Coursera’s 2023 Global Skills Report

Coursera recently announced the publication of its fifth annual global skills report. The report draws on data from Coursera’s 120 million plus global learners. It’s not a surprise that Coursera’s CEO, Jeff Maggioncalda, wrote that “digital transformation, automation, and globalization are reshaping the labor market and creating an unprecedented need for reskilling and upskilling.” Mr. Maggioncalda cited the recently published World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report prediction that over 60 percent of workers will need retraining between now and 2027. If prediction comes true, the unanswered question is who will provide most of the reskilling – colleges, employers, or alternative sources?

The report focuses on three of the most popular job-relevant skill domains: business, technology, and data science. Using data from its 124 million learners, the Coursera report illustrates regional and nation trends around talent skills and opportunities. The report is designed to answer three questions:

  1. How proficient is your workforce in critical job skills?
  2. What skills are popular among learners in your country or region?
  3. How much of your workforce is preparing for in-demand, digital roles?

The report has seven key findings. These findings are:

  1. Economic growth is tied to skill proficiency.
    1. 85% of learners enroll in courses on Coursera to land their first professional role, switch careers, or advance in their current role.
  2. Internet access is tied to economic opportunity.
    1. By investing in broadband, governments can unlock new remote job opportunities for locals without them ever having to leave home.
  3. Learners in high income countries are more likely to invest in learning human skills.
    1. Digital skills hold the promise of higher income and greater career opportunities.
    2. Human skills like analytical judgement, flexibility, and emotional intelligence are essential for employees in an AI-powered future.
  4. Learners with postgraduate education are more likely to invest in AI-related skills.
    1. Almost everyone will need some level of AI proficiency in the future.
    2. Up to 49% of workers could have half or more of their tasks impacted by large language models like those that power ChatGPT.
  5. Many countries are closing the gender gap in online learning.
    1. Leaders should invest in free online STEM education programs for women and girls and offer vital support services like broadband access, local mentorship, and job placement.
  6. Learners around the world are preparing for digital roles with Professional Certificates.
    1. Institutions must help displaced workers transition into new careers by focusing on skills-based hiring and learning.
  7. Skilled talent can be found around the world.
    1. Europe leads the global skills rankings with eight of the top ten countries. The remaining two are Indonesia and Japan.

Coursera has assembled a skills taxonomy of more than 4,000 skills in the target areas of business, technology, and data science through open sources and crowdsourcing from educators. The taxonomy was structured by connecting Coursera domains to the skill sets within them.

There are three levels of skills.

  • Level 1 – Also known as domains, these skills constitute the largest levels of granularity. Skills found in the three target domains of business, technology, and data science are among the most popular and reflect the skills that employers need.
  • Level 2 – Also known as competencies, Level 2 are the next layer of granularity following domains. Coursera focused on measuring learner skill proficiency at the competency level.
  • Level 1 – These are the most granular skills in the taxonomy and ladder directly up to Level 2 skills. 

The illustration below is a snapshot of Coursera’s Skills Taxonomy.

Even though Coursera was founded in the U.S., the U.S. is graded 78th in the world in terms of skills even though it has the largest number of learners in the world. U.S. learners express the world’s highest overall demand for Professional Certificates, which 86% of U.S. employers believe strengthens a candidate’s job application.

Learner performance levels vary significantly between states, lowering the nation’s overall score. See individual classification rankings in the chart below.

The report ranks skill proficiencies by U.S. state. In the chart below, Illinois is ranked #1 and Louisiana is ranked last.

There’s an excellent glossary included in the report. Obviously, the glossary provides a welcome assist to parents as well as to the students surveyed. There are also exhibits with details of rankings by state and by domain.

In surveys like this with large numbers of test subjects (124 million), the data may not be specifically accurate but is generally relatively accurate since the survey methodology is the same. There is no excuse for the U.S.’s relatively high scoring and relatively low rankings in these domains. My guess is that the U.S.’s enrollment of a large economically diverse group of college freshmen is vastly different than many other countries. Including everyone of college age in the Coursera survey can make a difference depending on the enrollments and completions in college degree programs. Citizens of countries with lower college enrollments may seek the more affordable Coursera certificates as a means to get ahead.

If there is a rainbow at the end of this report, it’s that the U.S. may be able to increase the number of students enrolled in college and the percentage who complete college. If the reason that the U.S.’s Coursera skills numbers are lower than other countries is because of the large percentage of U.S. high school graduates who continue to college, that’s probably acceptable. If that’s not the reason, perhaps the states that are weighting down Coursera’s overall skills assessment should work to provide more skills training to their residents. In a future where AI will influence job creation and elimination, reskilling and upskilling will be vital to economic prosperity.


Subjects of Interest


Higher Education

Independent Schools


Student Persistence