Tag: Management

Business and ManagementCulture & Destinations

Nicaragua: Seeking talent in young adults

Academic Committee

In recent days, the Nicaraguan Foundation for the Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES) submitted the results of a study carried out to determine the competencies Nicaraguan employers demand from employees younger than 24 years old.

In Nicaragua, employability for young adults under 24 years of age poses a serious challenge for companies given that applicants lack the required competencies to fulfill the position requirements. The Nicaraguan Human Resources Association participated in the study and provided insightful statistics in regards to employability and skills domains for young adults.

  • 93 companies took part in the study
  • These companies represent a total of 17,000 employees
  • 23.52% (4000 employees) are 24 years old or under
  • 75% (3000) possess the competencies required and are currently working

The International Labor Organization (ILO) states that the easiness with which young adults enter the labor market suggests the relevance of the competencies they acquire during their education. This reference highlights that either the educational system does not cater to the labor market demands or is not providing competencies from one level of education to the other. Somehow, university education is bridging the gap between the technical and cognitive competencies. However, it is leaving aside the emotional and linguistic competencies in dire need for young adults to be hired or opt for higher ranked positions within the companies.

Companies are proctoring their screening tests to applicants and investing more time in the hiring process due to the distrust in the educational system to train young adults in the competencies needed. This process then becomes arduous and time-consuming for both the applicant and the company. Thus, representing an economic inefficiency that needs stronger measures in the public policies related to education, relevance, and credibility of the qualifications of the labor market within the age range. “An employee is a company asset, and compensation is an investment in that asset.” (Jacob Baadsgaard) Companies want to hire staff that grows within the businesses and becomes an asset instead of adding up to their turnover statistics due to the lack of socio-emotional competencies that are key not only to performing the job but also to keeping it.

General managers within the 93 companies surveyed in the study agree that when hiring young staff, they focus on the following competencies:

  1. Honesty
  2. Follow company standards of conduct
  3. Show enthusiasm and proactivity towards tasks performed
  4. Listen and tender respect to superiors
  5. Demonstrate ability to collaborate and work in teams

All socio-emotional skills ranked higher than technical and cognitive competencies. Also, they are the harder ones to find among applicants; although these may vary from company’s levels of performance or educational background. In essence, this lack of competencies goes hand in hand with incapacity the educational system to cater the demands of the labor market and becomes a true challenge to Nicaraguan’s educational system to make the changes and address the cognitive, technical and socio-emotional competencies within their programs. As Nicaraguan economy increases, there are higher demands for a better-prepared labor force, thus if not ready, this lack will transform into an obstacle that Nicaraguans need to overcome if foreign investment is attracted to the country.

 

 

Works Cited 

funides.com/wpcontent/uploads/2016/10/competencias_que_demandan_las_empresas_en_nicaragua.pdf.

Business and ManagementEnglish FactoidsLearning and Skills DevelopmentMust ReadTopics

Talent Management vs HR

Adapted and condensed from the article by Susan M. Heathfield (2016), ‘What Is Talent Management – Really?’

For those of us who are not so acquainted with the term “talent management”, it is a phrase used in the area of human resources to refer to a company’s or “organization’s commitment to recruit, retain, and develop the most talented employees available in the job market”. In other words, talent management is a strategy some companies have started to implement in the hopes of retaining their most talented employees.

What apparently sets talent-management-oriented companies apart from the ones that use the term “human capital” is the emphasis placed on the manager’s role instead of on Human Resources when it comes to the life cycle of an employee working for an organization. Therefore, in a talent management system managers take on a greater responsibility and play a crucial role in the recruitment process as well as in the ongoing development of and retention of top performers.

Some of the processes involved in the talent management system include recruitment planning meeting, credential review and background checking, on-the-job training, coaching and relationship building by the manager, just to mention but a few.

Most of the processes above mentioned are now part of the main responsibilities of managers in some organizations.  Human Resources’ role, on the other hand, is to provide support and backup, yet in terms of supporting, developing and coaching an employee comes from his or her daily interaction with the manager.

Talent management is a relatively new concept in the working world, and a consensus is yet to be reached, but certainly, it is a strategy worth trying out to contribute to the growth and well-being of any organization or company.

References

Heathfield, S. (2016). ‘What Is Talent Management – Really?’ The Balance. Web

Business and ManagementMust ReadQuick TipsTopicsWorld View

Millennials and Talent Management Today!

By Academic Committee

The new trend in companies now geared towards the 21st century focuses on technology and globalization. Millennials, today’s leaders, with easy access to the global market, and native to technological surroundings transform Startups to billion dollar companies overnight leaving their competitive advantage to Talent and Creativity.

Whereas, CEO’s are now enforced to redefine their recruitment process within the four pillars of Talent Management considering as a starting point the Millennial’s way of thinking, use of technology, and globalization.

I. The Recruitment process:

The recruitment process is the first step where changes need to occur. Before, CEO’s through Human Resources office scouted people that would perfectly match the position requirements. In today’s global market, the focus is on talent and adaptability. In the modern globalized economy, companies weigh employee’s ability to acquire new knowledge and collaborate. Also, gaining experience and developing individuals’ skill-sets becomes essential.  Employers would now prefer to have energetic, malleable workforces who can learn on the job and help one another to innovate and create new solutions.

II. Learning Development

Today’s candidates are not looking for a career inside a company; they are looking for an experience. This immense change in the status quo of what people wanted at their workplace comes from the changes needs directly connecting to the economy. Thus agile workforce is required.

Millennials’ inherent values and life skills set imply hands-on the job and learning by doing. So, development of learning is shifting towards business leaders who progressively identify the lack of competence as a dominant obstacle to the implementation of their company’s strategies; thus, ensuring the need for creating opportunities and space for learning.

Millennials’ creative workforce considers of high added value the emphasis on continuous learning to the point that when they are not learning, they leave organizations. The key lies in creating conditions for learning to happen as part of their development aligned to the recruitment process and meeting the needs of the changing economy and its workforce.

III.    Periodical Check-ins

Annual Reviews are a thing of the past; today proved ineffective and inefficient in fostering high performance.  According to talent managers, Annual Reviews do not promote employee engagement or talent. Instead, valuing a year full of work and noticing changes that would require follow-ups until a new year comes and which results directly connects to compensation derives in demotivating collaborators. Millennials whose mindsets focuses towards learning and gaining experience that fosters talent and creativity need immediate input hence constant check-ins lead to direct real-time improvements.

Also, lifelong learning is the key to adjust performance through coaching and skills development rather than just evaluations. Today, Millennials value instant feedback given after direct performance if it is active and constructive. They feel the need to be geared towards their responsibilities and progress within the roles and duties they perform; hence their results drive the companies’ culture and employee’s engagement as they feel valued and take part of the system and for those that need improvement creating a support system that helps them grow. If leaders provide constant feedback on performance they are also building future leaders, coaches, and mentors who drive the economy and their responsibilities to fulfillment fostering teamwork; as a result creating new leaders. Also, instant check-ins goes hand in hand with clear objectives and results since they bring transparency and efficacy to the job performed which Millennials highly value.

IV. Career Development and Compensation

Unlike the traditional idea of career development which meant reaching the next step in the corporate ladder, the 21st Century economy places great importance on providing opportunities and support to middle-level operations to advance and create development opportunities for employees to meet the rapidly changing needs of the company. Talent Managers should focus on three primary drivers- purpose, autonomy, and mastery- to meet Millennials mindsets expectations for development.  Ideally, employers should create opportunities for young, talented, creative minds to experience different functions, roles, and markets for them to gain experience and build adaptability to change in employees; from now on, creating a more stable job opportunity to the collaborator. This career development opportunity leads to a change in view and although Millennials are ambitious and strive for financial success, they also prefer a collaborative work culture environment and value transparency.

Millennials focus on collaboration and equality and draw towards projects that connect their strengths and abilities leading to career fulfillment since social networks are their essence, they expect an open culture without barriers of any levels; subsequently, they also favor leaders who create opportunities for training and development.

Millennials now connected to the world through technology; they embrace cultural diversity and change as essential to their environment.  The creation of culturally diverse leadership teams and workforces with divergent backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas enables collaboration, inclusion and ensures equipped leaders for future challenges.  Lastly, considering that new challenges lie ahead, a succession of employees is essential to the fulfillment of positions with great talents, creativity, and better-equipped life skills. Such replacements can fulfill the needs throughout the organization connected to the economy, and its global trends requiring an immediate change in the Talent Management process where Millennials are taking over.

