UK lagging behind EU in tech skills race despite superpower focus

The UK trails behind European counterparts when it comes to technology skills – despite lofty science and technology superpower aims.

While a Government push towards cementing its place as a science and technology powerhouse by 2030 has brought multi-million-pound cash injections into areas including AI, a new report from online learning platform Coursera places the UK 45th globally for technology and business skills.

The rankings indicate a concerning trend, with the UK continuing to fall behind in the global race for proficiency in these areas critical to success, having been ranked 38th in 2022 and 64th in 2023 respectively.

This year, it continues to be outperformed by countries including Germany (3rd), France (5th), and Spain (7th). Meanwhile, the United States also lags behind, sitting in 69th place.

One area that is undoubtedly top of the agenda is AI development and acceleration, with Global Skills Report findings revealing exponential growth in the number of enrolments to Generative AI training courses as the competition to be a key player in this evolving space heats up. While the UK has seen a 961% increase in AI upskilling in the past year, it has still experienced a lower uptake than the global average.

In recent months, the Government has stepped up its commitment to its much talked about superpower ambitions. March saw the unveiling of a £3.5 billion funding package to support the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology in delivering on priorities such as expanding backing for research and development and championing a pro-innovation culture to grow the economy, create jobs and promote stronger frameworks.

Stuart Aird, Head of People, Encompass Corporation, commented: "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.

"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.

"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.

"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."