From education to employment

Coursera’s Hadi Moussa on Results Day 2023

Hadi Moussa

Naturally, A-Level Results Day is an anxious time for many young people. This year, anxieties are more fraught than ever, with fierce competition expected for top university places. No matter their post-school plans, however, it’s crucial that  students are aware of the variety of opportunities available to them when it comes to forging their career path. 

For many, the next step will be university, but, for all, it’s important to keep in mind that degrees are no longer the sole pathway towards a successful future. Indeed, following the government’s announcement to crack down on ‘rip off’ degrees, coupled with the average student loan repayment reaching £42,000, it is unsurprising that many young people have been left considering whether traditional degrees can justify the time, financial, and opportunity costs.

In this context, though a meaningful degree premium continues to exist for most degree-holders, it’s still imperative that all of the UK’s school leavers ask themselves the crucial question: will my intended qualification arm me with the skills I need to succeed in today’s fast-changing world of work?

Coursera’s own research found that less than half of Brits (48%) with a degree use the skills they learned at university in their jobs regularly, with 39% feeling that their course has not prepared them for their job role. While degrees continue to typically yield improved job opportunities, there are now a variety of educational pathways available to learners – such as microcredentials and professional certificates – that are better equipped to skill them quickly for today’s in-demand jobs.

Such courses can be taken irrespective of A-Level attainment, meaning that even those who have missed target grades can find employer-recognised pathways to acquiring the skills that will transform their futures. In addition, an increasing number of microcredentials also ‘stack’ into university degrees, meaning that those with these qualifications can deploy them to launch a career or progress to higher education with a more solid skills base. For example, learners who complete Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate can use their qualification to count towards the University of London’s BsC in Computer Science – or to pursue an immediate career in the field.

At Coursera, we’re seeing that Gen-Z are well-attuned to the changing labour market, and are increasingly taking courses to bolster their skills in specific in-demand areas. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) courses currently constitute around 15% of total course enrollments, while Leadership & Management, Communication and Strategy are the top three areas in which young people are upskilling themselves when it comes to equipping themselves with human skills. 

So as the next generation of students take their next steps towards the world of work, we would encourage them to remember that, just as the world of work is rapidly changing, so must our approach to skills. No matter their results, there is now a wealth of flexible, accessible learning opportunities available to them – opportunities that may not have been available to previous generations, and that will play a central role in preparing the UK’s young people for a flourishing future.

By Hadi Moussa, Managing Director, EMEA for Coursera

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