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Tech skills in the UK lag behind most of Europe

Although the UK is the third largest market for technology, the country is behind when it comes to workforce development

Tech skills in the UK are lagging behind most of Europe, according to a new report from the online course provider Coursera.

Coursera’s Global Skills report draws data from 100 million learners in over 100 countries who have used the online platform to develop a new skill in the past year. It benchmarks three of the most in-demand skill areas driving employment in the digital economy: Business, technology, and data science.

The report said that tech companies in the UK are on the upswing, with new records for investment in four of the last five years. It said that the UK is the largest technology market, behind only the US and China, with particular strengths in AI, biotech, cyber security, and fintech. 

However, it said this industry requires high levels of talent, and the country may be at risk of falling behind. Learners in the UK scored highly on finance and marketing but performed less well in strategy and operations along with leadership and management. Its rank for technology was 42, up a place from last year, while its rank for data science was 28, up four places. 

TechnologyData Science
Databases 61%Machine Learning 75%
Computer Programming 56%Mathematics 78%
Cloud Computing 74%Statistical Programming 57%
Software Engineering 46%Data Visualisation 67%
Web Development 79%Data Analysis 68%
Security Engineering 29%Data Management 60%
Computer Networking 42%Probability and Statistics 81%
Mobile Development 56% 
Theoretical Computer
Science 75%
 
Operating Systems 35% 

UK skills proficiency levels

“Of all the countries in the G7, the United Kingdom faces the most difficult economic circumstances. In addition to continuing challenges in implementing Brexit, the country is also behind on workforce development,” the report underlined. “According to McKinsey, to realise the full benefits of reskilling, more than 90% of U.K. workers will need to be retrained. Workforce development leaders should make this a top priority.”

The report also found that Europe leads the world in skills proficiency. Seven of the top ten performing countries in this year’s report are located in Europe. In addition, for the second year in a row, learners in Switzerland achieved the highest level of aggregate skills proficiency.

Global RankRank ChangeCountryBusinessTechnologyData Science
10Switzerland99%94%97%
2+5Denmark94%97%97%
3+39Indonesia30%100%100%
4+1Belgium98%89%90%
5+3Singapore90%95%82%
6-3Japan67%98%91%
7+8Netherlands82%90%93%
8-2Sweden81%87%94%
9-5Germany92%85%88%
10+3Bulgaria80%86%95%

The top 10 countries named in the report and their skill proficiencies

Although the U.S. held steady in its overall skills proficiency ranking, it lost meaningful ground in core technology and data science skills. In last year’s report, learners in the U.S. ranked 29th in the world, which they maintained this year. However, while their proficiency in business skills rose, learners in the U.S. fell behind other high-income countries in several key technology and data science skills, including software engineering, cloud computing, and mathematics.

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Coursera also found that lower levels of internet access mean lower levels of skills proficiency. “The internet may be the great equaliser, but internet access is not equal,” stated the report. “Countries in the lowest 25% of learner performance had average internet access rates of 54.2%, while those in the highest 25% had access rates of 83.6%.”

Lastly, proficiency in technology and data science skills varied widely across the Asia-Pacific region. Propelled by learners who perform the best in the world in technology and data science skills, Indonesia rose 39 positions in this year’s aggregate skills proficiency rankings. However, in other parts of the region, like India, Taiwan, and the Philippines, learners slid backwards in the digital skills needed to power modernization and growth.

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