Globalization is changing the way the world works, and employers are increasingly looking for workers who have cross-cultural competence and cutting-edge technical skills.
PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that by 2050, the E7 (China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey) will be more than 50% larger than the G7 countries (the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan) when measured by GDP at market rates. The National Intelligence Council's "Global Trends Report 2030" projects that China will surpass the United States as the world's largest economy by 2030. A recent study by the British Council, entitled Culture at Work, shows that employers are under strong pressure to find employees who have both technical knowledge and "soft skills" such as critical thinking, problem solving, time management, and communication, deemed necessary for success in a global workforce.
At the same time, there is a mismatch of skills of graduates today and what employers are looking for. The Global Risks Report 2014 indicates structural high unemployment/underemployment as one of the top global risks over the next decade. The generation coming of age in 2010s in advanced countries face high debt and are not prepared for the workforce.
Study abroad is one of the best ways students can acquire global skills and open up personal and professional opportunities.
Study abroad is a life-changing experience for many students, opening their eyes to different ways of life and promoting understanding and tolerance. By looking at research on the more directly quantifiable aspects of study abroad impact, studies show students who study abroad have better grades, experience less attrition, and graduate from college at higher rates than students who do not study abroad.
- An assessment by the University System of Georgia found the students who studied abroad had a 17.8% higher 4-year graduation rate than those who did not study abroad.
- Indiana University reported that study abroad students earned higher grades and completed degrees in four years at a higher rate than their peers.
- An analysis by the SAGE Research Project of 6,000 alumni over 50 years demonstrates that study abroad has a substantial long-term impact on individuals' career paths and global engagement.
Employers value study abroad experiences in the workplace.
- AIM Overseas reported "61% of employers agree that an overseas study experience is [positive] on a resume. Additionally, 72% of employers agree that knowing a second language adds to the appeal of a prospective employee. The same study reported 95% of students found the exchange experience as useful with regard to their future career plans
- Based on responses from 10,0000 hiring managers and CEOs in 116 nations, the 2011 QS Global employer survey found that 60% of respondents said they do "value an international study experience".
- Study abroad alumni have better job prospects. Based on a survey conducted by IES Abroad, 90% of study abroad alumni found their first job within six months of graduation.
- The UK Higher Education International Unit’s Go International Report (2013-14) showed that students who were mobile reported to have higher average salaries than their non-mobile equivalents. Graduates from a background in routine occupations who had been mobile earned, on average, £1,364 per year more than their non-mobile peers. And although they were less likely to be mobile, a period abroad correlated with a significantly greater improvement in employment outcomes for black and Asian students compared to white students.
- According to US News, an increasing number of employers desire professional employees with both "hard" and "soft" skills. This includes the abilty to adapt to changing circumstances and the willingness to learn through experience. Study abroad allows students to develop these skills.
IIE's Generation Study Abroad aims to break down the perceptions of study abroad as expensive and elitist. Studying abroad is affordable and the Institute has many resources available to help students and their parents plan accordingly. We must ensure that this generation and future generations of the U.S. workforce possess knowledge of other countries and cultures and are competent in languages other than English. It is more important now than ever for Americans to gain global competency skills so that they can succeed in the global marketplace.
From A Student Guide to Study Abroad
"The ability to work across cultures is no longer a nice-to-have skill set for elite executives; every year it becomes more essential to finding any job at all. A machine operator at a plant in Topeka that exports aircraft parts to Brazil needs to know how to interact effectively when Brazilian customers come to visit. A nurse's aide at a Houston hospital that serves a large Hispanic community has to communicate with family members in ways that encourage rather than discourage patient compliance." - Stacie Nevadomski Berdan
"The beauty of studying abroad is gaining a broader understanding of other cultures. Having access to other people and building relationships with those people on their home turf enables one to think more creatively and flexibly, necessary skills in today's competitive work environment. If a student can bring that understanding and knowledge back to the USA, the sky's the limit!" – Frank Abate, Division Manager, JM&A Group
"As a 35-year old, I believe that my generation is the last one to be able to use global experience as a differentiator. Globalization has now become a requirement to compete and succeed." – Adam Michaels, Principal, Booz & Co.