6 December 2021
Enhancing Welsh language employability skills and overcoming learner underconfidence
Head of Learning, Teaching and Student Experience (Faculty of Creative Industries)
University of South Wales
Senior Lecturer Welsh Employability
University of South Wales
QAA Cymru issued a call for expressions of interest for Collaborative Enhancement Projects in March 2021, specifically to support enhancements and overcome challenges in the Welsh higher education sector. One of the successful proposals was the project titled the ‘Welsh Medium Employability Initiative’. Project lead Huw Swayne, Head of Learning, Teaching and Student Experience (Faculty of Creative Industries) and Sian Harris, Senior Lecturer Welsh Employability, from the University of South Wales tell us more about the project in this blog.
During the last academic year, the University of South Wales (via a project funded by Y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol) delivered a set of three five-credit Welsh medium employability modules at Levels 4, 5 and 6 to undergraduate students across the Faculty of Creative Industries. The general aim of the modules is to encourage students who have attended Welsh medium schools or who have learnt Welsh to continue to use the Welsh language whilst at the University, with a view to adding value to their CV and ultimately to their workplaces, giving them a competitive advantage in a bilingual industry landscape. The outcomes were good and already the students who completed the modules have been utilising the Welsh language in internships and jobs.
The University has several partner colleges and this particular QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project is exploring the potential for offering the Welsh medium employability modules to their higher education students, within the region and beyond. Cardiff and Vale College, Coleg y Cymoedd, Coleg Gwent and The College Merthyr Tydfil were chosen to work with the University of South Wales to develop and deliver resources that will raise language awareness amongst both Welsh and non-Welsh-speaking students whilst promoting Welsh as a valuable employability skill to Welsh-speaking students.
One of the common challenges of projects that involve the Welsh language is that small clusters of Welsh speakers are scattered across a wide geographical area. Throughout both projects, online working has been commonplace, and has helped to facilitate staff meetings and student sessions. Another common challenge is the lack of confidence amongst many lecturers and students to identify themselves as Welsh speakers together with their mistaken, deep-seated belief that ‘My Welsh isn’t good enough’.
This project brings many benefits to students, including:
- the opportunity to maintain and practice Welsh skills (written and spoken)
- emphasising the value of Welsh as a competitive skill and advantage for future employability opportunities
- making links to Welsh in the workplace valued and clear
- encouraging continuation of existing informal and new Welsh speaking networks.
There are also benefits to the sector, in Wales and beyond, including:
- production of a case study to encourage Welsh language use in the curriculum and socially, which is not subject specific
- sharing of an approach that could benefit other minority languages in the UK and beyond.
Feedback from Welsh medium students often suggests that students are underconfident in studying their courses in Welsh, therefore this project seeks to address this underconfidence and encourages students to have the opportunity to develop their Welsh language skills earlier in their student journey. Education has been identified as a key driver in Welsh Government’s Cymraeg 2050 strategy, with a target of reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050; therefore this project is tackling barriers head-on and makes a valuable contribution to this national strategy.
This blog is also available in Welsh.