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Coursera Summit MENA 2022: accessibility is key to bridging the skills gap

Dubai, UAE – 25October 2022: Coursera, a global online learning platform, recently hosted the first edition of its annual summit in MENA, which took place in Dubai under the theme “The Future of Learning and Work”.

Aligned with its endeavor to support the region in its talent transformation journey, the event brought together leaders from higher education, business, and government to discuss and debate on the future of learning and work in MENA.

With the acceleration of digitalization and the rapidly changing global work realm, the need for skill development at scale has never been more pressing; fortunately, it has also never been more achievable. Recent LinkedIn data shows that the skill sets for jobs have changed by around 25% since 2015 – and by 2027 that number is expected to double.

The Coursera Summit MENA 2022 provided a unique platform for industry and education frontrunners, as well as government entities, to collaborate and address the urgent requirement for skill development, unlocking opportunities for the region’s next generation of talent.

Further elaborating on the major tenets defining the skill dynamics, the summit emphasized the necessity to make education more accessible and affordable, and showcased why institutions, governments, and industries need to adopt micro-credentials, especially in light of the new economic and workforce imperatives for the future.

“An important strategy to serve the learners is to start with them. Today, talent in the region is predominantly looking at career advancement and credit as key goals of education. As a result, more career-relevant learning avenues must be developed and made accessible to learners,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera in a fireside chat moderated by Safia Tmiri, Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company. “Increased collaboration among institutions, governments, and industries can support the upskilling and reskilling of the entire population of students, workers, and employees for the new economy at unprecedented scale and speed, and Coursera aspires to be an enabler of this as part of it,” he added.

Maggioncalda emphasized that, in response to the growing demand from learners for fast-tracked pathways to well-paying jobs, institutions must incorporate cutting-edge job-relevant content into their curriculum, and governments must accredit online learning alongside traditional models.

The panel discussion that witnessed participation by Ajman University, Masafi, and McKinsey & Company, also shed light on facets that continue to shape the present state of education in the region and beyond, including the importance of institutions prioritizing student employability, inclusivity in learning, succession planning in organizations through upskilling, and the critical role of online learning in facilitating the same.

Stephen Hall, Partner at McKinsey & Company, said, “The demand for skills is only going to accelerate in the future and, to keep up, all of us engaged in education need to find ways to address this. There needs to be continued and stronger engagement between the education sector and employers. What makes us more optimistic is the innovative ways that we see educational institutions respond. It is a global issue – not unique to the Middle East – but for us here in the region, if we can get industries and education institutions to think in the same direction, we will be able to better meet the challenges facing the region’s talent force today.”

The Coursera Summit MENA 2022 represented yet another milestone in the company’s efforts to strengthen its position in the region, not only through strategic partnerships and innovative product offerings, but also through pioneering thinking and helming greater cross-sector collaboration.

As of June 2022, Coursera supports the skills development of more than 6.2 million learners across the Middle East and North Africa. This total includes over 320K new registered Courser learners across the region in Q2 of 2022.

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