Two-thirds of the world population lack critical skills, according to Coursera

A couple of students taking an online course

Although the US is known as a business leader for innovation thanks to Amazon, Apple or Microsoft, it locates itself in the middle of global skill rankings.

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Coursera launched its Global Skills Index, an in-depth analysis of global trends in skills and competencies. As Europe stands out, North America stagnates, and some Latin American countries face significant challenges in training their workforce.

Technology is progressing exponentially while the skills of the workforce in many countries seem static and in many cases, obsolete. The current world economy requires individuals capable of adapting to the constant transformations in environments that promote lifelong learning.

Governments and businesses must upskill their workforces to build, manage, and leverage new technologies. To guide workforce development decisions, they must first understand how the skills of their populations stack up in Business, Technology, and Data Science — the fundamental skill domains of the future.
— Jeff Maggioncalda CEO of Coursera.

Titled Global Skills Index (GSI), this analysis is a mapping of skills achieved thanks to machine learning technology; Coursera compared the results of more than 3 million students who completed more than 40 million courses against data from 60 countries and ten industries.

Overall, the study states that 66% of workers are poorly prepared in the competencies of Business, Technology and Data Science. Many countries with developing economies, and with less investment in education, see greater skills deficiencies. However, technological innovation opens the door to new growth models, generating opportunities for these countries to obtain the necessary skills to prevail in the future.

Europe excels and North America needs to take action

European countries make up more than 80% of the vanguard nations in Business, Technology and Data Science. Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Norway and the Netherlands stand out in these three domains.

Coursera’s press release highlights that Europe’s skills success may be the result of its strong institutional investment in education through workforce development and public education initiatives. However, the performance of skills within Eastern Europe is below the global average.

Although the US is known as a business leader for innovation thanks to Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, to mention a few technology companies, it locates itself in the middle of global skill rankings, not excelling in any of the three domains.

Within North American territory, there are marked differences. In the East, there is an outstanding proficiency in technology and Data Science, reflecting the concentration of talent in areas such as Silicon Valley. In the Midwest, the highest business skill index is concentrated. However, the South occupies the last regional place in all domains and competencies.

The skills challenge in Latin America

According to the report, most of the 11 Latin American countries under analysis show a mastery of skills below the world average. In this region, Argentina is the only nation in the top half of the world in Business, Technology and Data Science. Chile, Costa Rica, Peru and Brazil are located in the upper half of their region. However, Mexico, Venezuela, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador are located in the lower part of Latin America and the world.

Argentina occupies the first place in Technology in the world thanks to its drive-in Software Engineering and Operating Systems training. On the contrary, Mexico ranks as number 39 in Business, number 43 in Technology and number 40 in Data Science.

Lifelong learning

The skill deficit or surplus is a reflection of the educational results, particularly in mathematics and science, as well as the innovation environment of nations. Nonetheless, as the creators of the report emphasize, in the age of automation, lifelong learning is the only way to keep up with the accelerated pace of technological change.

If you want to review the complete results, in addition to the trends in skills and abilities of Coursera users, check the full report here.