References

Haak, Tom. “10 Talent Management Trends for 2016 | HR Trend Institute.” HR Trend Institute. HR Trend Institute, 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.

Martin, Jean. “How to Keep Your Top Talent.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School, May 2010. Web. Aug. 2016.

Classroom and MethodologiesEnglish and TechnologyEnglish Language TrainingLearning and Skills DevelopmentMust Read

How to use the GSE to enhance and improve English assessments

July 6, 2016

The Global Scale of English has been a great support and a positive change for my practice. As I previously discussed, the GSE can be used in a variety of ways, but my three favourite uses are as a tool for validating my students’ learning objectives, as a tool to enhance and improve my assessments, and, finally, as a tool to create content. In this discussion, I’d like to look at how you can use the GSE and the Teacher Toolkit to create custom rubrics and also explore the potential of the GSE Assessment Framework for teachers. First up, a refresher on rubrics (please skip to the section titled “Using the Global Scale of English to create English learning rubrics” if you’re already familiar with the concept).

What’s a rubric?

If you aren’t familiar with it, a rubric is a tool that we can use to assess learning performance. A rubric can be used with any skill and with any kind of learning content. A rubric does this by providing descriptors of performance at different levels. Rubrics provide a clear roadmap for what performance is expected at a higher level of achievement. It’s the difference between saying “do better” and saying “Right now you are working at this level and if you concentrate on these skills you will see yourself working at the next level.” A rubric provides a clear indication of what needs to be improved in order for a learner to excel.

The great thing about rubrics comes from their clarity and consistency in assessing performance. A solid rubric helps me look at the specific performance of any given student and capture the information I need to know about the level at which that student currently is while providing feedback that is both summative and formative. The downside of rubrics is the challenge of creating a solid assessment rubric, one that provides a good formative roadmap, while also being reliable as a summative assessment. With practice, trial and error, anyone can create a good rubric. However, practical tools can help save a lot of time and frustration for administrators, teachers and learners.

Most of the rubrics used in the classroom look like this basic example of a rubric used to assess speaking performance:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Speaking Short sentences with some mistakes. Longer, compound sentences with few mistakes. Long, compound sentences. Able to expand on ideas with few mistakes. Long, compound sentences, clearly organized. Able to expand on ideas and clarify concepts with few mistakes.

You will notice that there is no specific context for the speaking component in this rubric example. Depending on how a rubric will be used, you may want a very granular rubric tied directly to the context and content of learning, or you may want a rubric that can be used for a broader assessment. My example rubric could be used as part of an end-of-semester performance assessment, whereas a more granular rubric would be useful as an end-of-unit assessment or even a units-review assessment where I am looking at performance with specific content.

This rubric contains three specific parts: the scale, the performance to assess and the descriptors of performance. The scales for a rubric can vary across the globe; some teachers will use 1–5, some will use Poor to Excellent. When it comes to selecting the scale, use what will work best in your learning environment and help them communicate the rubric to others in the field, to your students and to your administrators. My personal preference is for a scale that indicates the current level of performance, without implied judgement. Once you have your scale in place, you want to figure out what you will be assessing. This will be largely driven by your course. What are you teaching? What performance do you need to assess? Performance of the skill is key.

For example, if you are teaching a grammar-focused class, you would not develop a rubric to assess the students’ grammar knowledge. It’s much easier to use a more traditional test to check for knowledge of rules. However, if you want to see how well a learner is correctly transferring the grammar they are learning into conversation, a rubric can provide direction. Such a rubric might look like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Answer questions about the past and future Answers in simple sentences. Frequently mismatches verb tenses. Easily answers in simple sentences. Uses a few complex sentences. Mismatches verb tenses a little. Does not monitor or correct mistakes. Easily answers in simple and complex sentences. Makes few mistakes with verb tenses. Occasionally able to monitor and correct some mistakes. Easily answers in simple and complex sentences. Elaborates on answers without prompts. Consistent use of verb tenses with few noticeable mistakes. Demonstrates ability to monitor and correct when an error is made.

