Crisis deepens as UK falls to 45th globally for tech skills

women in data 1The new Labour Government’s plan to ensure Britain is developing home-grown skills to meet the needs of business and the economy cannot come soon enough, with new figures ranking the UK 45th globally for technology skills’ proficiency.

That is according to Coursera’s Global Skills Report 2024, although there are a number of bright spots. For instance, learners in the UK are embracing skills like bioinformatics, machine learning algorithms, and applied machine learning—aligning with the anticipated 38% net growth in demand for AI and ML specialists in the country.

There has also been a 961% increase in GenAI course enrolments and the popularity of roles such as data analyst, software developer, and cybersecurity analyst highlight the country’s commitment to developing a tech-savvy workforce.

However, this year’s domain rankings see the UK ranked 52nd for business skills and 46th for computer science skills.

And, with 93% ofUK  businesses reporting a technology skills shortage, the study maintains increased investment from, and collaboration among businesses, educational institutions and the Government is critical for the UK to cultivate an internationally competitive workforce.

The report also states that improving generative AI skills among learners and employers requires a comprehensive approach and a 1,060% year-on-year increase in global enrolments in GenAI courses represents a recognition that this technology, and these skills, will truly define the future of work.

To build AI literacy, the study recommends the promotion of foundation courses to provide a basic understanding of AI concepts. For more advanced skill requirements, there should be more tailored AI courses for specific industries, enabling employees to apply AI effectively in their fields.

In addition, companies should offer in-house training, workshops and seminars led by AI experts to provide better understanding of the technology and demonstrate its practical applications, while fostering a community of AI practitioners through networking events, hackathons and collaborative projects can enhance learning and innovation.

Another area of concern is a decline in the number of people enrolling on cyber security courses.

The report states that, given that half of UK companies reported a cyber incident or data breach in the past 12 months, the need for more skilled professionals is urgent.

It adds: “To encourage more learners to upskill in cybersecurity, we need to raise awareness about the critical importance of these skills and the career opportunities available. Integrating cybersecurity modules into broader tech and business programmes can highlight its relevance.

“The current talent pipeline for cybersecurity is reliant on sourcing graduates, which may not be sufficient to source  skilled cybersecurity professionals at the speed and scale needed to adjust to requirements. Alternative credentials that prioritise essential cybersecurity skills are needed.”

The report says that offering industry-vetted professional certificates with practical, hands-on experience from leading tech companies like Google can attract more learners and signpost these alternative pathways that help train competent professionals in months rather than years. Scholarships or financial incentives for cybersecurity courses can also significantly boost enrolment.

Coursera managing director Nikolaz Foucaud said: “Businesses must take a continuous learning approach while higher education institutions should work with industry leaders to develop curricula that meet the evolving needs of the technology sector.

“The Government should incentivise businesses to invest in upskilling programmes, while public-private partnerships can facilitate the provision of industry-recognised professional certificates and micro-credentials to ensure that learning is practical and aligned with market needs.”

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