I'm working on developing a new course for a vocational college, as I mentioned before. I wanted to do some research on the students who have graduated early this year to see how they are using their English.
If students don't use their English they will lose their English. But the English they will use will be the English they need and the English they need will be determined by the jobs they find (or other special interests). If we teach the English for the kinds of jobs they will find then they will be able to (1) do these jobs well and will also (2) retain this English and not forget it.
I sent a survey questionnaire to the students who graduated earlier this year from the college. The results are interesting:
42% are working in manufacturing or trading businesses. This is by far the largest group of industries that my students have entered. This, of course, is reflective of the type of businesses present here in Guangdong.
14% have no job at present. They may have had a job for awhile but not right now.
The other students are in various industries such as: travel & tourism, teaching & education, telecommunications, banking, hotel, IT, etc.
In these jobs the students are working in a wide variety of roles, such as, administration assistant, customer service executive, data processor, engineering dept. assistant, shipping documents clerk, merchandiser, Photoshop touch-up artist, purchaser, receptionist, teacher assistant, salesperson, telegraphic transfers clerk for a bank, translator, etc.
So our students enter a wide variety of industries and have a wider variety of roles. Can we make any useful generalizations out of those industries and jobs?
Manufacturing and trade are the industries that most of these students enter (42%). So to produce an oral English course and target English to discuss products, specifications, prices and costs, quality, shipping and transportation, plus English for other more general office functions like meetings, agreeing and disagreeing, handling complaints, etc, cover most of the students' needs.
This kind of information is very helpful to not only provide direction in what the students need but what they don't need, as well. For example, previously they were using coursebooks which had units on things like the stock market and the company annual report, etc. It is likely that the students would forget much of this vocabulary before they get a chance to use it.
On a side note, half of the students say they like or even love their jobs, about a quarter think their jobs are just OK or so-so and another quarter say they don't like their jobs. So it's nice to know that most of them are happy or somewhat satisfied with the jobs they found.