Language skills crisis caused by 'Brexit and decline in training' uncovered by report

Report says language skills gap in UK tourism industry caused by "Brexit and the decline of language training in the UK".

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

A growing language skills gap facing the UK tourism industry has been caused by a "combination of Brexit and the decline of language training in the UK", according to a report by a travel trade association.

New research by Canterbury Christ Church University has highlighted a lack of capacity in the UK's education system to meet the shortfall in higher level language skills.

The report from UKinbound, was released at a Parliamentary Reception on 19 June at the House of Commons, hosted by Nigel Huddleston MP for and on behalf of UKinbound.

Deirdre Wells OBE, chief executive officer, UKinbound said: "The industry currently employs large numbers of workers from the European Union to fulfil these roles, but our members are reporting that many of their EU employees are starting to return home.

"They are struggling to find replacements from within the British workforce, predominantly due to their lack of advanced language skills."

Key research findings:

  • Of the 78 institutions offering tourism and/or hospitality undergraduate programmes in the UK, only 25 offer languages as part of their tourism/hospitality curriculum.
  • 45 institutions offer 87 postgraduate tourism/hospitality programmes – yet only 6% of these programmes offer a language, as an optional module.
  •  The audit identifies Institution Wide Language Provision and study abroad opportunities as alternative ways for students to add an international dimension to their studies
  • From a sample of 43 higher education institutions that offer a single honours modern language degree programme, only 16 mention tourism as a career prospect.
  • Interviews with modern language programme directors highlighted a lack of knowledge of the tourism sector and tourism specific career pathways.

UKinbound argues that tourism organisations have been largely reliant on EU nationals for their technical and ‘soft’ language skills. It adds that around130,000 EU nationals left the UK in the year to September 2017– the highest number since 2008.

Dr Karen Thomas, director of the Tourism and Events Research Hub, at Canterbury Christ Church University added: "The uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations appears to have pushed the tourism and hospitality sectors to a critical point, where they not only have to consider the valuable role of EU workers, but also need to evaluate the potential of home-grown talent to meet the needs of the future inbound tourism industry."


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