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Language skills’ decline threatens tourism

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'But everybody speaks English!': Language skills gap undermines tourism industry

A REPORT released by leading travel trade association UKinbound, has uncovered a growing language skills gap facing the UK tourism industry, caused by a combination of Brexit and the decline of language training in the UK.

The new research undertaken by Canterbury Christ Church University highlights the current lack of capacity in the UK’s education system to meet the shortfall in higher level language skills which are badly needed by the UK’s inbound tourism industry.

To date, tourism organisations have been largely reliant on EU nationals for their technical and ‘soft’ language skills and concerns are rising in the industry about the attrition of these employees. Approximately 130,000 EU nationals departed the UK in the year to September 2017– the highest number since 2008.

Furthermore, a sharp decline in the number of young people studying a foreign language, arising in part from changes to government policy since 2002, combined with a lack of awareness of the opportunities and career paths open to language proficient graduates in the tourism and hospitality sector, are major contributors to the widening language skills gap in the sector, at a time when access to future EU employees is uncertain.

Key findings of the research:

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.

The report also features an Evidence Review, drawing on data from previously conducted research and reports, creating a clearer picture regarding the diminishing supply of home-grown linguists.

Pupils taking languages at A-level fell by a 1/3 in 20 years (1996-2016)

French declined from 22.7k to 8.5k

German from 9.3k to 3.4k

Spanish increased from 4.1k to 7.5k.

German is no longer a dominant language taken at A-level. French and Spanish continue to be key languages, despite the declining popularity of French.

There has been an uptake in the study of key UK inbound growth market languages; Mandarin and Arabic, but the growth of the talent pool here is slow and limited.

Social, regional and gender inequalities in the uptake of languages are striking.

The number of UK universities offering language degrees has dropped by 30% between 2000 and 2015.

Deirdre Wells OBE, chief executive officer, UKinbound said, “The UK is currently the fifth most visited country in the world and our inbound tourism industry in 2017 contributed an estimated £25 billion to the UK economy. Those working in tourism need to be able to communicate effectively with their international visitors and our tour operators in particular need employees who can communicate confidently and negotiate contracts with overseas operators and suppliers. 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.

“This report clearly shows that the country needs leadership from the very highest levels to address this impending language crisis, to ensure the tourism industry continues to provide world class customer service and remains competitive in the global marketplace.”

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. This research is particularly timely given the body of evidence which has been developing about the decline of home-grown linguists and the potential this has to impact on UK productivity and competitiveness in a post-Brexit landscape. For the UK inbound tourism industry, where language skills and intercultural understanding are crucial in business and consumer-facing roles, the findings of this study raise challenging issues to be addressed by a wide range of stakeholders.”

UKinbound also recently surveyed its members regarding their need for graduates with language skills. Just 34% of members had employed graduates with language skills in the last five years, but 65% of members are now considering employing graduates with language skills in the next five years.

The report findings coincide with the launch of UKinbound’s campaign to highlight the contribution of tourism from EU countries to the UK economy, and to impress on the Government the urgency of securing either no, or minimal, barriers to inbound tourism from the EU post Brexit.

Wells added, “In 2017, two-thirds of inbound visitors came from the EU and contributed an estimated £10 billion to the UK economy. We are calling on the Government therefore to prioritise the need for minimal disruption to this flow of visitors in the Brexit negotiations. Any onerous entry requirements post Brexit will hurt the sector, the economy and cost jobs and any delay risks undermining the sectors ability to prepare for the post Brexit environment.”

The tourism industry is the UK’s third largest employer, employing 3.1 million people (over 9.6% of the UK workforce) and contributes £126 billion to the UK economy, (7.1% of GDP). The UK receives 67% of its tourists from the EU.

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Carmarthen Partner celebrates 30 year anniversary with Ashmole & Co

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SHARON GEORGE, one of Ashmole & Co’s Partners in Carmarthen, is celebrating a significant work anniversary this month having been employed by the firm for 30 years.

A lot of changes have taken place during Sharon’s time with Ashmole & Co. When she started as a Trainee Accountant in 1992 there were just five offices in Haverfordwest, Carmarthen, Newcastle Emlyn, Swansea and Ammanford compared to the current 13. Accountancy has also drastically changed from being an almost completely paper system to these days being massively computerised.

Sharon, who is from Pendine, said, “I started working as a trainee for Ashmole & Co in 1992, straight out of school. I then worked at the same time as studying for my HNC. I remember being told at the time I started that 80 had applied for the trainee position so I felt very lucky to get the job.  A lot has changed over 30 years. It was a very manual job at the start. We had to hand deliver tax returns in big carrier bags to the tax office in Carmarthen!  Nowadays the technology has improved the role of an accountant considerably.”

Sharon has been a Partner with Ashmole & Co since 2011 and as well as managing a team in Carmarthen she also manages the Pontardulais and St Clears offices. She lives with her husband and two sons in Pendine. In her spare time Sharon loves walking along the beach or practising her baking and is an avid Strictly Come Dancing fan. 

Ashmole & Co, Chartered, Certified Accountants, has been established for 125 years this year. It is one of the largest accountancy and auditing practices in Wales, operating from thirteen offices throughout south and west Wales including Swansea, Haverfordwest and Llandeilo.

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Welsh Government partnership brings new office development to Cross Hands

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT, in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council, is supporting the construction of new high-quality office space in Cross Hands, which will help create new jobs in the local area, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething announced today.

