The UK is trailing behind its European counterparts in technology skills, despite ambitious goals to establish itself as a science and technology superpower by 2030.

A recent report from online learning platform Coursera reveals that the UK ranks 45th globally for technology and business skills, highlighting a worrying trend as the nation continues to slip in global proficiency rankings.

Despite significant government investment aimed at boosting sectors such as artificial intelligence (AI), the UK’s ranking has deteriorated from 38th in 2022 to 64th in 2023, and now to 45th.

In contrast, European nations like Germany (3rd), France (5th), and Spain (7th) are outperforming the UK, underscoring the competitive gap. Notably, the United States also ranks behind the UK, positioned at 69th place.

AI development remains a key focus, with Coursera’s Global Skills Report indicating a significant increase in enrolments for Generative AI training courses.

While the UK has seen a 961 percent rise in AI upskilling over the past year, this is still below the global average, suggesting room for improvement in the uptake of these critical skills.

Tech skills race & superpower ambitions

The UK government has recently intensified its efforts to achieve its superpower ambitions. In March, a £3.5 billion funding package was announced to support the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. This investment aims to enhance research and development, promote a pro-innovation culture, and ultimately grow the economy and create jobs.

Stuart Aird, Head of People at Encompass Corporation, emphasised the urgency of the situation: “As the global technology arena rapidly evolves, the UK must not only keep pace but lead the way if it is to realise its aim of being recognised as a science and technology superpower.”

Aird further stressed the importance of comprehensive skills development across all levels: “To do this, the nation must increase focus on enabling meaningful skills development and engagement across the board – from people with an interest, to those already delivering game-changing solutions. This is as well as continuing to fully embrace the potential of the best-in-class innovation being showcased and developed every day.”

The role of tech

He highlighted the critical role of technology in daily life and the need for inclusivity in this sector: “Technology is a vital aspect of daily life in so many ways, and it is more important than ever that people, no matter their starting point, feel part of the landscape around them, and able to make technology in its countless facets work for them.”

Aird concluded by underscoring the government’s ambitious vision for the UK: “The Government has a number of ambitions for the UK, including to be a science and technology superpower and to become the ‘next Silicon Valley’. For these to become reality, we need a vibrant, high-impact sector that attracts and nurtures the best talent. By ensuring that those at the forefront are set up to excel, and consistently supported to develop their knowledge and skills, we will see the UK rise up, and the industry – and its people – in the best place to shine in the years to come.”

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.