Nearly two-thirds of businesses in the UK want to recruit staff with foreign language skills. French is still the most highly prized language, but Spanish and Mandarin speakers are more in demand than in the past.
Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general, said that, given the EU was the UK’s largest export market, it was no surprise to see European languages so highly valued.
“But with China and Latin America seeing solid growth, ambitious firms want the language skills that can smooth the path into new markets,” she said.
The 2014 annual education and skills survey by the CBI and Pearson, the educational publisher that owns the Financial Times, found that 41 per cent of the 291 companies surveyed across the UK believed knowledge of a foreign language was beneficial to their business. European languages – French, German and Spanish – still topped the list in terms of desirability, but these were closely followed by Mandarin and Arabic.
Ms Hall said it was unclear whether recent government initiatives to encourage language learning in schools would have any impact.
“It has been a worry to see foreign language study in our schools under pressure with one in five schools having a persistently low take-up of languages,” she said.
“Young people considering their future subject choices should be made more aware of the benefits to their careers that can come from studying a foreign language.”
The number of students studying foreign languages has slumped in the past decade.
In January, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills said the number of “skills shortage vacancies” – where businesses cannot find recruits with the right qualifications and experience – had risen from 16 per cent of all vacancies in 2009 to 22 per cent in 2013.
Two years ago, a quarter of businesses surveyed by the CBI said that having staff who spoke Mandarin was useful for them. In 2014 this had risen to 31 per cent.
The sharpest increase in demand was for Portuguese, spoken in World Cup host Brazil, with 11 per cent of businesses rating the language as useful, a near-doubling from 2012. Over a third of the businesses surveyed, however, said they had no need for foreign language skills.
“English is the international language of business, but as a global company we understand that a company with employees who can communicate with some proficiency in the language of clients, customers and suppliers, has a big advantage in the fast-growing markets across the globe,” said Mark Anderson, managing director of Pearson UK.
The full results of the survey will be released next month.
今年1月，英国就业与技能委员会(Commission for Employment and Skills)表示，“技能短缺导致的职位空缺”占所有职位空缺的比例，从2009年的16%升至2013年的22%。“技能短缺导致的职位空缺”是指企业无法找到拥有合适资历和经验的应聘者。
培生英国(Pearson UK)董事总经理马克?安德森(Mark Anderson)表示：“英语是国际商业语言，但作为一家全球公司，我们明白，如果一家公司的员工能用客户、顾客和供应商讲的语言与对方较为熟练的交流，那它就会在全球快速增长的市场上拥有巨大的优势。”