Working for the government often appeals to graduates who want to make a contribution to society or the community
Although language skills may not be called for constantly, even teams that deal solely with domestic or local issues can benefit from knowledge of community languages. In departments with an international dimension, opportunities to exercise your language skills will still be variable but potentially more frequent.
There are currently almost half a million civil servants across the UK working in 254 departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), each responsible for its own recruitment (Civil Service, 2012).
Graduate entry to most government departments is possible at two levels, the Civil Service Fast Stream and the operational grade.
Entry to the Fast Stream is intensely competitive and the work is at a high level. Language skills are not required of applicants and won't be used at all in some departments. There are many more vacancies at the operational grade, advertised through Civil Service Jobs . A degree is not required, though the majority of entrants are graduates.
Various departments may be able to use your linguistic abilities, particularly if staff serve in embassies and UK delegations abroad, and intensive tuition is provided if required. For example, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has many staff working in Brussels where European languages are an asset.
There are millions of people living in the UK who speak a first language other than English (CILT, 2012). Some will not have learned English to a good standard and may need help. As providers of local services, councils need to communicate with all residents effectively, so knowledge of other languages will help to forge positive and trusting relationships.
Staff whose roles involve direct information provision and customer service may be able to use their language skills, even if they are only at a basic level. Community languages are most likely to be needed in health promotion, welfare and support jobs, as well as community liaison and outreach.
Languages in demand vary according to the location, size and background of immigrant communities. Commonly spoken languages include Chinese, South East Asian and Eastern European.
For more information, see local government officer.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) recruits graduates every year to the Fast Stream for the Diplomatic Service. An aptitude for foreign languages is an asset, but most recruits are not language graduates.
You will be given intensive language training before any overseas posting, the first of which comes after two to three years in London.
Most posts abroad involve dealing with representatives of overseas governments, explaining British foreign policy and negotiating particular issues, or promoting exports and assisting trade. The Diplomatic Service Economist scheme recruits several additional economics graduates annually.
All of the European Union (EU) institutions recruit staff through the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) using open competitions. There are opportunities for graduates of any discipline to obtain a wide range of general administration posts.
Details of competitions for traineeships are available from the European Commission Traineeships Office (Bureau de Stages) .
The UK government is keen for more UK nationals to apply for posts within the European Commission Civil Service and a good level in a second EU language is required.
There are numerous satellite employers surrounding the institutions of the EU. These include trade associations, pressure groups, political consultancies, law firms and media and PR agencies. Most vacancies are filled by networking or speculative applications, although some are advertised in the local press or specialist journals.
English is one of the official working languages of the United Nations (UN), but vacancies for recently qualified graduates in the UN and its agencies, e.g. the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) or the World Health Organisation (WHO) are rare. Posts in administration demand considerable practical experience, as well as high academic achievement. Successful applicants often have postgraduate experience and/or relevant work experience.
Other international organisations include the:
For further information, see working abroad.
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