English for employability: What will jobs be like in the future

Pearson Languages
People sat in chairs doing various things like working on a laptop; sat in one of those seats is a cartoon robot

What do driverless car engineers, telemedicine physicians and podcast producers have in common? About 10 years ago none of these positions existed. They are representative of a new technology-driven marketplace, which is evolving faster than employers, governments and education institutions can keep up.

As new jobs appear, others fall by the wayside. Today, it’s estimated that up to 50% of occupations could be automated with currently available technology. Routine jobs like data entry specialists, proofreaders, and even market research analysts are especially at risk of becoming redundant within the next 5 to 10 years. Globally, that means between 400 and 800 million workers could be displaced by automation technology by 2030, according to McKinsey.

Moreover, 65% of today’s young people will need to work in areas that do not exist in the current market. The question is, what can we do to prepare learners for a future when we have no idea what jobs they’ll be doing? Mike Mayor and Tim Goodier discuss this uncertain future and explain why English for employability is such a hot topic right now.

A rising level of English and employer expectations

Mike Mayor, Director of the Global Scale of English at Pearson, explains that while he believes employability has always been a factor in English language education, it has become more important and more of a focus for students looking to enter the workforce.

“Expectations of employers have risen as proficiency in English language, in general, has risen around the world,” he says. “They’re now looking for more precise skills.”

Tim Goodier, Head of Academic Development at Eurocentres, agrees. He explains that English language education is primarily about improving communication and soft skills – which is key for the jobs of 2030 and beyond.

“There’s a convergence of skills training for the workplace and language skills training,” Tim says. “The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) has recognized and, in many ways, given a roadmap for looking into how to develop soft skills and skills for employability by fleshing out its existing scheme – especially to look at things like mediation skills.”

How the Global Scale of English and CEFR have surfaced employability skills

The Global Scale of English (GSE) is recognizing this increasing prominence of English for employability. Mike explains that it’s doing this “by taking the common European framework and extending it out into language descriptors which are specific for the workplace.”

In developing a set of learning objectives for professional learners, Mike and his team have given teachers more can-do statements. “They are able to create curricula and lessons around specific business skills,” he says.

Tim comments that one of the most interesting things about the GSE is that it links can-do statements to key professions, which he explains “is another extension of what these can-do statements can be used for – and viewing competencies as unlocking opportunity.”

Showing how these skills and competencies relate to the real world of work can be a strong motivating factor for learners.

He says that teachers need to visualize what success will look like in communication “and then from there develop activities in the classroom that are authentic.” At the same time, he says that activities should be personalized by “using the learners’ own interests and adapting the course as much as possible to their future goals.”

Preparing students for the future workplace

Speaking on the role of publishing in English for employability, Mike says:

“I would say as course book creators we actually incorporate a lot of these skills into our materials, but… I think we could do to push it a little further.”

In Mike’s view, educators need to do more than teach the skills, they need to raise awareness of their context. In other words why these skills are important and how they will help them in authentic situations both in and out of the work environment.

Beyond teaching the language itself, he says publishers should be helping teachers ask:

  • Are the students participating fairly in group discussions?
  • Are the students actively listening?
  • Are they interrupting politely?

These skills “don’t come naturally, and so just to begin raising awareness would be an added value,” he says.

Future skills: careers in 2030

In the same way we didn’t know that driverless cars would become a reality 10 years ago, we cannot say with absolute certainty which professions will arise and which will disappear. However, using tools like the GSE teacher toolkit, we can help our students develop the language and soft skills they need to navigate an ever-shifting job market. The future is an exciting place, let’s help our learners prepare themselves!

Watch the full interview with Mike and Tim below: 

English language skills development for employability
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    Benefits of using tablets in the primary classroom

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    Interactive whiteboards, PCs and laptops are common in many schools worldwide, but have you ever considered using tablets in your young learners' classes? 

    Tablets can be used for many things. Online research, watching and creating videos, playing games, and digital storytelling are just a few examples. Of course, there's also the added environmental benefit of going paper-free.

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    1. Facilitating engagement

    With good direction from the teacher, tablets can emulate natural social interaction and interactivity. They can also offer problem-solving activities, set achievable goals and provide instant feedback.

    Moreover, when young learners are truly engaged in an activity, it may be perceived as effortless - and they learn and use their second language (L2) without even realizing it. 

    2. Introducing authenticity and autonomy

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    3. Promoting creativity, communication and inclusion

    Nearly all tablets have a webcam and voice recorder, which means that learner-generated content can be created easily - even without dedicated software. 

    You can have your students make their own vlogs (video diaries), ebooks, comics, cartoons and movie trailers. All you need to do is to install apps such as Book Creator or this series of apps specifically designed for very young learners from Duck Duck Moose. While these apps have been created for 'fluent-speaker' classrooms, they can easily be adapted to an ELT context.

    Tablets also promote communication. This can help improve students' L2 oral skills at any level, when the teacher is there to support and guide them.

    One of the greatest advantages of a tablet as opposed to a computer is that anyone can use one and they are much more portable. 

    For students with special educational needs, tablets can be an essential learning tool and they can also be used by students with low-level motor skills, such as very young learners. Similarly, tablets can work really well with multi-level classes, as they allow you to offer differentiated materials, activities and support where necessary.

    4. Enabling online assessment 

    Tablets can also facilitate interactive online exams or help measure progress. Tests such as 'English Benchmark - Young Learners' are designed with primary learners in mind, to be taken anytime, anywhere. Its game-like format engages students and takes the fear out of being assessed. It also provides instant feedback to the teacher with informative reports and advice for future study. 

    5. Building relationships with caregivers

    Finally, as with any online content, tablets allow you to connect with our learners outside the classroom. You can quickly send links to classwork and feedback to the children's caregivers, fostering a positive relationship and a greater interest in their child's progress and learning. 

    Tips for using tablets in class

    Before implementing the use of tablets in your classroom, there are some things you should consider. Here are some useful tips that will help you gain the maximum benefit from tablets.

    Usability:

    • Decide what you are going to use the tablets for and when. Are you going to allow students to use the tablets for all parts of the lesson or only for specific activities? This may depend on the number of tablets you have available.
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    How can gaming support language learning?

    By Jacqueline Martin

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    Academics and teachers have been writing about the benefits of using games in the language classroom for many years. Wright et al (1984), Lee Su Kim (1995), Ubermann (1998), Ersoz (2000), Yong Mei and Yu-Jin (2000) and Thi Thanh Huyen and Khuat Thi Thu Nga (2003) all pretty much agreed that games provide a useful and meaningful context for language use; encourage students to interact and communicate; can both challenge and reduce anxiety (as the emphasis is on the message, not the form); provide practice in all four skills; and help students to make and sustain the significant effort involved in learning a language.

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    Lengeling and Malarcher (1997) took the list of potential benefits of games in the classroom even further.

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    Cognitive

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    These ideas were taken seriously by Robert Morris University Illinois, who offered an e-sports scholarship for the first time in 2014. They studied two groups of students – football players and gamers – and found that levels of competitiveness, perseverance, focus and determination were very similar. Both groups showed a similar desire to excel as part of a team. Both 'sports' required the team members to be detail-orientated, have good hand-eye coordination and have a strategic mind. The only difference was in the level of cardiovascular activity. Both groups received performance analysis and tactical advice from coaches and both subsequently made improvements.

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    Need language learning game ideas for your young learners? Read our post 5 quick and easy ESL games for teaching young learners.