The UK’s top employers are urging young people to improve their employability prospects by adding a language to their CV.
Nearly 300 firms, including Boots, Arsenal FC, HSBC, IBM and British Airways, have signed up to the Try Life in Another Language campaign, launched by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the National Centre for Languages.
It follows a poll of 500 employers, commissioned by Centre, which found that languages came second only to IT in a list of desirable skills for job candidates. One in four (43%) recruiters say speaking a second language gives a candidate the x-factor when applying for a job.
Meanwhile, the mean salary of language graduates three years after finishing university is ahead of that of graduates of engineering, maths, physics and astronomy, and chemistry, the research showed.
And while French (34%), German (25%) and Spanish (23%) are still the languages considered the most useful by employers, the study reveals an emerging demand for UK community languages such as Polish (15%), Urdu (12%) and Punjabi (9%).
Languages became non-compulsory for secondary school pupils in 2004. The government is now proposing to make it compulsory for primary school children.
Dr Lid King, the government’s national director for languages, said: “This research shows that UK employers are demanding candidates with languages, and that having these skills can really give young people entering the jobs market the edge. Languages are vital for the success of the UK economy but for young people themselves they can also have tangible benefits, as just having a language on your CV could be the key to getting your foot in the door.”
Cheryl Morgan, career counsellor at online recruiter Jobsite.co.uk, said: “Having language skills can 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 work, for example.”