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Students are entering the workplace without sufficient “intercultural” skills, says the British Council

Employers value “intercultural skills” as highly as formal qualifications, but many students are leaving education without any, according to global research published today by the British Council.

The British Council states that intercultural skills include the ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints; demonstrating respect for others; and knowledge of a foreign language.

The research surveyed employers working in public, private, and non-profit organisations in nine countries.

It found that employers recognise a clear business value in employing staff who can work effectively with individuals and organisations from cultural backgrounds different from their own.

Conversely, organisations whose employees lack these intercultural skills are more exposed to risk.

The research found that despite a high demand for intercultural fluency, most employers say that education providers in their countries do not sufficiently develop these skills in students before they enter the job market.

The British Council research, which was published in partnership with consultancy firm Booz Allen Hamilton and research firm Ipsos Public Affairs, showed that employees with these skills are more likely to bring in new clients, work well in diverse teams, and positively support their organisation's brand and reputation.

Jo Beall, British Council director of education and society, said "This research demonstrates a real gap in the education provision across key global economies and the risks an intercultural skills deficit poses to businesses - but equally the great opportunities for education providers and the benefits that job seekers and multinational organisations can gain if we're able to address this issue.

Clifford Young, managing director of Ipsos public affairs' public sector research and political polling in the US, said: "Employees need to know how to work in teams, communicate, and most importantly as the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, they need to have the skills to negotiate different social and cultural environments."