Session 4 Papers 17-20

Paper 17

The Global Graduate – languages and employability. Caroline Campbell and Dr Karen Llewellyn (University of Leeds)

Linking closely to “The Global Graduate – languages and employability”, this presentation will share the outcomes of an evaluative research project funded by the Leeds Institute of Teaching Excellence (LITE). Co-led by two staff and three undergraduates, the aim of the project is to explore a) the value of broadening within a student’s degree programme in terms of knowledge, skills and attributes and b) the value of language learning. The project adopted a Developmental Evaluation Approach (Patton 1996, 2008, Saunders 2000, 2012) and uses inductive analysis (Corbin & Strauss 2015, Patton 2015, Silverman 2014) as the research methodology. Based on interviews with students who have taken a language module and interviews with a range of employers to obtain their perspective, the project seeks to map the learning experiences and reflections of students to the perceptions of employers in order to reveal the resonance and/or dissonance in their understanding of the value of broadening and language learning. It identifies the graduate attributes which employers are looking for and highlights where universities can do more, both to support the development of skills and access to opportunities and to enable students to better articulate their skills and experience. It also presents the employer feedback on the value of language skills and intercultural awareness. It will offer recommendations for meeting the aspiration of developing well-rounded global graduates.

Paper 18

Foreign Language Centres: Not just a language provision. Dr Juan Garcia Precedo and Prof Sonia Cunico

Foreign Language Centres have traditionally suffered from low (self) esteem in terms of their value in the HE context. However, in the last decade we have seen a seismic change in the FL landscape: while there has been a dramatic drop in the number of students taking FL A levels, and as a consequence then Modern Languages degrees, FLC recruitment has grown from strength to strength. The study of foreign languages as part of the UG programme has become an invaluable asset in the multilingual working context for a range of students coming from very diverse degree programmes. As a result, far from being a small scale, understaffed and undervalued language provision service, FLCs have started to move central stage and, with the professionalisation of language teaching, to become active advocate and promoter of language learning as part of the HE internationalisation agenda. This presentation will illustrate some initiatives which we have set up at the University of Exeter with the aim to promote language learning, promote student engagement, develop intercultural awareness and employability skills, and also foster a sense of community of linguists which encompasses all learners: The PAL (Peer Assisted Learning Scheme), the Teaching Assistantships, the Tandem Scheme, and the online magazine The Language Express.

Paper 19

Enhancing employability through international work placements: the case of languages students at Sheffield Business School (Sheffield Hallam University). Cristina López Moreno (Sheffield Hallam University)

Sheffield Business School offers joint honors in Languages with International Business, Tourism or TESOL. These courses have an embedded 18-month period of international mobility, which includes a work placement year in a field related to the students’ degree specialism. Through this period of time overseas, our students become fluent in one or two foreign languages; crucially, they also acquire a global employability skill-set.

Numerous reports (CIHE 2008, AGR 2011, British Council 2013 and 2015, British Academy 2016), have highlighted the scarcity of British graduates with sufficient foreign language and intercultural dexterity to work efficiently in an increasingly globalized employment market. Many leading figures in the public and private sector have voiced concerns that the UK’s leading position in the global economy might be compromised as a result. Therefore, the ability to speak languages and especially, the soft-skills acquired through working abroad, have become highly sought-after graduate attributes.

This paper will demonstrate that undertaking an international work placement is one of the most efficient ways to acquire and to evidence global professional attributes. One challenge for students with this global skill-set, however, is to recognize that their profile is unique and has exceptional added value. This paper will argue that it is crucial for academics and student support staff to raise student awareness about their employability potential; helping them articulate their professional attributes in a manner that speaks to employers.

Paper 20

Spanish in the workplace at Exeter: enhancing intercultural competence and employability. Dr José Carlos Tenreiro Prego (University of Exeter)

Implementing employability skills in syllabi has become increasingly important in our learning and teaching strategies over the years. Research shows that there is a growing necessity for HE language Departments to help students recognise their employment-related skillset and to understand how to communicate this to prospective employers (Wyburd, 2017: 11). While there has been an undeniable effort to introduce transferable skills across all disciplines, language teaching has frequently neglected the role that intercultural competence plays in this regard and, particularly, when addressing students’ professional experience abroad.

This presentation aims to shed light on the importance of enhancing students’ employability by developing their intercultural competence to be able to market themselves to prospective employers in a globalised and multicultural professional environment. The module Spanish in the Workplace at Exeter combines the essential employability and transnational competences students need in order to understand how to succeed in the job market. This will be illustrated with examples of activities drawn on a range of transversal and soft skills frequently sought by employers in Spanish-speaking countries, including problem solving, teamwork, conflict management, or decision making, adjusted to the sociocultural framework of those countries.