TJ interviews: Coursera’s Leah Belsky

TJ talks to Coursera’s Leah Belsky about data science, the future of MOOCs and more.

Reading time: 2m 30s.

According to Coursera’s latest research, the UK is a talent hotspot for data science. What factors do you think played a part in this?

Results from the Global Skills Index reveal that the UK excels in the Data Science domain, ranking #8 in Europe and #9 globally. This advanced performance can likely be attributed to the country’s heavy investment in public education initiatives and workforce development programs.

For instance, the government launched its Data Science Accelerator in 2015, a capability-building program designed to help analysts in the public sector deepen their data science skills.

Regardless of skill performance, working professionals in any country or industry will benefit from paying close attention to skill trends. With 43% of work activities potentially automatable in the UK (McKinsey), it is essential for businesses and governments to keep an eye on emerging skills and tailor their talent strategies accordingly.

How should labour market trends and spikes influence hiring strategies? Would you invest more in your strongest areas or your weakest?

The skill proficiency of your workforce is a valuable indicator of how prepared your business will be in the future of work. It should be closely integrated into not only hiring strategies, but also retraining efforts. All too often, we see companies investing in costly and timely consulting projects to restructure a company’s workforce or hire new talent.

It is essential for businesses and governments, in particular, to continuously keep an eye on emerging skills and tailor their talent strategies accordingly.

Yet training existing employees, as opposed to hiring new ones, can be nearly 70% more cost-effective. Building learning and training programs that address a business’ skills strengths and weaknesses will be key to workforce transformation.  

Focusing on skill strengths and weaknesses is always a valuable investment. The priority, however, should be addressing areas of skill deficiency to achieve a balance of skills. For example, a business will have more difficulty succeeding long-term if it excels only in technology skills but is less skilled in business — acquiring a mix of both skills will be critical to securing competitiveness.

What does the next chapter for MOOCs look like?

Business, Technology, and Data Science will continue to be significant economic drivers, not to mention the most in-demand domains for career skills. We will likely see an increase in specialised content around these domains among MOOC platforms.

Work today is quickly evolving and challenging the skills that once were relevant. Access to high quality, lifelong learning will be essential to remaining competitive.

MOOC credentials are designed to suit the individual needs of learners and help them achieve their educational goals — whether that is learning something new, mastering a skill, becoming job ready, or earning a top quality degree.


About the interviewee

Leah Belsky is VP of enterprise at Coursera.



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