Carmarthenshire County Council has provided a £492,000 Property Development Grant to Sterling Developments, a local company, to support the delivery of the commercial offices at the Cross Hands East Strategic Employment Site.

The Cross Hands East Strategic Employment Site has been delivered via a joint venture between the Welsh Government and Carmarthenshire County Council, comprising a large programme of infrastructure works. A total of 17 commercial development plots have been created for sale, with a number of plot sales already completed. Delivered in two phases, the second phase has been supported by £2.4m European Regional Development Fund investment through the Welsh Government.

As well as boosting the local economy, the office development will also contribute to the Welsh Government’s aspiration of providing more ready-made commercial space for businesses – which will help create new jobs in communities across the country.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Businesses of all sizes across Wales need modern sites and premises that will enable them to expand and grow. This is a key part of our Economic Action Plan, which sets out our vision for inclusive growth built on strong foundations, supercharged industries of the future and productive regions.

“Today’s announcement will help us do just that, providing a boost to the regional economy in south west Wales as we all continue to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.

“This project is a prime example of a constructive partnership that’s delivering for the benefit of local people. I wish Sterling Developments well with their new Cross Hands scheme.”

Cllr Gareth John, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure Culture and Tourism, said: “Carmarthenshire County Council is committed to providing businesses with the best facilities, at the best locations, to thrive. That is why we have been working with the Welsh Government, through the Cross Hands Joint Venture, to secure £2.4million of EU funding to match our own £2.5 million contribution and develop the second phase of Cross Hands East, a 19-hectare employment site that provides serviced plots within a thriving business environment.

“This development has already seen new businesses establish themselves here and begin to flourish with the potential for the site to create hundreds of quality jobs. This second phase of developing Cross Hands East will deliver more sustainable economic growth that will have a positive impact on people, businesses and communities in the area and wider region.

“The Property Development Grant awarded to Sterling Developments by Carmarthenshire County Council stimulates private sector investment at the employment site and will deliver high-quality commercial space to the market.”

Simon Thomas, Director of Sterling Developments, added: “We have designed a building that is architecturally appealing and will deliver high-quality office space in Cross Hands. The new building will provide businesses with modern facilities that they require to grow and prosper. The support from Carmarthenshire County Council and the Welsh Government has been key to the progression of this scheme. Sterling Developments are delighted to be playing a role in the development of this excellent employment site in Cross Hands.”

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Carmarthen grassroots music venue CWRW wins £10,000 PRS for Music Back to Live Music Venue Prize

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L-R: Gem Griffiths (Winger Records, CWRW Promoter), Michael Hilton (CWRW Owner)

PRS for Music, the UK-headquartered organisation that represents the rights of over 160,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers around the world, announces beloved Carmarthen grassroots music bar CWRW (pronounced koo-roo) as the winner of its Back to Live Music Venue Prize of £10 000 for the Welsh region.

The recovery-focussed nationwide competition was launched by PRS for Music to give independent live music venues across the UK the chance to win one of six regional prizes of up to £10,000 and inject much-needed financial support into venues who are dedicated to improving live music experiences in their local communities.

Community advocate and music fan himself, CWRW owner Michael Hilton, plans on using the £10 000 PRS for Music prize money to upgrade the venue’s lighting, add recording capabilities and create a more inclusive space so audience-goers with disabilities can participate and access live music events.

“Winning PRS for Music’s Back to Live Music Venue Prize is incredible” explains Michael Hilton, “incentives like these are fundamentally important for grassroots venues like ours to continue to provide creative spaces for the community and emerging talent to develop their skills. The funds will be used to develop the audience experience, inclusion and continuing to support the next generation of artists”. 

Phillip Deacon, co-owner of The County Music Bar, said: “We are hugely thankful to PRS for Music for this initiative and of course for the recognition in winning this award. We as a venue had barely survived the pandemic and know of many that didn’t. However, we did. This is a testament to the support from bands and fans alike who rallied around as soon as we could provide entertainment again. We now, however, face the perfect storm. Recovery from the pandemic, facing a cost-of-living crisis and a frankly ludicrous energy bill hike of nearly 550%.  This money will provide a significant breathing space to repair and replace equipment and better facilities for all while we focus on our further survival in these difficult times. We want to continue to be a local music hub for all and provide access to up and coming as well as more established bands.” 

The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the live music sector has been well-documented; between 2019 and 2021, PRS for Music saw an 84% decline in the number of live performance setlists reported to the organisation, falling from 124,000 in 2019, to 19,300 in 2021. 

Tony Barton, Head of Writer Relations, PRS for Music, said: “Independent live music venues are pivotal within local communities, providing spaces that inspire the next generation of songwriters and performers. Congratulations to The County Music Bar for keeping live music at the forefront through a very difficult time.” 

Andrea Czapary Martin, CEO, PRS for Music, said: “Venues like The County Music Bar in Chesterfield are so vitally important to the health and growth of music in the UK. We’re proud to find ways to support local scenes with projects like the Back to Live Music Venue Prize and thrilled that Phillip and Lauren Deacon are working to keep the music going.” 

PRS for Music’s Back to Live Music Venue Prize competition launched in March 2022 as the organisation’s direct response to the devastating effects of the global pandemic on live music venues in the UK. Open to independent live music venues who are not part of a national brand whose offering included music prior to pandemic closures, winning venues were determined by a judging panel made up of leading representatives from across the music, arts, and hospitality sectors. Complete prize terms and conditions can be found here. Four more UK regional Back to Live Music Venue Prize winners will be announced over the coming months. 

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