UK employees lack international work experience

A significant proportion of Brits believe spending time studying or living abroad would have enhanced their career, according to new research.

The survey, conducted for the British Council by Populus, revealed that more than one in three (34%) people - equating to 17 million - think they would have a better job if they had done so.

On the other hand, less than a quarter believe that their prospects would have been unaffected.

Commissioned by the British Council as part of its work to help young people in the UK develop the skills they need to compete in a global economy, the research highlighted a lack of international experience among UK adults. It found that 79% have not lived or studied abroad for a period of six months or more.

Dr Jo Beall, the British Council's director of education and society, admitted that an increasing number of employers in the UK are now looking for international awareness and experience above academic qualifications.

"The good news is that this poll shows people are beginning to recognise how vital international skills are for enhancing their career," she said.

"But the bad news is that not enough people in the UK are taking opportunities to gain international experience. That needs to change if the UK will successfully compete in the global economy."

This feeling of being held back by a lack of international experience is particularly prevalent among under-25s, with over half (54%) admitting a sense of regret.

In terms of location, people in Northern Ireland are the most likely to feel that their lack of time spent abroad has harmed their prospects (53%), while a large number of people in London (42%) and the North-East (41%) also feel this way.

The British Council continues to play a vital role in helping young people develop the skills they need to get ahead in the world of work.

One of its most well-known programmes is the century-old English Language Assistant scheme, which places native English speakers on paid placements in 14 countries. Famous former language assistants include JK Rowling, Alastair Campbell and Sophie Raworth.

Copyright Press Association 2012