Earlier this year, gradireland published an article in the 2015 gradireland Salary Survey which found that languages was the number one hard skill which recruiters feel is lacking in graduates and an area where an increasing number of jobs are forecast.
Recruiting students and graduates with languages in Ireland has proven difficult for employers. In Irish secondary schools, only 8% of students study two or more languages, compared to over 50% in other EU countries. A report by the Royal Irish Academy this year found that Ireland was one of only two countries in Europe where a foreign language was not compulsory at any stage of the school curriculum. This means that when it comes to finding students in Ireland with languages, employers have a much smaller pool to choose from compared to continental Europe, where language skills are developed from a much younger age.
The benefits of early engagement with potential employers at college is becoming increasingly apparent to capture the attention of the top language students, with more companies making their presence felt on campus early in a student’s college life, and these same companies also view students who get active and stay involved with all aspects of college life and career planning as valuable future employee prospects. A student who is engaged early with their potential employers will obviously be far more likely to be in tune with the employment landscape and where the jobs are being created. So how is this landscape shaping up?
According to Una Halligan, chair of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN); a career with languages is one with a healthy prognosis for the future. She told the Irish Times that English simply isn’t “good enough anymore” and if we want to sell ourselves at international level, students need to take what language skills they have at Leaving Cert level and work to develop them, even if they are not studying them at university. She suggests Erasmus programmes, fitting a language module into your studies or working overseas during the summer, anything that adds a level of immersion to your linguistic abilities.
At gradireland we have been reinforcing the importance of languages over the past 18 months, with our languages fair, videos on the subject and articles on what differences languages have made to a student’s career. For our ‘Your career with languages’ sector guide, we spoke to graduates like Constance O’Brien of Slaney Foods International, who told us; “Initiating business with international clients through their own native language is a common courtesy that can often work to secure profitable and long standing business relationships in the future. If you want to travel for work, which is one of the main aspects I love most about my job, languages are obviously a distinct advantage, but even if you want to stay in Ireland, languages are still a great advantage to your career.”
Speaking on this topic Mark Mitchell, Director of gradireland, said: ‘It’s vital that employers are made aware of the employability benefits of languages as early as possible. This will allow them to explore which sectors have some of the best opportunities for graduates with language skills, and it will also give them the time to gain Erasmus experience, or work experience, overseas and boost their confidence in their language ability.’
The GRADchances Language Fair will return to the RDS, Dublin on 17 February 2016. This event will bring students, graduates and employers together to explore the wide range of career opportunities that are available for multi-linguists. For more information, visit the gradireland website.