What is it about?
Strong language and communication skills are important for both individuals and businesses.
Too many EU firms forfeit business contracts because of poor language skills and a lack of knowledge of other cultures. It is clear that a more strategic approach to multilingual communication is needed.
Young people who learn foreign languages can study or train abroad. Not only do they train in specific disciplines, they also hone their language and intercultural communication skills - a distinct plus for employers.
A study on the impact of the European Union's Erasmus student exchange programme shows that graduates with international experience fare much better on the job market.
What is the European Commission doing?
To develop skills for the world of work, the European Commission cooperates with stakeholders from both education and the labour market. Through the Commission's Skills Panorama, EU governments, employers' organisations, and trade unions contribute to forecasts of skills needs in different sectors, including projections of the need for language skills.
Another key project is ESCO, which classifies European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations. ESCO is part of the Europe 2020 strategy. It provides clear information (in 24 languages) on the skills, abilities and qualifications required for various occupations in the EU. Launched in 2010,it is supported by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training.
The Commission also gathers data from studies conducted in the EU on the links between language skills, competitiveness and employability.
Demand for specialist linguists is rising in the language professions. The Commission seeks to forge links between universities and users of language services, e.g. via the Translating Europe Forum.
What has been done so far?
From 2011-2013 the Commission coordinated a business platform that gave input to the Network for the Promotion of Language Strategies for Competitiveness and Employability (CELAN). Its aim was to identify the language needs of EU firms and employees and provide tools to meet them.
In July 2011 the Languages for Jobs group published a report on providing multilingual communication skills for the labour market.
Erasmus+ is another way in which the Commission supports languages as a motor for growth.