Especially in a difficult economy, most adults and young people approaching adulthood have to work for a living. Whether their jobs or businesses are located in an English-speaking country—or whether they interact with English speakers at work or in commerce, their ability to make effective use of the language is likely to be a key factor in their employment or entrepreneurial success. Business owners, supervisors, managers, employees, co-workers, suppliers, sales reps, and perhaps even customers need to be able to communicate in English—and to feel comfortable and confident doing so. Language ability or proficiency is likely to help people get and keep a good job, advance in their occupations or professions, have a satisfying work life, and/or succeed in the world of work and life. These truths can also apply to “doing business at a distance,” such as online, as well as to business travel and professional conferences.
Usually, the purpose of vocational or (career) technical education, which may or may not include VESL (Vocational English as a Second Language), is to prepare trainees for job activities that are manual or practical. This training is most often non-academic (not theoretical). Though often focused on doing or tasking, the procedures of voc ed are more easily acquired if workers have or are in the process of improving their oral and written language skills.
Language to help people fulfill academic, professional, career, and/or business goals may be called “English for Special Purposes.” Topics of instruction can include job search preparation, starting or growing a business, using the telephone effectively, customer relations, sales skills, functioning in teams, career development, presentation anxiety, dealing with stress, “thriving vs. surviving” in the workplace, and many other subjects of study. Specific industries can include medicine and health, finances and investment, law enforcement and legal services, science and technology, psychology and public welfare, and others.
Whatever their ultimate goals in work and career, adults and young people planning a successful life can benefit from the acquisition of language skills and knowledge. Many of the chapters in Authors & Editors’ integrated language-skills series, such as the HandOnEnglish ETC Program, target the world of employment and entrepreneurship. And many of our reproducible lessons, activity ideas, and creative concepts can help, too. These titles and additional information appear in an Alphabetized Authors & Editors Product List and at the Authors & Editors Online Store. Free ready-to-use lessons may be added to our collection of Teaching Tools, Tips, & Techniques. Links to information about Work & Business English will be included in our section of Informational Articles & Resources.