Career Options

Young people could improve their employability and open up opportunities at home and abroad by learning a language at GCSE level.

There are serious mismatches between the expectations of young people and employers about what makes school leavers and graduates more employable. In a recent poll of Britain’s bosses languages came second only to IT in a list of desirable skills for potential candidates . Over four in ten employers say speaking a second language gives a candidate the ‘X-factor’ when applying for a job.

While the research found that French (34 per cent), German (25 per cent) and Spanish (23 per cent) were still the languages considered most useful by employers, it also showed a growing demand for UK community languages – such as Polish, Urdu and Punjabi.

In fact even if language skills are not a direct requirement for the company experts say languages set candidates apart from the competition and boost their overall chances of getting the job.

Cheryl Morgan, Career Counsellor at Jobsite.co.uk, one of the UK’s leading online recruiters, agrees: “Making your CV stand out is absolutely crucial in today’s tough job market. Languages can open fantastic opportunities and moreover are becoming increasingly important to UK business.

“Having language skills can also give jobseekers an advantage over other candidates trying out for a position and in the current climate giving yourself the edge is especially important – whether that’s through your language skills, work experience or volunteering, for example.”

Not long ago it was automatically assumed that anyone studying languages was destined to be a teacher, an interpreter, or a translator and had no other career options. Obviously there is still a need for people in those professions but there is also an ever growing need for young people who possess skills in languages in many other careers. For example, the UK’s tourist industry is a huge market, which hosts thousands of visitors every year and it is desperate for young Brits who can speak the languages of their guests.

Moreover, increased globalisation has meant that the UK sees higher levels of international business. There is also a growing demand for both business and diplomatic relations to be conducted in the language of the host country – whether that’s France or China.

Plus languages aren’t just about trying to reach fluency. Having basic language skills are equally useful and probably one of the most beneficial skills a young person can develop. Whether to open doors or clinch a deal, according to CBI research, 75 per cent of firms want employees to have conversational ability in a second language .

Even if you don’t use your languages frequently or if you don’t want to work abroad, just being a capable linguist shows an employer that you’re a strong communicator and will help you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants who are limited to English. Wherever your child wants to work and whatever they want to do, knowledge of languages is vital in a global economy.