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Making languages your business

18 October 2019 (SCILT)

The newly refurbished Ramshorn building at the University of Strathclyde played host to an important dialogue between the worlds of business and education recently. On 2 October, thirty-eight representatives from a range of industry sectors met with delegates from schools, further and higher education with the aim of improving the supply of language skills from education to the workplace and better matching the needs of the labour market. Sectors represented included tourism, engineering, manufacturing and law.

Delegates were welcomed to “Make languages your business” by Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde, who noted that it was now “imperative” that graduates are equipped with the necessary skills, in particular the ability to speak other languages, to operate on a global stage. The keynote speech was delivered by Ivan McKee MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation.

Mr McKee said: “Learning other languages facilitates cultural awareness and helps us make connections with people from around the world – skills that are crucial in the 21st century.

“If Scotland is to continue to compete on the world stage, we need our young people to be open to new technologies, to people and cultures from around the world and crucially to the changing ways of doing business. It is essential that we inspire children and young people to learn other languages and, through doing so, provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to help them take full advantage of the opportunities in our fast-changing world.”

In his plenary speech, Charandeep Singh, Deputy Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, made reference to Scotland’s wealth of linguistic diversity and outlined the importance of languages to companies and organisations looking to operate internationally.

The central part of the event consisted of a Q&A session, chaired by John Crawford of Scottish Development International. Panellists provided insights into the importance of language and intercultural skills in their careers, and how the capacity to engage with clients in their native languages has benefited their organisations.

“Make languages your business” was organised by SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages based at the University of Strathclyde. It is the culmination of the first phase of a three-year Erasmus+ project, “Generation Global”. At the event, SCILT launched an online toolkit to help Scottish businesses to grow their international markets and to develop the language and intercultural skills of their staff. 

Fhiona Mackay, Director of SCILT said: “Erasmus+ funding has enabled SCILT to collaborate with its counterpart agencies in Norway and Denmark so that the Generation Global project could be realised. Each of the three countries working together can make a real difference to young people in Scotland and the other partner countries. Schools by themselves cannot be given sole responsibility for creating an appetite for language learning. It is when schools, universities and the world of industry and business come together that we can truly create a climate in which all languages are celebrated and language learning can flourish.”

The project is coordinated by SCILT on behalf of the Scottish Government Wider Engagement Network.

More information on Generation Global.

Access the Toolkit.

Meaningful employer engagement and the provision of relevant careers advice are key recommendations of Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy, “Developing the young workforce”.

This collaboration between education and businesses supports Scotland’s International Policy to equip young people with communication and employability skills that they will need in our increasingly globalised society and economy.

The panellists for the Q&A session were Dr Jonathan Downie (Integrity Languages), Andrew Gillespie (ACE Aquatec), Mark Pentleton (Radio Lingua) and Paul Sheerin (Scottish Engineering).

Networking at the Making languages your business event

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SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages