Future employees need international skills to secure work

UK students who study abroad are 9 per cent more likely to gain a 1st or 2:1 degree, as employers urge students to secure international skills.

Responses retrieved from more than 300 organisations in a CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey (2017) reveals employers drawn from all sectors of the economy are unsatisfied with graduate applicants’ lack of international skills.

Some of the main frustrations encountered by employers include:

  1. Relevant work experience – 31 per cent
  2.  Attitudes and behaviours – 32 per cent
  3. International, cultural awareness – 39 per cent
  4.  Business and customer awareness – 40 per cent
  5. Foreign language skills – 47 per cent

Teachingabroaddirect.co.uk decided to delve deeper, to better understand the views and experiences of international exposure for graduates.

To achieve this, Teaching Abroad Direct observed a survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU.) After analysing the data, Teaching Abroad Direct found there are large discrepancies between countries, in terms of international exposure. Suggesting the availability of these opportunities is reliant on the place of study.

For example, while 87 per cent of German and 81 per cent of American graduates say they had opportunities to study abroad, just 48 per cent of Chinese respondents say that similar options were open to them. In the UK, this figure is 62 per cent – considerably lower than Germany and America, but higher than in China.

Andrew Lynch, a spokesperson for Teaching Abroad, adds, ‘In a time of stark global growth, British students cannot afford to be complacent and reliant on the skills that come naturally to them. To thrive, they should seek to challenge themselves. There is no richer way to do this than to embark on studying or working abroad. A placement will provide you with an opportunity to thrive, boost employability, improve language skills and extend expertise in your chosen field.

‘If you take teaching abroad as an example, aspiring teachers can improve their understanding and empathy working with different cultures. This will deliver vital experience to a career where you never know who you will have to teach from one day to the next!’

Teachingabroaddirect.co.uk found that 70 per cent of companies believe future employees will need foreign language skills and international experience to succeed. Particularly as it has been found UK students who study abroad are 9 per cent more likely to gain a 1st or 2:1 degree at university and 24 per cent less likely to be unemployed.

Pleasingly, most graduates feel well prepared to join an increasingly volatile global workforce and many have chosen to take advantage of the international experiences available to them. Seventy-five per cent of graduates agree opportunities to gain international experience had been available to them while studying.

Most (69 per cent) were offered the chance to study overseas, while 62 per cent had access to foreign language courses and 55 per cent to international cultural exchanges.

Abby Chinery, 26, says, ‘I studied a French BA at university, and as a part of my degree I had a compulsory year abroad. Initially, I was hesitant about leaving all the friends I had made at university and moving to Paris, but I benefitted from my time abroad. It forced me to face anxieties I had, come out of my shell and most importantly – I learnt how to speak French fluently!

‘After finishing my degree, I ended up moving back there for a few years. Speaking two languages has helped me experience another culture as a native, and has improved my career skillset, elevating my approach to the work I do today.’

Andreea Putinelu, 22, says, ‘I’ve always wanted to study abroad. My dad is a sailor and he would always tell me about the beautiful places he would visit; emphasising the importance of seeing the world. So, when time came for me to choose where I would like to study I didn’t have to think twice. The first day I stepped down in London, I was shocked about the cultural difference and how diverse the city is.

‘It was my first time flying abroad and I didn’t know what to expect. Three years later and I’m a proud PR & Advertising alumnus, working in the city I now call home. I don’t know if I would have progressed as far as I have, if I had just stayed at home in Romania.’

Further reading on international skills

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the Smallbusiness.co.uk and Growthbusiness.co.uk titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the Express.co.uk.

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