parser.

Pioneering solutions in HCM tech

Most of the current ontology-based HCM applications on the market are still quite rough around the edges and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, a combination of models and approaches is needed. Here at JANZZ.technology, we already have a well-established skills ontology as well as highly accurate technology for semantic search and match, gap analyses, profiling, and job and CV parsing. However, we are driven to continuously improve and extend our solutions and thus very actively engaged in R&D, ceaselessly developing pioneering technology to tackle new challenges. Our mission is to help improve the HCM experience by providing efficient and highly performant solutions without compromise.

And why are we so far ahead of the Gartner Hype Cycle? Because we started in 2008, long before anyone was talking about AI and knowledge representations, long before Google and the markets realized that advanced AI solutions will simply be impossible without ontologies. That is why we have a head start of several years today.

Take advantage of this and integrate our job and skills ontology into your applications via our simple APIs. Contact us at info@janzz.technology to find out how we can transform your experience with our cutting-edge ontology-based solutions.

[1] Gartner Methodologies, “Gartner Hype Cycle,” 2020. https://www.gartner.com/en/research/methodologies/gartner-hype-cycle
[2] For a better understanding of the fundamental difference between ontologies and taxonomies, read our post: https://janzz.technology/ontology-and-taxonomy-stop-comparing-things-that-are-incomparable/
[3] Poitevin, H., “Hype Cycle for Human Capital Management Technology, 2020”, Gartner. 2020.
[4] For more information on this topic, request a copy of our white paper «Keyword vs. ontology based, semantic matching» via email or contact form.

JANZZ’s job matching platform ParaEmpleo singled out by the IDB as an AI success story

The IDB is an important driver of artificial intelligence as a tool to address challenges in the labor markets in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). As part of the IDB’s fAIr LAC initiative studies, they recently published an interesting report on how to utilize AI for labor intermediation in public employment services (PES). This technical paper provides an overview of key aspects considered by PES when deciding to adopt AI for their operations, as well as discussing the benefits and risks of implementing AI-based solutions for PES.

JANZZ is excited to share that its project ParaEmpleo – a semantic job matching platform realized in collaboration with Paraguay’s Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security (MTESS) – is described as a “success story in incorporating AI”. It is so far the only project of its kind in LAC, and JANZZ.technology is eager to continue implementing solutions for PES that use AI for social good, generating better social services and giving people more perspective.

You can read the IDB report Artificial Intelligence for Job Seeking : How to Enhance Labor Intermediation in Public Employment Services here.

JANZZ.technology listed as one of the best tech startups in Zurich

We are proud to share that Seedtable has selected JANZZ as one of Zurich’s 96 best tech startups to watch in 2020.

JANZZ has been busy developing and implementing semantic technology for job matching and CV parsing, making progress in leaps and bounds this year. Our products and solutions are now deployed by several public employment services around the world, as well as by large private corporations, and are endorsed by organizations such as World Bank, IDB and ILO. We have also been increasing our team size and can now offer our solutions in over 40 languages.

Seedtable is a weekly newsletter on European tech read by over 12,000 founders, investors and operators every week. It ranks startups across Europe based on their founders’ qualities, growth rate, funding and scalability potential.

Thank you to Seedtable for an inspiring start to the new year!

JANZZ.technology in a recent ILO report: From big data to smart data

Big data and AI still have a hard time today in gaining traction in the field of HR and employment services due to the poor quality and lack of explanatory power in the data. As JANZZ explains in a recent ILO report, any predictive analysis based on big data and determined by a large number of variables is rather inaccurate. The longer the time horizon and more variables included, the less likely such prediction is going to be completely or even partially close to reality.

Hence, any recommendations for market participants such as forecasts of the future employability and required skills of job seekers will generate little or no significant results if based on approaches that simply compile and evaluate all available job advertisements from all available sources in a market over a period of years. Because the skills are often presented and processed without any relevant semantic context, for example, the typical forecasts of general “top skills” as published regularly by LinkedIn and the World Economic Forum. One will find the skills listed are too generic or general to be used in matching, indeed, they are barely relevant for many occupations.

From the very beginning, JANZZ.technology has determined to form big data into smart data using a structured and fully semantic ontological approach and over the years, it has repeatedly proven to be the only game-changer. To learn more, please find the full article in the ILO report:

The feasibility of using big data in anticipating and matching skills needs