In the five plus years I have worked at IIE, the term “workforce development” has become a more stable part of international higher education lingo. Although the concept of workforce development has been around for a long time, it has recently gained prominence in the field based on several factors in the ever-evolving state of the global economy. Here is what I have learned about the impact of international education on global workforce development.
So, what is workforce development?
Dr. Robert Jacobs and Joshua D. Hawley, professors of Workforce Development and Education at Ohio State University, provide a comprehensive definition of the term. According to Jacobs and Hawley, “Workforce development is the coordination of public and private-sector policies and programs that provides individuals with the opportunity for a sustainable livelihood and helps organizations achieve exemplary goals, consistent with the societal context.” At the core of every workforce development strategy are individuals who need to acquire necessary skills.
Many of the conversations I have at conferences and with clients revolve around the workforce development gaps that exist in emerging economies trying to implement local content or nationalization policies. The need for globally competent and skilled professionals in some emerging economies is profound (but we’ll leave that in-depth analysis for another blog post). The question for us as international educators is: How do we take an active role in bridging this gap in the interactions we have with international students?
My “aha moment” (to borrow from Oprah) came during a roundtable discussion at the Bilateral US-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Africa Insight Series featuring the Honorable Dr. Ekwow Spio- Garbrah, Minister of Trade & Industry for Ghana. During this very informative and intriguing discussion, I realized that, although the work we do as student advisors at IIE may not seem to directly affect workforce development, it has a profound effect on the development of the next generation of globally competitive individuals. Through the over 200+ programs at IIE, we help shape the international exchange experience of the 30,000+ students, scholars, and professional entrusted to us annually, connecting them to beneficial academic and professional opportunities that will enable them to bridge the workforce development gap in many emerging economies, including their host and home countries. As these emerging economies develop and implement their local content and nationalization agendas, we at IIE should strive to continue to design, implement, and administer educational and workforce development programs to meet this need.
As I work with my students from Angola, Russia, Romania, and Iraq, I realize they will go back to their home countries with the experiences they have gained as international students in the United States and the UK and contribute to the development of various industries in their countries, hopefully bridging the workforce development gap one individual at a time!