Demand growing for Spanish-speakers
Special for The Arizona Republic
May. 29, 2005
Hispanics will make up 51 percent of Arizona's population by 2025, according to
demographic research by Arizona State University.
The influx of Spanish-speaking residents, coupled with a growing global economy,
means that demand for bilingual employees has never been higher, career advisers
According to Phoenix College's custom training and Education Department
director, Anna Lopez, Arizona employers who require Spanish-speaking workers are
definitely on the rise, especially in health care and law. Lopez conducts
Spanish-language classes tailored to specific workforce groups around the
"In law enforcement, the jargon is always changing," Lopez said. "Police
officers need to know street Spanish, whereas paralegals, attorneys and legal
secretaries need to be familiar with Spanish legal terminology."
Spanish-speaking employees also are needed in the women's health field,
according to Lopez.
"Hispanic women who are new to the United States are often apprehensive about
medical procedures, especially during pregnancy, which is usually not supervised
medically in Mexico. Prenatal care is a new experience for them, and often
frightening," Lopez said. "Having a doctor, nurse or even a receptionist who can
explain procedures and what to expect can make all the difference in the level
of care provided to these patients."
Hospitals, nursing homes and doctor's offices statewide are requiring more
bilingual workers, according to Cindy Lee, administrative director of Staffing
Partners, a temporary-placement service for nursing personnel.
"Spanish-speaking health care employees are at a premium," Lee said.
"Bilingual workers, especially those who understand Hispanic culture, can
communicate much more easily with patients," Lee said.
Ronni Anderson of Staff One Search, an administrative and management placement
firm in Phoenix, fills job orders from employers who are willing to pay a higher
hourly wage for bilingual employees.
"Across the board, we're seeing an increased demand for Spanish speakers,"
Anderson said, adding that construction companies are now requesting more
bilingual employees. "Many workers in the construction industry are Hispanic,
and if we can find a project manager or office administrator who speaks Spanish,
they can keep the lines of communication open."
In a construction office or job site, an employee who speaks Spanish can act as
interpreter between management and labor, she said.
"Eliminating the language barrier solves problems before they begin," she said.
"We've just joined the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in order to tap into the
Spanish-speaking market for our employees who are bilingual."
Learn basic Spanish
Sheila Lehker of Right Management Consultants, an organizational consulting
firm, said that senior-level executives who are seeking jobs might do well to
consider picking up some basic Spanish.
"It will definitely give them an edge," Lehker said. "Employers who are looking
at two candidates who have equal skillsets and backgrounds will choose the one
who is bilingual."
Employers today "are becoming increasingly global," according to Lehker.
"Technology, including the Internet, has given companies much more exposure on a
Even a minimal knowledge of a second language can be helpful, whether an
employee is seeking to change jobs or maximize his or her present position,
"Busy executives who don't have time to take a foreign-language class can listen
to audio tapes or CDs in the car," she said.
Employees proficient in languages other than Spanish are also in demand. Since
Sept. 11, 2001, government agencies are seeking workers who can speak Middle
Eastern languages, and an increase of residents into Arizona from the Far East
has boosted demand for employees who can speak Asian languages.
Besides being more employable, bilingual employees command higher salaries as
well. According to employmentreview.com, a joint survey commissioned by the
Florida Department of Education and the University of Miami showed that
bilingual, Spanish-speaking employees earned $7,000 more per year than
co-workers who spoke only English.
Not all second-language skills are verbal. American Sign Language
interpreters are also needed by Arizona's deaf community, according to Helen
Young, owner of Freelance Interpreting Service. Certified sign language
interpreters charge $40 to $60 per hour to interpret for hearing-impaired
individuals in courts, hospitals, nursing homes and schools.