Community colleges have played a historic and vital role in creating and growing the American middle class. They have well-earned the title of “America’s Colleges.”
Given their prominent history, some predict that community college enrollment will surge as the American economy begins to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic and companies seize the opportunity to reinvent themselves in a new and emerging business environment. Just as during the 2008 recession, traditional students will likely seek lower-cost, high-quality higher education options, as will displaced workers in need of new skills for a new job market.
Some research has already indicated that about one-third of workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic will seek additional education and training to secure a comparable job in the future. Surely, as we recover from the pandemic, our country will once again depend upon community colleges to produce workers and entrepreneurs who are equipped to succeed in the new economy and the new job market.
Demand for global competencies
Future jobs will require a vastly different skillset within an increasingly diverse and complex world. To be truly successful in the global marketplace, community college graduates must be globally competent.
As automation and technological advances change the nature of work, and as global diversity and economic growth change the characteristics of the employee and consumer base, the skills of global competence will be in greater demand. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 crisis is demanding international cooperation and sharing of knowledge, demonstrating the interconnectivity of our world and the need to be able to work with anyone, anywhere around the globe.
As indicated in the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) “International Education Toolkit: Importance of Global Education,” employers highly value workers who can appreciate and effectively communicate with customers and business partners from other countries and other cultures, who have different customs and traditions, and may speak other languages. One study of more than 350 large companies around the world discovered that workers who lacked global competence were considered potential business liabilities — risks likely to result in loss of clients, damage to reputation and conflict within teams.
Another study found that companies with more diverse, multicultural workforces generated more innovation and up to 19 percent more revenue. Accordingly, an increasing number of companies regard their diversity strategies in employee recruitment and retention as proprietary corporate secrets.
The World Economic Forum recommends that developing global citizenship values should be an integral component in a “future-ready” curricula. Concurrently, the National Association of Colleges and Employers lists cultural fluency as one of eight career-ready competencies, and Forbes contributor Bernard Marr lists diversity and cultural intelligence as a top–10 vital skill for future work. A study from Deloitte and the Global Business Coalition for Education lists cultural awareness as an employability skill people will need to succeed in the future workplace.
Encouraging studies show that community colleges are increasingly internationalizing their campuses and are incorporating international, global, or intercultural components into course content, pedagogy, resources, and assessments as a way to develop these skills in students. However, much of that progress has been concentrated in the Humanities. Much more work is needed in career and technical education (CTE) programs.
Case study in North Carolina
Some community colleges have developed innovative and promising practices in CTE. For example, in 2013 Davidson County Community College (DCCC) in North Carolina created the Scholars of Global Distinction Program. By 2015, DCCC internationalized 25 courses, including those in nursing, welding and automotive systems.
The program requires each student to take globally intensive courses, participate in authorized international activities and events (“Passport Events”), have a global experience (study abroad or domestic intercultural activity/service) and make a capstone presentation that reflects upon and connects his/her global learning opportunities.
Notably, DCCC frequently leverages Fulbright programs to support its Scholars of Global Distinction Program. For example, through the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program, DCCC hosts teachers from other countries that provide instruction in foreign languages that the college would not otherwise be able to offer. The FLTA teachers also share their culture through activities on campus and in the local community.
New and unusual course offerings and unique international events on and off campus keep DCCC students engaged. Through its partnership with UNC World View at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, DCCC has helped to develop the Scholars of Global Distinction Program across 22 North Carolina community college campuses. The program is among a growing number of globally focused, comprehensive credentials that community colleges are offering to boost the skills and employment opportunities of their graduates.
For a better future
“Preparing Tomorrow’s Workforce,” a new paper from the Center for Global Education at Asia Society, in partnership with AACC and other organizations, seeks to demonstrate the need for community college administrators and faculty to offer a curriculum with an intentional global education component, particularly within its CTE programs. The paper offers insight and examples from community and technical colleges committed to this charge. The examples in this paper intend to support community and technical colleges and their faculty as they seek to integrate global competence into existing CTE course content to lead future generations of students into 21st-century careers.
Nothing could be more relevant in a time of global uncertainty and upheaval. Leaders across the globe are facing the same trials. Yet are they communicating, collaborating and learning from each other to the greatest extent possible?
A global mindset can better prepare all students for the new world we are entering — one that involves less travel and requires more refined social emotional skills so that we can better interact with colleagues and peers virtually. A world that is clearly interconnected on a granular level. A world where we must be open to other perspectives and ideas to solve the challenges that face us all.
Wayne Wheeler is director of international programs and services at the American Association of Community Colleges.
Heather Singmaster is director of career and technical education at the Center for Global Education at Asia Society.