Lack of international experience holding back under-25s

A lack of global experience could be holding back many of Britain’s recent graduates, according to new research by the British Council.

A poll undertaken for the registered charity by Populus found that almost 80% of British adults had never lived or studied abroad for more than six months. Of these, more than a third believed that their careers would have progressed further if they had.

“The good news is that this poll shows people are beginning to recognise how vital international skills are for enhancing their career,” said Jo Beall, the British Council’s director of education and society. “But the bad news is that not enough people in the UK are taking opportunities to gain international experience.”

Those aged under 25 felt the most hindered by their lack of international exposure, with 54% attributing their limited employment opportunities to this experience gap.

However there is some evidence to suggest that those in this age bracket are already broadening their horizons and are increasingly considering overseas universities as an alternative to domestic institutions. A survey by Prospects earlier this year revealed that about 25% of prospective university students were planning to study abroad, while almost 75% were at least considering it.

And this should serve them well in the future, as Beall added that recent research had shown that UK employers were increasingly putting international awareness above academic prowess when recruiting.

The British Council runs a number of initiatives aimed at helping young people get the type of experience this poll suggests they are lacking. One of its most well-known programmes is the English Language Assistant scheme, which offers English speakers the chance to spend up to a year abroad on a paid placement teaching the English language.

It also runs the Erasmus programme, which allows UK university students to work or study in 33 European countries. Dr Beall said the British Council are continuing to work with the Government and businesses to create even more opportunities.