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How Corporate Language Training Is Financed Around the World

Pascale Chauvot

16 Jan 2017

The value of speaking a foreign language (or two) is often overlooked in the workplace. While English may be the lingua franca that much of the world has adopted for international commerce, speaking the language of your foreign counterpart or colleague offers immeasurable benefits to you and your employer.

Governments across the world recognise the need for companies to invest in developing the language competency of their employees. To support this strategy, many have put in place state or regional programmes that employees and organisations can access. Read on to discover how corporate language training is financed around the world.

How corporate language training is financed

How corporate language training is financed across the world varies greatly. What remains constant is the view taken by many of the most successful companies – that investing in training is good for business.

Broadly speaking, there are three ways of receiving financial support in a professional context:

  1. Significant government support
  2. Combined company and government support
  3. Only support from your company

how corporate language training is financed

 

These different types of support for language training may take shape in various ways. Let’s take a look at several examples across the globe.

France: Compte Personnel de Formation (CPF)

France is an example of a country where the government strongly supports the continuing education of employees, including support for language training.

The French government strongly supports the ongoing education of employees, including support for language training

2015 saw the French government launch the Compte Personnel de Formation (CPF) or “personal training account” system. The CPF scheme allows every employee to earn 150 hours over a nine-year period to spend on any form of recognised training (recognised: that meets the criteria set by the CPF). This could well be language training, with English a particularly popular choice.

The training accounts are a good opportunity to train your employees for free

Although employers and HR departments do not necessarily have any say in how you should spend these allocated hours, they should be informed of any training that takes place during working hours. Companies are equally compensated by the government for any time employees allocate to training during the working day.

Germany: Bildungsurlaub

The German government also offers some support for educational training, though not as actively as the French one. The law in most federal states in Germany states that your employer must offer you five days of Bildungsurlaub or “educational leave” per year.

It is also possible that you choose to not use your educational leave for one year, allowing for a two-week training (ten working days) in the following year. Having said this, your company does not have to pay for your training, though your employer might choose to do so anyway.

Thanks to this educational leave, German employees get the chance to either brush up or expand their knowledge

Thanks to this educational leave, employees get the chance to either brush up or expand their knowledge. As the period of training is relatively short, it is normally also very intensive. This means that you can find many dedicated courses in Germany, which include language courses or even language trips.

How corporate language is financed

Source: Duolingo

Belgium: Education Cheques

The government support available for training in Belgium is the opposite from the that that is seen in Germany. In general, the Belgian government will fund part of the training, most commonly in the form of “education cheques” (chèques-formation or opleidingscheques). This training ought to take place outside working hours, though the concept of educational leave does exist.

Though similar in many ways, regions still differ in how much of the training is state-funded. There are also differences in who exactly has the right to receive such support, and who exactly pays for the part that the government does not fund. The latter could be either the employer or the delegate.

Given that Belgium has multiple official languages, it may prove a sensible decision to brush up on your linguistic skills

Given that Belgium has multiple official languages, it may prove a sensible decision to brush up on your linguistic skills. Of the four regions, the Brussels-Capital Region shows the most active support for language training. Specifically, they offer full English, French, and Dutch support for up to three months.

Netherlands: Wet Werk en Zekerheid (WWZ)

The Dutch government, on the other hand, is significantly vaguer in how an employer is supposed to assist when providing training for employees. The relatively new law (from 1 July 2015) Wet Werk en Zekerheid (WWZ) or the “Work and Security Act” states that employers are responsible for providing training for their employees.

The Dutch “Work and Security Act” states that employers are responsible for training their employees

This is meant to ensure that employees can perform their role adequately. The idea is that a company cannot sack an employee for lack of ability or knowledge if training (within reason) could solve the issue. The government’s intention with this law is to make people as broadly employable as possible. Focusing on language skills is a good example of such training.

Though it is the employer’s responsibility to offer employees the opportunity to train, they do not have to fund this training in full. For instance, the training costs may be used to reduce the severance pay/transition compensation, should the delegate choose to leave that company. However, this would have to be agreed in writing before training.

Japan: Performance-focused Training

Unlike the previously discussed countries, the Japanese government does not offer any support at all for language training. This is also true for any other form of educational training.

That being said, continuing to train working professionals is still considered important in Japanese culture. Staying up-to-date or even broadening one’s knowledge will improve the overall performance, making training a very worthwhile investment for the company. If you work in Japan, you could, therefore, expect to attend regular training sessions.

Staying up to date or even broadening one’s knowledge will improve the overall performance, making training a very worthwhile investment for the company

These training sessions, however, have certain characteristics that are not common in the Western world. Harvard Business Review even speaks of the possibility of Westerners learning from the typical attitude maintained in Japanese companies when making important decisions.

The UK and the USA: Promotion-focused Training

Both the USA and the UK have a few things in common with Japan when it comes to how corporate language training is financed. Though certainly considered important, as are other forms of professional training for employees, the government does not provide any funding at all.

Employers are often willing to provide support, and may make significant investments in learning programmes

However, employers are often willing to provide support and may make significant investments in learning programmes. This sentiment is reflected in the State of the Industry reports, published by the Association for Talent Development, in the USA.

This is particularly true when it would clearly enable you to execute your tasks better. For instance, your company may be expanding into a new country or considering to promote you in the near future. In either scenario, some preparatory training would improve your performance and ultimately benefit both you and your company. The Economist gives an overview of which foreign languages are most in demand:

languages-bonus-employer-government support

How corporate language training is financed across the world varies greatly. What remains constant is the view taken by many of the most successful companies – that investing in training is good for business.