How DBAs can help fill the global skills gap

How DBAs can help fill the global skills gap blog header
How DBAs can help fill the global skills gap blog header

How DBAs can help fill the global skills gap

Business leaders throughout the world are searching for professionals with the right skills for their industry. QS published the 2019 Global Skills Gap Report to identify what skills are viewed as important by employers and employees. The organisation surveyed 14,000 employers and job applicants across 144 locations to identify skill deficits by country and industry. 

QS determined that problem-solving, resilience, and communication represented the three largest gaps between applicant skills and employer expectations. A bachelor’s or masters degree in business moves a professional toward meeting employer expectations. The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) is a terminal degree in the field that combines academic research with real-world solutions. 

Aston University’s executive DBA is a 100% online programme designed for students who want to tackle the global skills gap. This doctoral degree uses modules on management, professional development, and research to sharpen problem-solving and communication skills. A rigorous curriculum tests the resiliency of DBA candidates balancing work with school. Graduates of a DBA programme are trained in skills valued by employers from Australia to the United Kingdom. 

What are the most important skills?

Problem-solving, resilience, and communication remained the skills most valued by employers around the world from 2018 to 2019. On a 100-point scale, QS identified the following gaps between employer value and satisfaction with employee competency: 

  • Problem-solving: 32
  • Resilience: 24
  • Communication: 24
  • Creativity: 23
  • Data skills: 23

These figures show significant chasms between the skills a company needs to succeed and the skills employees bring to the workplace. Geographical limitations and the challenges of migrating to places where skills are in high demand may contribute to these gaps. A 2016 paper from The World Bank determined that 70% of migrants with in-demand skills moved to Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The remaining high-skilled migrants divided among dozens of other countries, stressing employers in their search for new talent from dwindling cohorts. 

From the employee’s point of view, there may be an assumption that a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is sufficient for corporate careers. The MBA has taken the place of the bachelor’s degree as a minimum expectation in corporate leadership circles. A Doctor of Business Administration is an academic credential with a growing reputation that stands out on a resume. DBAs develop the skills, connections, and comfort with business principles to impart their wisdom to less-experienced colleagues. In this sense, a DBA can act as a promoter of the skills cherished by employers. 

Where do employers see growth opportunities? 

Employers interviewed by QS identified skills that received the lowest satisfaction scores among 15 skill types. The report concluded that companies were least satisfied with negotiation, leadership, and commercial awareness skills held by job applicants. QS noted that all three scores barely rose among 50% satisfaction among global employers. Business professionals should see these areas in need of improvement as opportunities to thrive. 

Doctoral programs like the Executive DBA from Aston University help graduates take advantage of these opportunities. DBA students are encouraged to pursue advanced research that impacts the workplace. These projects can explore the impact of technology on negotiation techniques or modern methods for finding commercial opportunities. Doctoral researchers can also analyse data on executive demographics or results of corporate initiatives to understand leadership trends. These opportunities connect the work done by DBA candidates with talent shortfalls that can turn competitive businesses into also-rans. 

How are skills valued in different countries?

The 2019 Global Skills Gap Report does not assume its conclusions are monolithic. In fact, the study offers an interesting glimpse into the biggest skill shortages in seven countries. The following countries are listed with the three largest gaps between employee skills and employer expectations: 

  • Australia: Resilience, Communication, Problem Solving
  • Brazil: Problem Solving, Leadership, Communication
  • Egypt: Problem Solving, Leadership, Creativity
  • Japan: Problem Solving, Leadership, Creativity
  • Russia: Problem Solving, Depth of Knowledge, Data Skills
  • United Kingdom: Resilience, Flexibility/Adaptability, Problem Solving
  • United States: Communication, Flexibility/Adaptability, Problem Solving

It is clear that problem-solving skills are a common thread among all of the targeted countries. Employers from these countries identified eight skills among their three largest skills gaps. Aside from concerns about data skills in Russia, the talents listed fall into the “soft” or interpersonal skills category. Universities with DBA programmes are ideal training grounds for these skills because they attract experienced professionals interested in academic refinement. 


No matter the country, a DBA provides an important edge in the search for career opportunities. In 2019, DBA Compass published a survey of universities that offered this advanced degree. Eighty percent of programme administrators indicated increased demand around the world, including significant demand in Asia and Europe. This demand is not because the DBA is a hobby for experienced business professionals; rather, it is becoming a key to career growth. 

Which is better: DBA or Ph.D.? 

The Ph.D. has been considered a terminal degree in academic disciplines for centuries. Higher education for business professionals, however, does not have as long a tradition as degrees in the liberal arts and sciences. The first MBA programme in world history was started by Harvard University in 1908. In a little over a century, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has 883 member colleges with Ph.D. programmes around the world. 

The DBA was created much further along in the history of advanced business education as an alternative to the Ph.D. A Ph.D. in business is typically used as a starting point for a career in academia. The typical Doctor of Business Administration degree uses assessment tools like research projects and qualifying exams to evaluate doctoral candidates. Unlike the Ph.D., however, DBA graduates from Aston University and other institutions are trained to use their academic research to improve 

The AACSB counts 54 DBA programmes among its membership including Aston University. A 2016 study of 6,159 faculty members at AACSB found more than 40% held DBAs rather than Ph.D.s as their terminal degree. These statistics show the increasing acceptance of the Doctor of Business Administration as an academic credential. The agility and practical focus of DBAs make it an invaluable tool in narrowing the global skills gap. 


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