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Global Education, Language Learning

The Growing Value of Bilingual Skills in the US Job Market

The US job market continues to grow, and the demand for bilingual employees is growing right alongside it–as shown in a recent study by the New American Economy. Unfortunately, the number of job seekers who are fluent in multiple languages is not keeping up with the demand.

Fewer US students are taking language classes, and less than 1% of American adults remain proficient in languages that they learned in the classroom. This adds up to a huge opportunity for bilingual speakers to seize, which is where we come in.

At Participate Learning, we strive to provide a global education for all students that prepares them for college, career, and life in a globally connected world. To drive this goal forward, we offer programs for language acquisition and immersion, global learning and 21st century competencies, and visiting international teachers.

Our dual language programs not only teach children fluency in a language different than their native tongue, but they also work to improve cultural awareness and competence. With the findings from the New American Economy study, we can now also see that bilingual skills can have a massive effect on future prospects within the US job market.

Employers are looking to hire those with multilingual skills

Bilingual employees are viewed as having excellent communication and problem-solving skills as a result of their experience in developing a second language while maintaining command of their native tongue.

It also shows that prospective employees have immersed themselves in a new culture and have overcome the challenges associated with that. Through our programs, our students gain desirable skills such as cultural awareness, open mindedness, and collaboration that prepare them to compete in a global marketplace. This is a major signal of competency for employers.

Bilingual skills are in demand for high-wage, high-prestige positions

One of the most notable points from the report is that the rise in demand for bilingual skills spans the whole of the US job market, rather than being restricted to a specific sector. By applying a “prestige” score to all the job listings in the study, the report shows the sectors with the highest growth in demand for bilingual workers.

While there is growth across the whole market, the jobs that showed the highest growth fall in the “High Prestige” sector, with a 27% increase in listings since 2010. These include jobs like financial managers, editors, and industrial engineers. This means that prestigious, high-earning roles in the US are increasingly looking for bilingual employees to fill them.

Being fluent in more than one language is becoming a vital skill in all sectors of the market, from janitor to lawyer. Given that the demand for these skills currently outweighs the supply, this presents a big opportunity for bilingual jobseekers.

Increased demand for bilingual workers fluent in Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic

The five most in-demand languages in the US job market are Spanish, Chinese, French, Arabic, and Korean. All five have grown significantly in demand since 2010, but there has been a huge increase in desirability for Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic speakers, which is great news for job seekers who are fluent in one (or more) of those languages.

Demand for Chinese speakers alone increased by more than 200%, with jobs requiring Spanish or Arabic speakers also jumping by more than 160% each. Spanish is by far the most in-demand language for US employers, with more than 450,000 roles listed in 2015 alone.

A wide range of industries and employers are looking for bilingual employees

Looking more closely at the market for bilingual employees, there is a diverse range of industries that are seeking people with language skills. Most of them are roles that require plenty of human interaction, which is where those excellent communication skills come in, but job opportunities can be found in a wide variety of places.

Companies based in North Carolina like Advance Auto Parts and financial corporations such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and M & T Bank all listed thousands of Spanish-speaking roles in 2015. Humanitarian aid provider International Rescue Committee led the way in the search for Arabic speakers, along with companies in the construction, managed health, and education sectors.

Bank of America also listed over a thousand Chinese-speaking roles, along with tourism company Wynn Resorts, the pharmaceutical organization Grifols, and several school districts including Portland Public Schools.

Conclusion

It goes without saying that being proficient in multiple languages opens doors to new opportunities. However, this recent study emphasizes the value in having bilingual skills when it comes to finding employment in the US.

Across a range of industries and roles–some of which are among the most prestigious and high-earning in the country–language skills are more sought after than ever. At the same time, fewer students are taking language classes and retaining proficiency into adulthood. This adds up to a fantastic opportunity for those willing and skilled enough to take on a second language.

To learn more about the benefits of the bilingual brain, download this infographic in English, Spanish, or Mandarin.

To find out more about how Participate Learning can help you on this path, please get in touch.