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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