The massive hike in tuition fees has put British universities under more pressure to add value to the education they provide by enhancing the employment prospects of their students. Learning a second language is a sure fire way to get ahead in the competitive employment market. Most universities have a language centre packed with resources, making this the perfect opportunity to enhance your second language capabilities.
Last year there were 39 applicants for every graduate job. This year top graduate vacancies are at a premium, and with 2:1 degrees being handed out like they’re going out of fashion, it’s hardly surprising so many graduates are throwing themselves into a world of voluntary work and internships to make their application stand out.
But given the current language skills gap, which is causing UK business to miss out on billions of pounds worth of international trade, learning an international language could be the best way to make your graduate job hunt easier and more successful.
What can universities do?
There are plenty of undergraduates studying language courses at university, but these are not the only type of language learners British businesses are interested in. Most in demand are bilingual speakers with core skills in marketing, economics or finance who can also speak a second language on the side.
The trouble is that only 38 percent of Brits speak a foreign language, compared to 56 percent of Europeans. This current dearth of polyglots provides a real opportunity for undergraduates who are willing to go the extra mile and brush up on their language skills in their spare time.
There has also been an increase in the number of universities that are willing to offer optional foreign language modules as part of their main degree. Given the flexible schedules many students enjoy and the abundance of free time, this could be a great way for ambitious students to get a head start on their rivals.
It’s not all about fluency
It’s a common misconception that only fluent foreign language speakers are in demand from UK businesses, but that is not always the case. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has found that 74 percent of employers are looking for applicants with conversational ability rather than fluency.
The truth is that you do not need to be word perfect to give yourself a distinct advantage in the competitive graduate recruitment market. Many employers believe conversational skills can still help to “break the ice, deepen cultural understanding, and open business access to new markets.”
Increasingly, multinational companies are seeing language skills as an added extra when considering applications, with many awarding bonus points to applicants with foreign language skills to their name.
Of course, learning a new language at degree level is hard work, particularly alongside your existing commitments. There are no shortcuts when learning a new language – you get out exactly what you put in, so if you don’t do the drills or put in the practice you simply won’t progress.
However, stick with it and the dedication is likely to impress prospective employers. Employers recognise it takes a lot of discipline to learn a new language, which is a highly valued quality in the workplace.
How can we help?
If you’re a graduate or a prospective employee looking for a second language job on the South Coast, we can help. We work with some of the best employers in the area to bring you exclusive, rewarding and well-paid bilingual jobs. Take a look at our latest multilingual vacancies today and upload your CV.