As the U.S. and global marketplaces continue to evolve, the ability to communicate in two or more languages has become an invaluable asset to both staffing companies and the professionals they place. In the United States especially, the influx of working immigrants and the growth of non-English-speaking commerce opportunities has created a demand for bi-lingual and often multi-lingual capabilities among job candidates. Given the continued boom in the U.S. Hispanic population, Spanish has been and remains the most needed language capability among staffing companies and their employees. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics from July 2004 (the most recent statistics available), there were 41.3 million Hispanics living in the United States, representing approximately 14% of the population. Hispanics accounted for roughly half of the total U.S. population growth from 2003 to 2004 and the Bureau projects the total U.S. Hispanic population to reach 102.3 million people by the 2050. These numbers speak for themselves and clearly demonstrate the opportunities that exist for staffing firms and professionals that move quickly to bridge the existing language gaps.
While the vast majority of the non-native U.S. workforce has at least a rudimentary understanding of English, communication is often difficult in a professional or industrial work setting. In these settings, safety and performance require that everyone is able to communicate effectively, regardless of their native languages. As a result, the need for bi-lingual and multi-lingual professionals is at an all-time high and is only going to increase.
From the perspective of staffing firms, having bi-lingual staff members is the best way to tap a talented and eager labor force that would otherwise be out of reach. Even people who speak English well often prefer to communicate in their native language whenever possible. If a staffing firm can accommodate this preference among its prospective candidates, a clear advantage has been gained. Additionally, when insurance, safety instructions, and other mandatory information can be conveyed in an applicant’s native language, there can be a reasonable expectation that all of the information will be understood.
Motivated job seekers can also benefit from the rising demand for bi-lingual job applicants. Native U.S. citizens are typically fluent only in English and it is not a standard requirement of the educational system to acquire fluency in a language other than English. In most other countries, however, it is much more common for people to learn two or more languages in their formative educational years. Regardless of a person’s background, however, there are myriad resources available to allow people to gain a working fluency in languages other than their native languages. One of the most popular and effective resources is the language-learning software available from RosettaStone (www.rosettastone.com), which uses a proprietary immersion process to help stimulate an individual’s innate ability to learn language. But that is only one option – most local and state university systems offer language courses on all levels.
The opportunities that exist in the staffing industry for firms and individuals with bi-lingual capabilities will only grow as our countries and our cultures continue to overlap. For those that have the ability to communicate in more than one language, success is nearly a foregone conclusion.