Global Connections: Leveraging international networks

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) serves on the board of directors for several international organizations to ensure that U.S. community colleges have a voice in important international dialogues, and to provide unique opportunities for community college leaders to network with international colleagues, share innovative and promising practices, and be recognized internationally for the amazing work they do.

The World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) is one such organization that works with AACC. It is an international network of national and regional associations of colleges (as well as individual colleges) focused on career and technical education issues and the promotion of workforce development for a global economy. AACC has served on the WFCP board for more than 20 years and is a WFCP founding organization.

I currently represent AACC on the WFCP board and am its deputy chair for the Americas. As a result, AACC-member institutions have access to WFCP networks, can access WFCP resources, participate in ongoing WFCP affinity group projects and activities, and register for events at the WFCP-member rate.

Today, WFCP membership spans across 43 countries on every continent except Antarctica. Other nations and regions represented on the WFCP board are China, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Africa, Brazil, Chile, Jamaica, New Zealand and the Basque Country in Spain.

A unique experience

Every two years, the group holds a World Congress — a diverse global convening that includes presentations by and discussions with ministers of education, heads of educational institutions and private-sector industry representatives. To date, nearly all WFCP founding-member organizations have hosted the congress at least once. AACC hosted the event in 2008 in New York with Bronx Community College.

The 2020 WFCP World Congress is set for October 14-16 in San Sebastian, a historic and picturesque coastal city in the Basque Country. The host is the Basque Center of Research and Applied Innovation in VET (TKNIKA), which is part of the Deputy Ministry of Vocational Education and Training of the Education Department of the Basque government. TKNIKA also sits on the WFCP board. TKNIKA has received high praise from the European Union in recent years for its innovation and workforce development success in the Basque region.

Former AACC board member Annette Parker, president of South Central College (Minnesota), will provide a plenary address at the 2020 WFCP World Congress. Other events include visits to local TKNIKA institutes, a cultural excursion and a possible special networking event for U.S. community college attendees.

Lee Lambert, chancellor of the Pima Community College District in Arizona, presents a case study of how his college connects with global education. Lambert was part of a delegation led by AACC at the WFCP 2018 World Congress in Australia. (Photo: AACC)

Including students, too

The WFCP Youth Leadership Camp, October 11-17, 2020, will provide a mini study-abroad experience for students. It will include visits to TKNIKA institutes, cultural sightseeing tours, professionally facilitated multicultural team-building exercises and participation in World Congress activities.

In 2018, Kirkwood Community College (Iowa) sponsored a student to attend the 2018 WFCP World Congress in Melbourne, Australia. That year, WFCP provided one academic credit to camp attendees.

In 2020, specifically for U.S. community college students, the French embassy in the U.S. and TKNIKA will arrange customized two-week study tours of nearby academic institutions in Spain and/or France. In prior years, TKNIKA arranged study tours for South Central College students, including one focused on culinary arts.

The French embassy’s offer is an extension of its Community College in France initiative. It also included community colleges in the October 2019 n+i Rendez-Vous Discover the French program and set aside funding for community colleges in its Transatlantic Mobility Program.


Michael Chipps, then-president of Northeast Community College in Nebraska, accepts a WFCP award in 2014. (Photo: WFCP)

The WFCP Leadership Institute (October 13-14, 2020) consistently attracts a diverse group of education leaders from around the world to discuss global trends and challenges and establish priorities for a future workforce across the globe. The institute also assists WFCP to align its strategic plans to support those priorities.

On the last night of the 2020 WFCP World Congress, an Awards of Excellence gala dinner will take place in nearby Getaria at the Cristobal Balenciaga Fashion Museum. Attendees from AACC-member institutions are encouraged to self-nominate for an award in seven categories.

In 2014, Northeast Community College (Nebraska) won in the Student Support Services category. In 2018, Pima Community College won in the Access to Learning and Employment category. The 2020 award winners will appear in the WFCP World Best Practices Guide.

About the Author

Wayne Wheeler
is director of international programs and services at the American Association of Community Colleges.