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Coursera 2020 Global Skills Index Highlights Urgent Need for Reskilling in the Middle East UAE and Saudi Arabia are on the right track to build capabilities in both business and tech, but fall behind in data science skills

Ain Alalam – Rashad Iskandnri

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Higher skill proficiency is linked to GDP growth, labor force participation, and income equality, according to Coursera’s latest Global Skills Index (GSI). The global report released today by the world’s leading online learning platform, with 65 million learners worldwide, provides an in-depth look at the state of skills in the past 12 months benchmarking skills proficiency for 60 countries, 10 industries, and 11 fields of study in business, technology, and data science. The report also provides an early analysis of the pandemic’s impact on the skills landscape.

The GSI highlights skill trends for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, illustrating skill strengths for the UAE and Saudi Arabia as well as a need for regional reskilling across domains. The UAE’s position as a global centre of business talent stands out, as it ranks 5th globally and 1st in MEA in business skills, according to the report. This is further underpinned by the UAE Vision 2021. The UAE, however, lags in data science skills that are essential for digital transformation. It ranks 4th in the Middle East and Africa and 50th globally, with 17% skills proficiency. This highlights a general shortage of data scientists across businesses and a lack of adoption of data-driven analytics.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia leads the UAE and the rest of the region in technology skills, ranking 1st in the MEA region and 28th globally. In line with the country’s Vision 2030, learners are rapidly reskilling to capitalise on opportunities created by the country’s digital transformation efforts. And while Saudi Arabia is leading the race of becoming the biggest regional tech hub, following its recent major investments in artificial intelligence and financial technology, it still lags in data science skills. It ranks 5th in the region and 54th globally in data science skills with only 10% skills proficiency, similar to the UAE.

“During a global slowdown, public and private sector institutions across the Middle East must accelerate reskilling efforts that prepare workers for a rapidly changing economy,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera. “This year’s Global Skills Index reveals skills trends and insights that will inspire institutions to coordinate skills development for a more inclusive and advanced workforce.”

Coursera is committed to partnering with governments, businesses, and universities around the world to put this data into action. In the Middle East, where there are 3.3 million registered learners, including more than 350,000 and 400,000 learners in the UAE and Saudi Arabia respectively. Coursera has expressed its commitment to the region through recent public and private sector partnerships. These include a partnership with the Abu Dhabi School of Government to upskill 60,000 government employees and the expansion of Coursera for Business in the Middle East with over 90 local enterprise customers including governments and SMBs.

Key global and regional insights from the report include:

  • The UAE is a global and regional skills leader in business, indicative of recent innovation. The UAE ranks 5th globally and number one in the Middle East and Africa for business skills.
  • The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia leads at number one in the Middle East for technology skills. Saudi Arabia ranks first in the Middle East and 28th globally (54% competitive). The UAE ranks second in MEA for technology skills.
  • The UAE and Saudi Arabia lag in data science skills that are essential for digital transformation. The UAE ranks at 50th globally and 4th in the Middle East and Africa for data science skills, with 17% skills proficiency. Saudi Arabia ranks 5th in the MEA region and 54th globally for data science skills, with 10% skills proficiency.
  • Globally, countries with higher skill proficiencies are also those with higher labor force participation rates. A country’s skill proficiency across domains is positively correlated (56 percent) with the fraction of its working-age population active in its labor force. (Secondary data: World Bank)
  • Of the 200 million higher education students globally whose studies have been disrupted by COVID-19, 80% are located in countries with emerging or lagging skills. Eighty percent of students enrolled in tertiary education are located in countries that have both closed schools due to COVID-19 and are in the bottom half of the world rankings for proficiency in business, technology, and data science skills. (Secondary data: UNESCO)
  • Institutions navigating COVID-19 continue to prioritize business, technology, and data science skills. Over two-thirds of the enrollments by governments, companies, and campuses on the Coursera platform are in courses teaching business, technology, and data science skills. The share of enrollments shifted marginally by an average of 6 percent before and after the pandemic hit.

With 65 million learners and more than 4,000 courses from the world’s top universities and industry educators, Coursera has one of the largest datasets for identifying skill trends. The evolved methodology for GSI 2020 uses a patent-pending algorithm that more comprehensively accounts for selection biases. This year’s report is further enriched by the pandemic driven trends, including 15 million new learners who joined the platform since March.

To download the full report, visit https://www.coursera.org/gsi

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