In the last 5 years, I have more than ever before heard my colleagues from all regions of Europe complain about the fact that young graduates are insufficiently prepared. I have experienced it myself in my own company. For LSPs, this means investing more and more money in training before these new employees are fully operational and self-sufficient, without speaking of the time involved.
Also it turns out that a significant number of young graduates fail to make the transition – they leave the industry after a couple of years to turn to other sectors – or worse still they never even manage to enter it. Some explanations may be that they had a romantic vision of translation and are disappointed when faced with the reality, or that they failed to develop the soft skills essential in this industry: speed, flexibility, and the ability to adapt to rapidly changing technologies, not even speaking of the mastery of translation technologies or the language skills themselves.
LSPs – including me – often reproach universities for being too far away from the very demanding world of work to prepare their students adequately.
Life has connected me to the academic world more closely during my four-year Elia presidency. I have met a great number of university professors, from all over Europe. They have described their reality. While there are still some of them thinking that they should only teach translation in its narrowest incarnation, a great number of them are really eager to improve the situation. But they are confronted by the lower performance of their students. This may be due to various reasons, ranging from the failure of primary and secondary education to teach solid foundations to the lack of appeal of the industry as salaries are not up to the expectations of the more able candidates. They also have the challenge of keeping up with the (fast) pace of the industry, while their very structure hinders them. Finally, they complain that they have insufficient means to invest in all the technologies that are now core to our business.
I hear all this, and I have now reached a point where I understand both sides.
At the same time, the few groups of students I have invited to my company on Open Day sessions have either expressed their surprise (and even their dislike) at the reality of work in a translation company or as a freelancer, or been extremely enthusiastic. I imagine it would be the same in other countries.
I believe it is our shared responsibility to help this new generation of translators to achieve this transition more quickly, more efficiently, more securely and more easily into what is a very interesting and nurturing sector.
Elia Exchange is here for that. It is time we all meet together to talk about the issues on both sides in an open-minded way and seek to make things progress. Elia Exchange is here to bring good-willed university professors and company representatives together, and see how we can collaborate to achieve this laudable aim. Elia Exchange is also here to develop and share best practice across European countries.
This is not only for the students, for our employees and freelance contributors, but also for our clients who will receive better service, enabling them to go global more easily and efficiently. Finally, it is for the whole translation industry that will present a more positive image to the outside world.
Elia Exchange is the most mature initiative regarding the Talent Gap. Whether you are a university or an LSP, join us! The more numerous we are, the more fruitful our discussions will be and the more solutions we will generate!
Françoise Bajon, Elia President