In President Barack Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address, he introduced NEI’s (National Export Initiative) goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years. Such an accomplishment fueled by international trade education would definitely invigorate the domestic economic recovery, and help produce and sustain new jobs in the local market. Based on the study conducted by the Small Business Administration, companies engaged in international trade are 20 % more productive per worker, pay about 10%-15% more in salaries, and are 9% more likely to stay financially solvent. With two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power located outside the U.S., exporting could help businesses expand from U.S. market of 300 million consumers to a global market of more than six billion consumers.

The U.S. economy increasingly depends on globally-minded professionals who have acquired the right skill sets, knowledge and experience through international trade education. Because of technological advances in communication and ever-growing cross border flow of capital, talent, goods and services, foreign trade is growing at a faster pace. There has been strong demand on the part of companies to hire people who can conduct business beyond U.S. borders and help them to compete in the international marketplace.

Community colleges are the most cost-effective and flexible tool in training and developing a global business workforce. They have the unique ability to craft courses that meet the dual needs of the college credit and workplace knowledge and skill development at the same time. Even though two-thirds of community colleges have international business programs in place, we need college-business partnerships to pursue a more ambitious, comprehensive mission to expand its curriculum and programs in global business to equip students with much needed skills to compete in the hyper-connected world.

Community college administrators must design courses aimed at enhancing both students’ and aspiring global entrepreneurs’ proficiency in exports/imports and foreign language expertise, as well as focus on the professional development programs that prepare teams to work in a particular world region for their future employers.

In this era of globalization, community college and business partnerships are crucial when it comes to educating world-class workforces for businesses to grow and expand in overseas markets. Advantages for companies include reduced training costs, improved employee satisfaction, increased productivity and profit. The benefit for community colleges is that they can generate additional revenue in fulfilling their mission of putting together quality programs despite cutbacks in government funding.

Other promising partnerships between community colleges and businesses are:

  • The college’s “Center for Global Business Initiative.” The center focuses on mastering a particular knowledge pertaining to imports and exports, and providing insight to international marketing strategies. The students perform all the tasks involved.
  • Apprenticeship Program: College for Free and a Paycheck.

Central Piedmont Community College and Siemens Energy in Charlotte, NC is testament of a 12-year-old partnership program that can be very well applied in the international trade arena as well. Here’s how it works: The students work at Siemens while attending Central Piedmont Community College. Siemen’s pays for each student’s tuition costs, while participants earn a paycheck and receive intensive company-specific technical training and hands-on experience.

Community colleges are a remarkable resource of international trade education in preparing a better-educated and more highly-skilled workforce for businesses to promote exports and contribute to the nation’s economic recovery.

Ayse Oge is Regional Director of Business Education Statewide Advisory Committee in Los Angeles, CA. She is also Board Member of California Business Education Association and Program Chair of CBEA Annual Conference, November 15-17 in San Diego, CA.