Anthony Tattersall is vice president of the EMEA sales team at Coursera. His role gives him unique insights on how businesses, governments, and higher education can work together to build our future workforce and how data can be used to support this effort. The Emerge Education team interviewed Tattersall for a joint report with Coursera on “Developing Skills and Evaluating Pathways Into Jobs: A Vision for 2030.” Here is what Tattersall had to say:
What trends are you seeing around skills from your users?
The core things that drive an organization’s capabilities are the skills people have and their ability to exploit technology. Where businesses are really switched on to this, they’re focused on understanding skill requirements for roles right now and in the immediate future, and finding the best way to address that gap. The challenges are how to make learning happen within their flow of work, and how to use reskilling to create roles internally where hiring is not easy, such as tech, data science, cybersecurity, and so on.
In our work with governments, we see lots of countries struggling with graduate unemployment, partly related to the pandemic and partly because businesses want to hire people who already have the skills they need. There are many countries with large numbers of people based in industries at high risk of being automated out, and these are often lower-paid jobs — if those individuals aren’t given access to learning opportunities to develop new skill sets, there simply won’t be enough jobs to serve those people.
For universities, it’s not just about getting someone that first job after graduating, it’s also about all the moments of career transition that people will experience over their lifetimes. Most people entering the workforce now will go through four or five major career shifts involving significant upskilling, and universities have an increasingly important role to play. But they are also experiencing challenges — there is a big focus on employability outcomes, and workplace skills are a fast-moving target, so learning content ages quickly. And how do you work with a higher expectation of blended learning programs?
What is Coursera’s approach to skills development?
At our core we’re a skills transformation platform, so we’re trying to enable people to learn anywhere in the world, at a time of their choosing, with access to the very best content from major universities and industry partners. The goal is to use applied learning to improve skills, whether upskilling (improving current skills in your area of expertise), reskilling (getting you into a completely new area of expertise), or deep skilling (to really develop a level of mastery).
The second thing we do is work with organizations to define the skill sets required for each role, and at what level of capability. Then we can take individuals, look at where they are, and help them understand their skills gaps so they can develop. All of our content is assessed, in some cases multiple times as you’re progressing through it, so individuals can see how well they’re progressing towards those skills goals and so organizations can build a landscape of their skills, at specific levels of mastery.
How does Coursera use data to improve outcomes for learners and organizations?
We have 87 million learners on the platform globally, across all age ranges, personalities, demographics; some people in work, some people out of work, and so on. The size of that dataset makes it very robust. We can see what skills people are working on and what jobs they’re doing to understand the underlying skill sets for those roles, and we can also see what their career trajectory is over time, so we understand how those skill sets lead to role changes. Feedback loops ensure all those data aggregation insights resonate with individuals actually taking our courses, who can reflect on the skills they think they are learning.
All this has helped us build a detailed skills taxonomy, with tens of thousands of skills, which we can correlate with third-party data sources, such as the World Economic Forum, to map at a very granular level what we think future skills requirements will be.
We also have a team of skills transformation consultants who work with businesses, governments, and institutions to build programs specific to their goals. Around 10% of the organizations we work with are big enough to invest in this, so if they already know exactly what they want to achieve, we can map our catalog to those specific skills development needs. But the vast majority recognize that the world of skills is rapidly changing and they don’t have a clear view of exactly what needs to be done over the next 2-3 years, on a per role basis, so they come to us for that guidance.
What should skills development look like in 2030 to create alternative pathways into jobs?
Someone once said to me that we overestimate the level of change we’ll see in 5 years and underestimate the change we’ll see in 10. Ten years is long enough for something no one saw coming to totally disrupt the marketplace. Education is one of the last bastions that hasn’t been disrupted and while the pandemic has accelerated change, I still think we’re at the very, very early stages.
I would love to see the education system become a lifelong learning partner, rather than a discrete point in time at the earliest stage of your career. That will involve more partnerships between governments, businesses, and education organizations — and I think the focus for universities then becomes more about accrediting programs, contextualizing to local needs, and curating a range of content that creates opportunities for people to develop skills they need. I hope we’ll see more democratization of access and ways to evaluate people’s capabilities beyond a degree: more professional certifications, more corporate universities, and more professional organizations offering alternative learning paths.
And I hope that by 2030 it’s a normal expectation that whatever your job, a percentage of your time is dedicated to learning, so managers are empowered to support it and all company processes are wrapped around that.
For more insights on how to prepare 375 million skilled workers by 2030, read the full report “Developing Skills and Evaluating Pathways Into Jobs: A Vision for 2030” from Emerge Education and Coursera. Find out how Coursera powers high-impact skill development and talk to a learning expert today about the best digital learning solution for your business.