The final stage of your rubric construction will be the descriptors. The descriptors define what it is you will observe when students are performing. In a speaking assessment, you would be listening to students speaking in a conversation. In a writing assessment, you would look at the organization and cohesion of the students’ writing. The descriptors, then, describe the performance you would expect, aligned to your scale. The descriptors provide information that helps to clearly distinguish between each performance type. Using our writing example, you might have something like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Presents personal information and details with little organization. Presents personal information with details. Selection of some details is clear. Presents personal information with supporting details. Details are clearly aligned to the information and arranged in logical order. Presents personal information with supporting details. Details are clearly aligned and organized. Specific examples clarify connections.

As you can see, a rubric builds from the bottom and works upwards. This way I can tell a student who Needs Development what they specifically need to work on in order to get to consistent, proficient and masterful use. This is something that can be planned for, and over the course of a semester, we can revisit this and see how their performance is improving and what next steps to take. A rubric helps to provide that kind of clarity. The greatest challenge in creating a rubric is usually in developing the descriptors of performance. What do I need to describe so I can both observe performance and define what the next level looks like?

Using the Global Scale of English to create English learning rubrics

A rubric is a pretty basic tool that a teacher uses to assess performance … but where does the GSE fit into all of this? For me, the most obvious place is in helping to define performance and create descriptors. As the GSE largely describes the use and application around the four English skills  without providing a specific context. This makes it a great place to start for understanding the performance I want to see in my classroom. Rather than the coursebook deciding, or my using my general sense of performance, the GSE gives me a clear indication of the difference in performance at different points along a learner’s learning journey aligned to a specific stops along the CEFR scale. Using the GSE, I could redraft my writing rubric so it would look like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Can give personal details in a written form in a limited way.

(GSE 31/A2)

Can write a brief summary of their personal details.

(GSE 40/A2+)

Can write about personal interests in some detail.

(GSE 47/B1)

Can write about feelings and personal significance of experience in detail.

(GSE 67/B2+)

From the perspective of a teacher, this gives me a good starting point to add further details to my rubric that would allow me to further align with my curriculum and the learning outcomes defined by my institution. This might look something like this:

Performance Being Assess Measurement Scale
Needs Development Consistently Used Proficiently Used Mastery
Personal paragraphs Can give personal details in a written form in a limited way.

 

 

(GSE 31/A2)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write a brief summary of their personal details.

 

 

 

(GSE 40/A2+)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write about personal interests in some detail.

 

 

 

(GSE 47/B1)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Can write about feelings and personal significance of experience in detail.

 

(GSE 67/B2+)

 

Course Context: Past Experiences, Future Interests

Using the GSE, I can also see the progression of skill development and get a sense of how long it will take for learners to improve their performance[1]. Knowing that the difference between Needs Development and Consistent Use is a move from A2 to A2+, I might expect that a student starting at the bottom will get to Consistent Use by the end of a semester. If I have a learner starting at Consistent Use, my goal would be Proficient Use, and Mastery would be a stretch goal. A rubric using the GSE not only helps me get a solid description of the skill performance, but it can also improve my expectations of what learners will achieve based on the length of my course and the number of hours of input and study that will be accessed.

The GSE Assessment Framework

Of course, all of this is a lot of work, so imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that the Global Scale of English team had developed a set of agnostic course rubrics that describe performance, contain descriptors, are aligned to the CEFR, cover all four skills and, most importantly, are available for teachers to download.

123

Download the full set of rubrics in the GSE Assessment Framework here: http://bit.ly/29t7RAO

The GSE Assessment Framework would not replace all of my classroom rubrics nor stop me from developing rubrics in the future, but it does provide a nice functional rubric that I can use to assess all manner of performance tasks in my classroom using a tool that is externally validated. That end-of-the-semester speaking test would be a perfect test case for the use of the GSE Assessment Speaking Framework rubric. A mid-term writing assignment could be assessed using an internal rubric with the GSE Assessment for Writing Framework for a secondary reference.

Additionally, the frameworks could be handed out to students at the beginning of the semester and used as a way to help students with personal goal setting. As many of my students have test scores that report aligned to the CEFR, it is a simple matter of having students use the GSE Assessment Framework to see how their current level is described and have them look towards the future to make a personal learning plan to continue to improve their English skills and concentrate on problem areas. The Global Scale of English Assessment Framework doesn’t replace all of my assessment tools, but it certainly becomes another time-saving feature to add to my assessment grab bag.

