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‘Campus Skills’: Coursera Maps the Jobs Students Want and the Skills They Need

Rapid technological adoption worldwide is changing both the nature of jobs and the skills required to do them, the online course provider Coursera notes in its recent “Campus Skills Report” for 2022.

At the same time, youth unemployment is reaching crisis levels around the globe, the report says. Both trends have been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Drawing from data from Coursera’s 3.8 million registered student learners and 3,700 campus customers, the Campus Skills Report assesses the skills proficiency and job-readiness of higher-education students learning on Coursera and seeks to provide insights that policy makers can use to better align higher education and employment.

The report is divided into three sections, measuring the skills proficiencies of students for five emerging jobs globally; taking a closer look at student skill trends in nine countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and outlining skill-to-job pathways for 10 academic disciplines.

New Jobs Will Replace Those Disappearing

Advances in areas like automation and artificial intelligence (AT) are causing shifts in the division of labour among humans, machines, and algorithms, the report notes. It predicts that jobs that involve routine, repetitive work will disappear, while new jobs will emerge.

By 2025, it says, 85 million existing jobs may be lost, yet 97 million new jobs may arise.

Many of these new jobs will center on skills that are uniquely human, the report says. These include cognitive skills, such as decision making and creativity, and social and emotional skills, such as collaboration and project management.

Demand for technology skills, such as software programming, machine learning, and product design, will also increase, the report says.

Five Emerging Jobs in Demand

The five emerging jobs most strongly demanded by Coursera students are data scientist, data analyst, software engineer, machine learning engineer, and marketing specialist. The World Economic Forum agrees that these jobs are among those most in demand globally.

The five emerging jobs most strongly demanded by Coursera students are data scientist, data analyst, software engineer, machine learning engineer, and marketing specialist.

The section of the Coursera report dealing with the job-readiness of students worldwide identifies key skills needed for these jobs. Its findings can guide higher-education leaders to take steps to close curricular gaps between what students learn and what employers need, and improve student employability.

Coursera’s analysis reveals the following insights:

  • While students have made meaningful progress toward obtaining baseline proficiency in job-relevant skills, the majority have yet to meet the target skill proficiencies needed to transition into these jobs.
  • Students who plan to pursue data scientist and data analyst jobs must focus on advancing their data visualisation skills, along with their skills in foundational mathematics, probability, and statistics.
  • While a vast majority of students interested in becoming software engineers are conversant in software engineering, only a small share have the intermediate software engineering skills needed for the role. The gap can be closed through coursework in programming languages, data structures, and operating systems, along with hands-on coding projects.
  • Machine learning, probability, and statistics are the most developed skills among students who aspire to become machine learning engineers—yet, to secure thesejobs, they must improve their facility with computer and statistical programming.
  • Students interested in marketing show strength in communication and data analysis software skills. This pairing aligns with the demands of modern marketing, which blends storytelling and data.

Campus Skills Trends by Country

The section of the report that zeroes in on specific countries pairs findings about students’ skill and course preferences with an analysis of the macro-economic and environmental factors that may shape their choices. Such insights into student needs are crucial first steps in aligning higher education with employment.

The report found that students across all countries are drawn to technology and data skills that they will need to enter a digital industry or found a tech startup company.

Egypt: High Demand for Entrepreneurial Skills

Egyptian students on Coursera gravitate toward technology skills like software architecture, software testing, and software engineering

In Egypt, where 60 percent of the population of 100 million people are under the age of 30, students gravitate toward technology skills like software architecture, software testing, and software engineering that prepare them to join technology companies or launch their own ventures in the country’s growing startup scene. Egypt was home to over 560 startups across sectors such as e-commerce, financial technology, and e-health in 2021.

Coursera’s report cited unemployment as a major issue in Egypt, where more than one in four young people were unemployed in 2019. Moreover, when young people secure a job, it is often precarious.

The report also noted that Egypt’s higher education suffers from underfunding, overcrowding, and outdated courses, even though the government to pledge to modernise curricula, expand technical education, and digitise classrooms as part of its Egypt Vision 2030 development plan.

The report suggests that higher-education leaders can support this momentum toward entrepreneurship by supplementing existing curricula with entrepreneurship skills and hands-on projects that students can apply to real-world use cases.

The report shows that Egypt’s top jobs by student demand are: software engineer, data scientist, and machine learning engineer. Top courses include Software Architecture, Interactive Design, Software Testing, Bioinformatics, and Software Engineering.

While women in Egypt obtain postsecondary degrees at a slightly higher rate than their male peers, the report noted that only 33 percent of the 1.6 million Egyptian students enrolled on Coursera are female, the lowest level of all countries featured in the report.

Saudis Favor Business and Law

With nearly 60 percent of its population under the age of 30, Saudi Arabia is experiencing a youth bulge that is expected to bring 280,000 new entrants to its workforce annually, the report says. This is likely to exacerbate a youth unemployment rate that is already high.

Unemployment in the kingdom currently stands at 42 percent among Saudi nationals, the second-highest rate in the region and one of the highest in the world. In 2019, 58 percent of young Saudi women were unemployed, compared to 17 percent of young men.

More than 600,000 Saudi students enrol in Coursera courses. The jobs most in demand among them are software engineer, data scientist, and college professor.

The report expects that higher education will play a central role to achieve the government’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to shift Saudi Arabia from an oil-based to a knowledge-based economy.

While government spending on higher education is among the highest in the region, many students arrive at university unprepared and need foundation-year courses to fill gaps in their upper-secondary schooling, says the report.

The jobs most in demand among the 600,000 Saudi learners on Coursera are software engineer, data scientist, and college professor.

Guided by their institutions, students in Saudi Arabia are pairing human skills, such as writing and emotional intelligence, with business skills, such as negotiation and strategy: a combination that prepares them for opportunities in the country’s private sector.

Although a Python programming course from the University of Michigan is the most popular course among Saudis, they are most likely to pursue degrees in business, administration, and law.

While the gender gap in Saudi higher education has narrowed, with women’s enrollment rate now exceeding that of men, gender-based divides in employment and income persist. Only 39 percent of students enrolled on Coursera in Saudi Arabia are women. Aided by a series of legal reforms, the female labour-force participation rate has risen markedly since 2018 and now stands at 36 percent.

Campus Skill-to-Job Pathways

The final section of the report maps the connections, or “pathways,” from the top skills that students are learning on Coursera to the top jobs in which they express interest, and vice versa.

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The report provides visual representations of these pathways for 10 academic disciplines: arts and humanities, biological sciences, business, computer science, education, engineering, health sciences, mathematics and statistics, physical sciences, and social sciences.

Insights uncovered in these mappings can help higher-education leaders inform students about potential jobs that align with their studies, and ensure that students have the diverse skills needed to transition into these jobs.

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