Wednesday, 20 February 2013

New evidence of the demand for languages in the labour market

With National Careers Week approaching, many organisations are preparing events and activities to promote careers guidance and job opportunities. For those who are preparing a talk or an event related to languages, a newly published report from the British Academy can provide them with fresh evidence of the career benefits of speaking or learning a second language.

Languages: the State of the Nation, published on February 14 2012, outlines the demand for languages in the UK. It also looks at the UK’s current capacity for language skills and highlights some potentially worrying gaps in supply. The report concludes that there is significant evidence that UK is experiencing a ‘growing deficit in foreign language skills’. More specifically, research indicates that there is a considerable demand for languages that cannot be readily accessed in the UK education system. This indicates that the gap between supply and demand is likely to continue, if not widen, in the near future.

The employer research and labour market intelligence that figures in the report shows that there is a need for a wide range of languages at all levels of the workforce and in most sectors. About half of the jobs reviewed for the research requested French, Spanish or German, demonstrating that the languages we teach are by no means as useless as the various media stories about learning Mandarin instead of French would have us believe. Scandinavian languages were also commonly requested. In fact, over 96% of job advertisements reviewed by the research requested skills in a European language. Nevertheless, the range of languages requested by employers in the research indicates that we should add more languages to our educational portfolio and, more importantly, develop and hone the existing language skills of UK schoolchildren.

From a careers perspective, there is some compelling evidence. Labour market intelligence shows that the Finance, IT, Education, Marketing/PR and Media sectors advertised the highest number of roles requiring or preferring language skills. Data taken from National Employers Skills Surveys highlights the percentage of vacancies that remain unfilled due to lack of language skills, including 27% of administrative and clerical roles in 2011. And it’s not just business and the corporate world that require language skills - the report notes that the public sector also advertised for varied language skills.

With the qualitative and quantitative evidence that the State of the Nation report provides, careers guidance professionals, parents and other individuals that influence the decisions of young people at options time and other points throughout their education will be able to offer new and relevant data with regard to languages and language learning. During National Careers Week, if you’re wondering why or how to promote languages?’, why not start with the British Academy’s latest evidence?