Author: Tronserve admin
Thursday 29th July 2021 05:59 PM
Are Manufacturers Losing Business Due to Lack of Language Skills?
While the manufacturing industry has been global for a long time, companies have not kept up with language skills. In fact, one in three language-dependent U.S. employers reports a language skills gap.
This language gap is having an effect on companies’ bottom line. A report, “Making Languages Our Business: Addressing Foreign Language Demand Among U.S. Employees,” by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), found that around one in four U.S. employers lost business due to a lack of language skills. “Our report finds that major sectors of the U.S. economy are experiencing increased demand for foreign language-skilled employees but there is a shortage of employees with these skills,” said Howie Berman, executive director of ACTFL.
Berman said that the manufacturing sector is one of the largest sectors needing expansive language skills due to its extended supply chain. Around 75% of the manufacturers surveyed said they will likely need employees with diverse language skills. The need for these skills is both for employees who work in the U.S. and abroad. The survey showed that 47% of employers said they have need language skills to serve the domestic market. In the U.S. 65 million residents speak a language other than English (40% with limited or no English proficiency ). And globally 96% of the world’s consumers and two-thirds of its purchasing power reside outside U.S. borders.
Why do we have a shortage? “The U.S is behind other countries in terms of language skills as we don’t place language education as high as a priority compared to other countries,” Berman said. “So we are not producing employees with these skills." Berman advocates tackling this issue from a policy perspective. “The world has become more interdependent and as a country, from a policy standard, we aren’t doing what we need to be in order to compete on the global stage,” Berman says.
We need to take a closer look at our education system, Berman says. While he is glad to see that certain cities and areas of the country are embracing the languages of the foreign businesses who open factories in the U.S, these skills need to be embedded into the public school system at an early age he says. This would address the current lack of education where less than 20% of students are learning a language in high school and when it comes to college levels it’s at the single digits.
“It's not a privilege to get this education, it should be part of our teaching system,” Berman points outs. This education can’t come soon enough as nine out of ten U.S. employers rely on employees with language skills other than English, according to the survey. And that trend will continue as 56% say their foreign language demand will increase in the next five years.
To solve this issue the report had some specific recommendations:
- Conduct a Language Needs Analysis. Identify linguistic strengths and weaknesses in your organization, and define current and future language needs. This helps create clear goals and measurable outcomes for attaining the necessary language capacity.
- Make foreign languages a strategic focus throughout the recruitment process. Set hiring targets for employees with foreign language skills based on your organizational goals. Prominently communicate interest in employees with multilingual and cross-cultural competencies in all recruiting resources and corporate communications.
- Train talented candidates and employees who lack the required level of language proficiency. Immersive training, private coaching, online programs and blended learning methods are viable options. Consider personalized, sector-specific training. Not all roles require full proficiency. Many require a working knowledge of a language within a specialized domain.
- Identify and cultivate a pipeline of multilingual talent. Partner with colleges and universities with international studies, foreign language and study abroad programs. Articulate industry language needs to help them design relevant programs—including curricula promoting the functional use of languages in law, engineering, healthcare, tourism, social services or other sectors. Offer internships and job opportunities for qualified students and recent graduates with the linguistic and global competencies your organization requires.
The importance of addressing this issue now can't be understated. "The demand for language skills is bigger than it’s ever been and that gap is only to get bigger," Berman says. " In order to make sure that the manufacturing.sector is able to keep up with demand they are going to have to address some real foundation issues when it comes to language education. Otherwise, they will fail to serve the needs of their customers."