Labour market intelligence
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Labour market intelligence. The current job market for graduates with languages and intercultural skills. Research report published. Labour Market Intelligence on Languages and Intercultural Skills in Higher Education Authors: Sean Mulkerne , Anne Marie Graham Published by UCML: June 2011.

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Labour market intelligence

Labour market intelligence

The current job market for graduates with languages and intercultural skills


Research report published

Research report published

Labour Market Intelligence on Languages and Intercultural Skills in Higher Education

Authors: Sean Mulkerne, Anne Marie Graham

Published by UCML: June 2011


Purpose of the research

Purpose of the research

The research aimed to establish

  • The level of demand for various languages

  • The sectors where languages are required

  • Skills that are required in addition to languages and intercultural skills


Research methodology

Research methodology

  • Tracking and analysis of job postings on major employment websites

  • Survey of recruitment agencies

  • Interviews with employers in a variety of sectors


Languages requested

Languages requested

The five languages most in demand from employers are (in order of popularity):

  • French

  • German

  • Spanish

  • Italian

  • Dutch


Languages requested 2

Languages requested (2)

Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, Japanese also popular

The total range of languages requested in less than two months was extensive – over 25 languages

Up to 4% of all vacancies advertised online required skills in another language


Where is the demand

Where is the demand?

The sector most likely to request language skills was Sales & Trading

Other sectors:

  • Finance

  • IT & Technology

  • Administrative

  • Project management


Where is the demand 2

Where is the demand? (2)

The majority of jobs were in London and the South East

Other pockets of activity in major commercial regions of the North West and the Midlands

Many vacancies are available outside of the UK


Language expertise required

Language expertise required

Employers are looking for advanced foreign language skills that can be applied in a business context

Highly competent linguists but not necessarily translators or interpreters


Languages but not in isolation

Languages – but not in isolation

Languages are an important part of the overall skills package – valued alongside:

  • the ability to communicate with colleagues and clients

  • teamworking

  • leadership skills


Added value of languages

Added value of languages

Graduates with language skills were perceived as having relationship management and intercultural awareness

These ‘added value’ skills give graduates with languages the ability to

  • work in a diverse team

  • understand other cultures


Added value of languages 2

Added value of languages (2)

Employers value language skills in graduates because:

They suggest an ability to learn new skills and adapt to new surroundings

They are generally associated with valuable international experience


Economic benefits of languages

Economic benefits of languages

English is not enough

  • 75% of the world’s population do not speak English

  • English accounts for only 29% of language use on the internet


Economic benefits of languages 2

Economic benefits of languages (2)

  • UK only holds a trade surplus with other English speaking countries

  • Where we do not speak the same language, we buy more than we sell

  • Export businesses that proactively use languages achieve on average 45% more sales


Economic benefits of languages 3

Economic benefits of languages (3)

  • Underinvestment in language skills amounts to a 3-7% tax on British exports

    (Prof. J. Foreman-Peck, Cardiff Business School)

  • Current cost estimated at 0.5-1.2% GDP

  • Lack of language skills dissuades businesses from entering new markets (CBI 2010)


Economic benefits of languages 4

Economic benefits of languages (4)

Multinationals and SMEs all need languages – only 27% of employers have no need for languages

(CBI 2011)

Employers are not always explicit about their language needs – they see languages as part of a wider skills package

Graduates with a language and international experience will have ‘an edge’


Labour market intelligence

“Learning a foreign language not only enables people to interact but it also provides an insight and understanding into different customs and cultures. Over half of our trade is with other countries in the European Union, and most of it is in countries where English is not the first language. [Language] learning is vital to the continued success of British business”

Roland Rudd, Chairman, Business for New Europe


Supply of language skills

Supply of language skills

  • Languages are optional in 4 out of 5 maintained schools

  • In the majority (over 60%) of schools, less than 50% of pupils study a language in Key Stage 4

  • In 2009/10, 2.5% of university students were studying a language


Conclusions the skills gap

Conclusions – the skills gap

Demand outstrips supply for language skills

Where employers can’t find language skills in the graduate population, they are forced to recruit from overseas

UK graduates’ competitiveness on the global market is hampered


Conclusions the value of languages in higher education

Conclusions – the value of languages in higher education

The introduction of higher tuition fees in 2012/13 increases the need for value for money from higher education courses

Language study, and the related knowledge, intercultural competence and employability skills it develops, offers a good return on undergraduate investment


Conclusions the value of languages in higher education 2

Conclusions - the value of languages in higher education (2)

“If higher education is expected to produce more international and employable graduates across all disciplines, then the research shows that language and intercultural skills will contribute to the development of this calibre of graduate.”

Labour Market Intelligence on Languages & Intercultural Skills in Higher Education (UCML, 2011)


Conclusions employability

Conclusions - employability

Languages and intercultural skills are still in high demand from a wide range of employers

Active language skills, that can be applied in a real-life context, are particularly valuable

Employers place a high value on a period of study or work abroad


Conclusions which languages

Conclusions – which languages?

The languages most in demand are those of our biggest trading partners in Europe

We are teaching the right languages, but we need to expand the range and number of languages we teach, and the numbers of students acquiring those languages


Labour market intelligence

“Languages continue to be critical to the success of the UK, and we are indeed still learning the right languages. However, the numbers of those learning languages must be increased to ensure the continued demand can be met”

Labour Market Intelligence on Languages & Intercultural Skills in Higher Education (UCML, 2011)


Recommendations research

Recommendations - research

  • Track the job market every two years

  • Extend the analysis of employment websites and continue to compare the percentage of jobs available for graduate linguists

  • 3 month minimum period for research

  • Commission research into trends in particular languages


Recommendations heis

Recommendations - HEIs

  • Work across institutions to integrate languages in employability and internationalisation strategies

  • Encourage graduates to demonstrate the value of languages and related skills on job applications, even if demand for language skills is not made explicit by the recruiter


Recommendations he community

Recommendations – HE community

  • Continue to track HESA data to measure trends in graduates studying language skills

  • Higher education to work with business to further develop key messages about the value of languages and intercultural skills


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