Technology professionals are in demand globally, but those with English skills are more employable. Vivek Joseph, PeopleCert’s Business Development Head (APAC), explains why and sets out a plan for taking advantage in a competitive jobs market.
The technology skills gap around the world is well-documented with coders, DevOps specialists, big data analysts and project managers amongst the most sought after. It’s why countries like Dubai and Saudi Arabia are pinning their future economic strategy on becoming knowledge hubs to attract technology companies and a skilled workforce.
In India, the demand for technical professionals is also high. But there is now an even stronger emphasis on being able to understand, write, and speak English as well.
Historically, the demand for English in India has grown in line with global outsourcing models adopted in the late 1990s onwards. This spanned functions such as front-line customer service and technical support through to business-critical application development.
Today, however, it’s not the only reason English is in demand. Indian firms with ambitions of growth have identified that a strong cohort of English speakers can help them achieve their expansion and ensure slick communication within India as well as abroad.
The reason English is pivotal to their strategy is because it is one of the two languages – Hindi being the other – used for national government communications. As a commonly understood language it’s ideal for communication between employees who usually speak one of the 29 official local languages at home.
However, despite receiving government communications in English, few people have an in-depth working knowledge of the language. They may be able to understand English, but not converse. That’s because primary school students are schooled in their mother tongue.
Recognising the growing emphasis on English, the Indian IT community has been galvanised to address this shortcoming and learn English. Having a good command of the language opens up huge opportunities for better jobs and travel opportunities not just within India but around the world.
Today, migrant workers with a solid technology and English skills are primarily employed in Europe, Australia and the US, with North America taking the lion’s share of 70%.
There’s also proof that English really can break the career ceiling for IT professionals. Over the last ten years, ITIL and PRINCE 2 certifications have consistently featured in the top ten most in demand skills . Professionals with these project management qualifications will command on average $12,000 more in salary. Combine this with exemplary English skills and the opportunity for a non-native speaker to earn more is boosted further. Studies in the past , suggest that fluent English, compared to no English at all, will increase hourly wages by 34%.
It’s clear then that English could be a career deal breaker for anyone who can’t speak it proficiently but wishes to travel and work or even study overseas. So how can highly motivated tech professionals get ahead?
Improving your employability
The answer to improved employability lies in formal certifications. The Language Test of English (LTE) is an accepted way around the world of grading English skills. At the lower end of the scale is ‘A1/A2’ which indicates someone has very little understanding of English. At the upper end is ‘C1/C2’, which is the equivalent to a native speaker. Solution architects, technology leads and programme managers who want to work in North America, Australia or the UK would all be expected to have a C2 certificate.
There are three steps that millions of people have followed to help them on their journey: benchmarking skills against certifications, finding a good provider who understands the career or study ambition and taking a ‘levels-based’ approach to learning.
1. Understand where you are
Firstly, it’s important to really understand where you are in relation to the English skills employers are looking for. Taking an online LTE test will help determine where your English skills fall on the scale. It assesses listening, reading and writing and will soon also include speaking.
The test takes about 30-40 minutes on average, though candidates have up to one hour and 20 minutes to complete it. At the end of the test, a provisional score is provided. This is followed up by a verified result later.
2. Identify the right provider
When you know your score, and if it falls below C1 or C2, you can take the appropriate course to close the gap. But it’s important to find the right provider – one that will get you ready for the goal you have in mind.
If you are keen on studying abroad, choose a provider that includes foreign student support services. They will understand everything from the university admission process to the local immigration policies.
Likewise, if you want to find technical work as a programme manager, find one that understands your area of expertise and the markets where you will most likely find work.
3. Take a level specific approach
It’s always a good idea to look for a provider who will bundle the learning and the exam together. These practitioners are more likely to invest more in your success. They will have great processes, systems and teaching practices in place and will follow a ‘level based’ learning and testing progamme. If you need C2 they will help you get there from your current level.
One other point to note is that a good provider will let you do the exam as many times as you need to pass. If their teaching standards are high and you study hard you shouldn’t need to take the test lots of times. But knowing you have the option is confirmation they want you to succeed – and it’s not all about charging you extra exam fees.
As millions of people can testify, English can open up a world of travel and career opportunities. But finding a provider who gets you on the right road to success quickly is imperative for long term career success.
2 Azam et al 2013. Taken from the Economic & Political Weekly ‘English Language Education in India: How Aspirations for Social Mobility Shape Pedagogy’