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Jamie Lawrence


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News: students entering job market lack intercultural skills despite employer demand


Intercultural skills are valued as highly by employers as formal qualifications, yet many employers say that education providers do not develop these skills in students before they enter the workforce.

These findings are from new global research published by the British Council in partnership with Ipsos Public Affairs and Booz Allen Hamilton.

The research, which surveyed public, private and non-profit companies across nine countries, found that employers saw business value in employing staff with intercultural skills. Organisations where these skills were lacking were identified as more exposed to risk.

When asked to define ‘intercultural’ skills, employers highlighted an ability to understand cultural contexts and viewpoints, demonstrating respect for others, and knowledge of a foreign language.

Despite the clear demand for these qualities, most employers said that education providers in their country were not doing enough to prepare students for the intercultural workplace. They also admitted to not screening candidates effectively for intercultural competence.

Despite this gap, the research concluded that candidates with a combination of intercultural skills and formal qualifications would go into job interviews with an advantage.

Dr Jo Beall, British Council Director of Education and Society, commented on the findings: “This research demonstrates a real gap in the education provision across key global economies and the risks an intercultural skills deficit poses to businesses – but equally the great opportunities for education providers and the benefits that job seekers and multinational organisations can gain if we’re able to address this issue. The British Council is developing a capability building programme for intercultural credits to help provide quality accreditation in this market because clearly there are great commercial and reputational benefits to be had for employers if they can have a workforce qualified to operate in a global market.”

Clifford Young, Managing Director of Ipsos Public Affairs’ Public Sector Research and Political Polling in the US, said: “In an increasingly globalized world, the market is demanding more than hard skills. The three Rs – reading, writing, and arithmetic – are just the necessary condition to enter into the workforce. Now employees need to know how to work in teams, communicate, and most importantly as the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, they need to have the skills to negotiate different social and cultural environments. Our research shows a clear demand for these skills amongst employers globally.”

The research is available to view online.

Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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