Having access to something as value packed as the Global Scale of English ecosystem, I realize that improving assessments is one of the first steps when it comes to the functional use of the GSE. With over 1,000 descriptors of performance and an assessment package to boot, I’m excited to think of what I can accomplish by utilising these tools and the impact this will have for me and my future students as we continue to work towards our shared goal of communicative fluency.

References

Davila, Sara. “How to Use the GSE to Enhance and Improve English Assessments.” Pearson English. N.p., 6 July 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.

Business and ManagementWorld View

The Glass-Ceiling for Non-Native English Speakers

by Academic Committee 

Managers, recruiters, and applicants are aware that English proficiency is a critical factor for the professional advancement of individuals in virtually every industry, especially in business and management. Not speaking the language hinders employees at all levels to develop themselves fully and excludes them from a wide array of opportunities inside and outside their companies. English has such importance that employees who do not speak it are left in a stagnant position and are relegated and eventually replaced. However, a bias against non-native English speakers in the business and entrepreneurial world has become a more pervasive problem that has created a glass ceiling for a valuable segment of the workforce, and a non-native accent is one of the most prominent ways in which this challenge manifests.

Non-native English speakers can face communication and cultural barriers that might be difficult to overcome depending on the attitude and level of immersion with the language and culture. These barriers provide some insights regarding the existence of this glass-ceiling. For instance, they can face difficulties in interpersonal relationships with vital people, in negotiations and preliminary talks, and selling themselves and their ideas, among others. However, the problem has a more intricate background. Even though the degree of globalization the world experiments nowadays both in academics and business has triggered a steep increase in the number of highly-qualified workers non-native of the English language, they still face difficulties being promoted, finding executive-level jobs, and even obtaining funding for entrepreneurial ventures. Hence, there are also other roots to this problem that transcend communication and cultural barriers and even performance. These are more related to an implicit, subtle discrimination towards foreigners, and they have deep psychological and evolutionary roots which affect the foreign labor force at a macro level.

Laura Huang et al., (2013) explain this phenomenon and states that companies and venture capitalists are shifting away their focus from the quality of entrepreneurs’ and workers’ ideas and knowledge to the quality of their English. However, she concludes that even though communication per se is not a significant factor causing the glass ceiling, political skill is. Ferris et al. (2005) define political skill as the ability of an individual to change his or her behavior according to the situational demands to influence or control other’s responses. An important aspect of political skill is that it expresses sincerity, which allows the person to hide ulterior motives. Furthermore, according to Ferris, it is independent of general mental ability but related to personality traits. Although a non-native accent can undermine opportunities for promotion, lower political skills provide a better explanation to the glass-ceiling problem since it is an essential skill for executives.

The existence of this bias against non-native English speakers poses some problems for the labor force, regulators, and also for companies. The most visible problem is the limited opportunities for professional advancement this segment of the population has despite their intelligence and performance. Moreover, regulators might have to establish stricter policies regarding the hiring of foreigners. Besides, due to the changing dynamics of the labor force, it creates tension for companies related to the recruitment of either national applicants with excellent political skills but lower expertise or foreign applicants with lower political skills but greater expertise. This tradeoff can significantly affect their organizational culture and profitability.

Professor Huang presents two possible solutions to this problem. The first one consists of training to help non-native English speakers develop an accent more in tune to the standard and requirements of their society, Nevertheless, this solution might not be as effective due to the difficulty in changing a person’s accent, especially at an older age. The other solution entails directly addressing this bias and the implicit assumptions related to it during interviews or job-seeking activities and taking advantage of opportunities to demonstrate high political skills despite a foreign accent.

The bias against non-native speakers, and the glass-ceiling it creates, poses difficult challenges for knowledgeable professionals, as well as for companies and regulators. This bias has deep roots beyond communication and performance issues, which makes it difficult to solve shortly. Political skill is one of the factors that best explain the problem. Hence, accent-reduction training and demonstration of political skills are possible solutions at a personal level to help mitigate the problem and increase professional opportunities within the labor force.

