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UK Lagging Behind Rest of the World in Skills Development

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UK Lagging Behind Rest of the World in Skills Development, Ranked 64th in Global Report

Coursera’s fifth annual Global Skills Report reveals UK skills proficiency has regressed, ranking 38th globally in 2022 and 64th in 2023

Amidst the accelerating pace of globalisation and digital transformation, the UK is underperforming in skills development, ranking 64th globally according to Coursera’s annual Global Skill Report 2023. In the fifth year running this report, findings reveal the UK is actually regressing in skills proficiency, having ranked 38th globally in 2022. In stark contrast to the UK’s position, eight of the top ten globally performing countries are European, pointing to a pressing need for the UK to reassess its skilling strategies.

The annual report takes insights from more than 124 million Coursera learners – including 3 million in the UK – and identifies regional and national trends around talent skill proficiency and opportunity. In the UK, learners are particularly interested in entrepreneurial skills such as resilience, adaptability, and risk management, and AI-related skills like artificial neural networks and machine learning algorithms. This over-indexing on entrepreneurial and AI skills could serve as a crucial asset in overcoming the digital skills gap, particularly in light of the rapid emergence of generative AI.

The University of Pennsylvania warns that up to 49% of tasks could be automated, leading to potential job losses. At the same time, new digital jobs are being created at an unprecedented pace. This disruption is more apparent in the UK, with a recent AI survey by Coursera showing that 80% of UK businesses have already implemented generative AI.

“The rise of digital jobs and remote work is creating unprecedented opportunities for local talent to participate in the global workforce if they have the right skills and credentials,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera CEO. “This report provides actionable insights on the rapidly changing skills landscape and talent distribution worldwide that will help institutions inform their human capital and workforce strategies.” 

Key U.K. Findings

  • AI skills growing in demand: UK learners’ interest in AI-related skills could prove vital is overcoming the disruption that generative AI technology is set to cause. Coursera’s recent AI survey, which polled 1000 UK business decision-makers, supports the Global Skills Report’s findings. It shows that 66% of UK businesses believe that AI will likely reshape their customer offerings or business operations in the next 3 years. However, 34% cited lack of skilled personnel as a significant challenge, underlining the importance of continuous skills development.
  • Amid challenging economic climate, UK invests in entrepreneurship skills: Compared to learners in other countries, those in the UK are more likely to invest in entrepreneurship skills, with more people taking courses related to Resilience, Adaptability, and Risk Management, perhaps an indication of more people starting their own businesses and side hustles for financial support.
  • Strengths and Opportunities: Despite a somewhat disappointing overall ranking, UK learners show a competitive edge in key areas such as human resources, finance, marketing, theoretical computer science, and web development. This suggests an untapped potential for the UK to bolster its standing in business and technology skills with strategic investment.
  • High uptake but low global ranking: The UK shows great interest in online learning with 3 million registered Coursera learners (5.6% of the UK’s working age population), yet the UK lags globally in skills development. Notably, almost half of these learners are women, reflecting an encouraging trend towards gender parity in online learning.

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