Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bilingual Work Force in Demand

Yet another article about the growing demand for a bilingual workforce. For many of us this doesn't come as a surprise. We have long known the advantage bilingual people have in the workforce. It appears that even small town America is now feeling the pinch. In The Mount Airy News article from Surry County, North Carolina, Morgan Wall writes,
In Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte, there are more than 700 international business firms. In the Triad, there are more than 200. These companies represent more than 40 countries and employ more than 60,000 people.
Almost every other country in the world has its students begin a second or even third language in grade school, the equivalent of elementary school. U.S. students are being forced to compete against these students from other countries who can offer more to companies.
Back in December 2006, in the Time magazine article, "How to Bring our Schools out of the 20th Century", Claudia Wallis wrote about our outdated educational system that fails to produce workers who can handle the new demands of a global marketplace. Most important to the article were the interviews with CEO's about the types of skills they look for in workers. Among the required skills is knowledge of foreign languages.
Mike Eskew, CEO of UPS, talks about needing workers who are "global trade literate, sensitive to foreign cultures, conversant in different languages"--not exactly strong points in the U.S., where fewer than half of high school students are enrolled in a foreign-language class and where the social-studies curriculum tends to fixate on U.S. history.
It is clear that we need to provide foreign language instruction to our children at a much younger age. The only question is how are we going to make that happen?

Mount Airy News article

Times Article

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