References

Ferris, G. R., Treadway, D. C., Kolodinsky, R. W., Hochwater, W. A., Kacmar, W. A., Douglas, C., & Frink, D. D. (2005). Development and Validation of the Political Skill Inventory. Journal of Management, 31(1), 126-152. doi:10.1177/0149206304271386

Huang, L., Frideger, M., & Pearce, J.L. (2013). Political Skill: Explaining the Effects of Nonnative Accent on Managerial Hiring and Entrepreneurial Investment Decisions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(6), 1005-1017. doi:10.1037/a0034125

Business and ManagementMust Read

Book Review – Give and Take

41VatwrWCeL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Book Title: Give and Take
Author: Adam Grant
Year of Publication: 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books

 

 

 

 

Review by Academic Committee

Adam Grant is Professor of Management and Psychology at the Wharton School of Business. He has been recognized as Wharton’s top rated teacher for five straight years and as one of the 25 most influential management thinkers among other distinctions. His research focus includes leadership and culture, job design and meaningful work, and work motivation and success. Adam Grant holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Organizational Psychology.

His second book, Give and Take, was listed as one of the favorite books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal, as one of Financial Times’ books of the year, and as ideas that shaped management by Harvard Business Review.

Prof. Grant states that success not only depends on motivation, ability, and opportunity, but on the ability to interact with other people and nurture this network, more specifically on how much value an individual contributes and how much it claims. He discusses three types of people according to this premise: takers, givers, and matchers. Takers put their own interest ahead of others’ needs, they like to get more than they give, and they make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts. On the other hand, givers like to give more than they get, and they focus more on what others’ need from them. In the middle ground, he places matchers, who try to keep a balance between what they give and what they take.

Giving and taking preferences are not about money, instead they are related to attitudes and social dynamics. In all areas, these preferences have their own benefits and drawbacks, and professionally they present highly complex interactions. Individuals with either of the three preferences are able to achieve success, but there are important differences in its degree and spread. The book emphasizes there must be a balance between these approaches, but giving allows individuals to maximize their abilities and leverage opportunities to achieve higher levels of success and well-being. Giving is both a powerful tool, but it can also be dangerous.

Dr. Grant presents unique approaches on how giving works in four key domains: networking, collaborating, evaluating, and influencing. He presents solid research and cases on how to manage each of these domains strategically to achieve greater levels of success. Furthermore, he presents possible drawbacks and problems and how to deal with them. Finally, the book explains practical actions to apply the principles presented, and it provides tools an resources for their incorporation and evaluation.

 

Business and ManagementWorld View

Business Challenges and Implications of the English Learning Curve in Central America

By Research Committee, Keiser International Language Institute

Companies have always required human capital with a vast knowledge in diverse fields and people with a plethora of skills, but these requirements have evolved and have become more complex throughout time. These needs present a high degree of correlation with the changes in technology, globalization, economy, and easiness of access to information, which makes them highly dynamic. Nevertheless, the ability to speak English and, more importantly, be proficient in the language, is a particular skill that has gained strength throughout years and has shaped businesses and economies in a subtle yet powerful way. In Central America, the importance of the English-speaking labor force deserves particular attention due to its critical role in the countries’ development and the challenges governments face to foster this development.

Not so long ago, English proficiency meant a considerable advancement at a personal and professional level that gave individuals a significant advantage over the rest of the job seekers.. In fact, it enabled them to have access to a wider array of employment opportunities. Moreover, it allowed them to obtain better positions with higher salary ranges in their home countries and abroad. However, the effect of English has evolved and now companies in all countries where English is not the native language have steeply increased their demand for a labor force that masters the language, making it an indispensable requirement for employment. Business leaders and policymakers are aware of the fact that English has become a lingua franca in many fields and a critical factor in the growth of their companies as well as for the economic development of their countries.

Different strands of research conclude  that there exists  a direct relationship between English skills  the population has developed and the economic growth of a country (McCormick). In countries  where English proficiency has improved , the income per capita has increased as well. The great importance of English derives mainly from two aspects: information and key players. English represents access to information vital to decision-making, strategy creation, and policy making.  Two cases worth mentioning  include academic and practitioner-oriented literature,  the vast majority of which and the most relevant ones are in English. Furthermore, English grants companies and countries access to key players necessary for their development, profitability, and growth. Countries with a large number of English-speakers combined with high levels of proficiency generate more negotiations and trade besides attracting more foreign investment.

