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Report reveals U.K. workers unequipped for the digital economy

The acceleration of digital transformation, inflation, and global instability are driving increased demand for the digital and human skills needed to thrive in the new economy, according to Coursera’s latest Global Skills Report. However, the United Kingdom’s technology skills proficiency continues to lag behind a majority of European nations, jeopardizing its preparedness for the digital economy. The UK ranks 42nd globally for technological skills proficiency, and 24th among the 33 European nations indexed in the report. 

“The Great Resignation and automation are mandating stronger investments in human capital, as institutions must prioritize developing the high-demand digital and human skills required to build a competitive and equitable workforce,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera CEO. “Our data shows these skills are not equally distributed, and students and low-wage workers need access to flexible, affordable, and fast-tracked pathways to entry-level digital jobs that offer a foundation for a stronger and more inclusive economy.”

Key U.K. insights from the report include:

  • The United Kingdom’s learners perform most strongly in the Data Science domain. The nation achieved a 74% data science skills proficiency in 2022. Their overall ranking in this domain climbed from 32nd in 2021 to 28th this year.  
  • British learners record their weakest proficiency in the Business domain at 38%, up from 28 in 2021. Coursera identified skill proficiency gaps in key business and human skills such as  Entrepreneurship (37%), Leadership & Management (29%), and both Strategy and Operations and Accounting (15%).
  • Learners in the U.K. have upskilled themselves in ways that complement growing opportunities in the FinTech sector, but must combine this with equal investment in human skills. Coursera observed British learners ‘over-indexing’ – recording above-average enrolments – in FinTech (1.3x) and Blockchain (1.26x).

Global trends in the report include:

  • Entry-level or “gateway” certificate course enrollments among women reached 40% in 2021, continuing a three-year growth trend. Certificates, such as Google IT Support and Google Data Analytics, provide a clear pathway to gain skills needed for high-demand, entry-level digital jobs. These courses require approximately 240 total learning hours, which can be completed in just six months at 10 hours per week. 
  • There is a strong correlation between skills proficiency, GDP, and broadband access. Wealthier countries scored higher in overall skills proficiency, matched by those with high levels of internet access.
  • Developed countries saw more learners acquiring human skills including change management and resilience. Learners in developing countries were more focused on digital skills through courses like supply chain systems and mobile architecture. 
  • The most popular business and tech skills globally in the last year were leadership and management, probability and statistics, and theoretical computer science. For the second year in a row, Switzerland had the highest-skilled learners followed by Denmark, Indonesia, and Belgium. 
  • Learners also focused on courses that develop the skills to understand the COVID-19 pandemic. Enrollment in courses that cover epidemiology and risk management are now four times higher than it was prior to the pandemic. 

“Though British technology companies are on the upswing – creating one new unicorn per week and recording record rates of investment – the workforce development challenge remains considerable, with McKinsey observing that more than 90% of U.K. workers require retraining,” said Anthony Tattersall, Vice-President for EMEA at Coursera. “This report provides British government and institutional leaders insights on this evolving skills landscape, critical areas for skill development, and pathways to entry-level digital roles that will help transition workers from declining occupations to jobs of the future.” 

To download the full report and explore insights unique to a country or region, click here.

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