I like to differentiate between an ‘English for business’ course aimed at younger people who are entering the world of work and an ‘executive English course’ aimed at experienced professional people,” says John Miles at Canterbury Language Training.
“Executive [professional] courses have to be 100 per cent focussed on what the student needs,” advises Kevin McNally at ELC Group. “By definition, we are dealing with accomplished, successful people and they have extremely finely tuned needs that we have to address quickly and thoroughly.” Hauke Tallon at London School of English attests, “Keeping the content, methodology and pace of a course appropriate to our clients’ needs is critical.” Mark Lane at LSI, London, highlights the role of needs analysis.
Many executive courses will consist of components of intensive English along with professional electives. Garth Younghusband explains Frances King, London, offers intensive English group classes with choices such as oil and gas. At Anglo-Continental, Bournemouth, “All courses include a general English component, provided either in [a] mini-group or on a one-to-one basis,” says Helena Weir, with a range of industry options available. At Interlanguage, London, courses include pre-MBAs, explains Ricardo Mucciolo, and a unique aspect is the workshops geared towards chosen study paths.
Typical executive skills covered include meetings, negotiations, presentations, socialising and networking. “However, soft skills and intercultural awareness are also key components of our courses,” advises Tallon. Judith Hands at Torquay International School says, “Courses are designed specifically to provide greater grammatical awareness, while at the same time building confidence in using the language in those situations most common to business people.”
Miles notes a trend towards communication skills training. “Elements such as what makes an effective leader, presenter, negotiator and cross-cultural awareness are now regularly included.” Phil Hopkins at The English Language Centre, Brighton, meanwhile, notices clients are requesting help with social media.
Tutors are often industry experienced. “We match one-to-one students with a teacher with the specialist background they require,” says Sarah Annoh at IH London. Younghusband adds Frances King uses tutors with “extensive and relevant experience for the courses they teach”. Tallon highlights tutors also need to be highly EFL qualified. “A trainer’s ELT skills, approach, mind-set and flexibility are the key skills we look for in our trainers those are the factors that give our trainers credibility in a classroom of demanding executives,” he says.
“Matching trainers to clients on one-to-one programmes is a highly skilled job,” relates Miles, with experience, training style and personality considered. Lane explains LSI tries to get as much pre-arrival information about the student as possible, but also adapt to needs on arrival. “We do not make any assumptions about what is best for the students before having met them.”
Students on executive courses are typically aged from 30 to 45 years and range from middle management to senior executives. Jonathan Grubb at St Giles, Brighton and London, advises, “They are job-experienced learners who are skilled at doing their work in their own language but need help expressing themselves appropriately when working in English.” London School of Business and Finance’s 32 executive courses are divided into public and bespoke, informs Flavio Cabral, and public course students are typically graduates with two-to-six years’ experience. Weir does note an increase in younger executive students. Meanwhile, Hands observes a clear trend: “Twenty years ago, it was 70/30 men to women, then 50/50, and these days we sometimes have a course where there are more women than men.”
The UK has, enthuses Grubb, accumulated experience and expertise in executive courses. Cabral notes “the mixture of corporate and academic experience from the lecturers”, while London exposes students to different cultures, international business and valuable network opportunities. Mucciolo adds, “Executive courses in the UK offer a unique opportunity to study in one of the world’s leading financial centres.”
A selection of executive English courses in the UK
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