The changing face of the West Midlands has been revealed in a new report which shows Polish is now the region's second language in the workplace.
The report revealed that at firms where English is not the first language, 35 per cent employ Polish speakers, compared with only 16 per cent employing French speakers or those who spoke Asian languages, and 11 per cent Spanish speakers. The figures were released yesterday by the Regional Language Network West Midlands, which contacted 517 companies for the study.
Poland's acceptance into the European Union in 2004 has led to an estimated 20,000 Poles settling in the West Midlands.
Fran Oborski, consulate officer at the Polish Consulate in Kidderminster, said: "These figures do not surprise me. There is a long established community of Poles in the West Midlands and they can earn more money and get better jobs here than in Poland.
"They are highly skilled workers who are prepared to work very hard."
After the Second World War hundreds of Polish immigrants moved to Birmingham to find work, many as bus drivers. Travel West Midlands spokesman Phil Bateman said: "We have about 400 Polish workers throughout the company.
"About two years ago we went to Poland to find drivers because there had been so much interest. We now have 27 different languages in the company.
"We also work with City College to offer English classes to our drivers."
In 1947 a Polish Catholic Association was created in Birmingham, which settled in Digbeth in 1958.
Father Apollo Zawistowski, from the Polish Catholic Centre, said: "We have about 1,000 Poles attend our Sunday services."
Chris Everall, the manager of the Regional Language Network West Midlands, which helps companies break down language barriers, said a number of issues emerged with the report's findings.
He said: "Employers are legally required to communicate health and safety information to all their employees – yet migrant workers might not have sufficient English to understand it.
"In a number of cases we have encountered a Polish employee has signed a contract of employment, but has not been able to understand its terms and conditions."
A number of events will take place throughout the region to help businesses assimilate foreign workers and create better cultural awareness.