The demand for people with specific language skills in a country and the companies within it directly relate to the number of countries and people outside it that speak its mother tongue. Moreover, demand for a particular language depends on the economic relevance of the countries with which  a nation engages in negotiations and trades that speak the language in question.

These factors help explain the development of the English skills people  in Central America develop. On the one hand, historically the trade of Central American countries has taken place with one another , which reduced the need of English in these countries. On the contrary, over the last decades, Central America has expanded its borders and has been increasingly trading with the U.S. and other developed countries.  In other words, these countries are now highly dependent on developed countries, and the most direct method to bridge them is English. This has created a radical increase in the demand in Central America for a labor force that masters English.

Even though English represents such a crucial tool for companies and economies, Central American countries has been unable to leverage and fully exploit it because  their respective populations  lack a strong base of English skills; as a result,   these nations face a shortage of workers who are highly proficient in English. . In its Globalization of English Report, McKinsey & Co., and Global English state that only 13 percent of graduates from emerging economies are suitable for employment in multinational corporations, and the number one  reason is the lack of English skills (2). The English Proficiency Index 2015, a global ranking of English skills per country, serves  as a useful indicator of the consequences  that may ensue as a result of the lack of English skills in the Central American workforce. In this index, Venezuela and El Salvador rank in the Very Low Proficiency range;  Costa Rica and Panama, in Low Proficiency, while Argentina ranks in High Proficiency, which correlates to their respective economic performances. Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras do not even appear in the ranking.

The core of the current state of English skills in Central America lies in the dynamics and difficulties the education systems in  most of the countries have experienced , which has left the region with significant challenges to overcome. To begin with, historical events such as wars and political distress in the XX Century hindered the economic development of countries and hence access to quality education, especially knowledge and skills  that went against the political priorities of the time. Even though countries have been able to overcome  these issues  at different levels and have implemented policies to promote education, they still lack sound strategies for the teaching of English; they face deficiencies in primary school, and they have scarce trainers regarding quantity and qualifications. Moreover, Central American countries have been unable to integrate adequately technologies in the teaching of English, which has hindered the effectiveness and reach of efforts in education of the language.

Furthermore, this type of Central American Dark Age left significant gaps in what has become today the top management of the most prominent companies. Only a small percentage of the generation of leading managers in most countries today can speak English, and a smaller percentage has an advanced level of proficiency. This means that organizations and economies are unable to achieve higher levels of growth and investment because they lack the human resources to get involved with the key players in the world economy and business world. Digging deeper it is possible to analyze some ramifications of the problem. Top management with insufficient English skills creates tension between themselves and the emerging graduates that up to some degree are entering the labor force with a higher level of English. At the same time, it is mostly the people with relatively high income who are capable of affording (quality) education in the language, which in the end widens socioeconomic gaps.

The lack of English skills raises another red flag for Central American countries as is the adequacy of English and technical skills or specific know-how and training. English helps individuals obtain better jobs within their scope of  study. This fact poses issues whether these individuals are the best fit for these posts or if they possess the knowledge to outperform those competitors that do not speak English. Hence, this evidences a necessary tradeoff between English skills and specialized training that jeopardizes companies’ profitability and growth and the need for training that addresses both aspects.

Business leaders, policy makers, and educational institutions are confront with the difficult mission to fill the gaps and improve the education of English in the Central American region.  By doing so, they will  be able to  achieve higher levels of development and investment. They should  provide a foundation for elementary education, create effective strategies for the teaching of English that ensure the number and quality of trainers, as well as the integration of technologies. Also, stakeholders need to create training programs that prepare the labor force with the technical knowledge in specialized areas and the English skills to accompany it.  This would mean a substantial enhancement of the labor force and, therefore, the development of the private and public sectors as well as the economy of the countries in the region.

References

Education First. “EF English Proficiency Index”. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

Global English. “The Globalization of English Report: Globalization Accelerates Need for Business English Communication Skills”. 2010. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

McCormick, Christopher. “Countries with Better English Have Better Economies”. Harvard Business Review, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.