According to a new Coursera report, female students worldwide are lagging behind in STEM enrollments.
US proficiency in technology and data science is declining, lagging behind countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, according to Coursera’s latest Global Skills Report† However, US students showed higher proficiency in essential business skills, including marketing, leadership and management, and strategy and operations.
It is now known that the acceleration of automation and digital transformation, coupled with inflation and global instability, is increasing the demand for digital and human skills needed to thrive in the new economy.
But while not every worker needs to learn coding, every worker needs to be literate in digital skills. Still, the Coursera report found that three-quarters of workers felt unprepared for jobs in the digital-first economy.
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It is also striking that internet access is not equal worldwide. Countries in the lowest 25% of learning outcomes had an average internet access rate of 54%, while those in the highest 25% had access levels of almost 84%.
There is a strong correlation between skills, GDP and broadband access. Wealthier countries scored higher in general skills, matched by countries with high internet access.
Increase in female students – but backlog in STEM enrollment
The survey also found an increase in the number of female students: 47% now compared to 45% in 2021 and 38% two years ago. However, all over the world, female students are lagging behind in STEM enrollments. In the US, despite an increase in STEM enrollments from 35% in 2019 to 42% in 2022, women still lag behind men.
According to the report, enrollments for entry-level courses or ‘gateway’ certificates among women reached 40% in 2021, significantly more than 25% in 2019. Certificates such as Google IT Support and Google Data Analytics provide a clear path to acquire skills needed. are for in-demand entry-level digital jobs. These courses require a total of approximately 240 learning hours, which can be completed in as little as six months with 10 hours per week.
Additional findings from the Coursera report
The US held up in its overall skill ranking, but lost significant ground in core technology and data science skills. In last year’s report, students in the US were ranked 29th in the world: a position they maintain this year. Although proficiency in business skills increased, students in the US lagged behind other high-income countries in a number of key technology and data science skills, including software engineering, cloud computing, and math.
American students in the Northeast, Midwest and along the Pacific had the highest proficiency in business, while those in the South lagged behind. Three Midwestern states—Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana—are the highest ranked in business skills in the US
Idaho showed the highest levels of technology skills in the country, surpassing tech hubs like California and Massachusetts. Students in the state also earned a perfect 100% mobile development skills degree. This reflects a growth trend driven by the number of high-tech companies in the state that has risen 61% over the past decade.
Students in the US are focusing more on people skills amid rapid staff turnover. The disruption of the workforce due to the pandemic and the pace of automation is forcing companies to adapt quickly. Human skills such as resilience, project management, decision-making, planning, storytelling, and experimentation became increasingly popular among American business students as organizations worked to navigate change.
The US lags behind in math skills. Mathematics proficiency among US students has fallen sharply from 56% in 2021 to 40% in 2022, lagging behind countries across Europe, including Germany at 81% and the UK at 78% proficiency. Maine, Washington and New Hampshire had the highest math proficiency in the US, while Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee finished in the bottom three.
Global trends show that learners are acquiring both soft and digital skills
The Coursera report also found that more learners in developed countries are acquiring human skills, including change management and resilience. Learners in developing countries focused more on digital skills through courses such as supply chain systems and mobile architecture.
The most popular business and technology skills in the past year have been leadership and management, probability and statistics, and theoretical computer science. For the second year in a row, Switzerland had the best educated students, followed by Denmark, Indonesia and Belgium.
“The Great Resignation and automation require stronger investment in human capital as institutions must prioritize developing the in-demand digital and human skills needed to build a competitive and equitable workforce,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera, in a statement. “Our data shows that these skills are not evenly distributed, and students and low-paid workers need access to flexible, affordable and rapid pathways to entry-level digital jobs that build a foundation for a stronger and more inclusive economy.”
The Global Skills Report includes data from 100 million learners in more than 100 countries who have used Coursera to develop a new skill in the past year, the company said. The report compares three of the most in-demand skills areas driving employment in the digital economy: business, technology and data science.