Internationalisation – the key component of Employability

Earlier this year McKinsey, the global consulting firm, produced a hard hitting report on Education to Employment. The report describes a global paradox: crippling levels of youth unemployment around the world – close to 50% in Southern Europe and the Middle East, yet 40% of employers surveyed claiming an equally dangerous shortage of appropriately qualified staff. The report also forecast a global shortage of up to 85 million skilled workers by 2020. To quote from their report:

“Employers, education providers, and youth live in parallel universes. To put it another way, they have fundamentally different understandings of the same situation. Fewer than half of youth and employers, for example, believe that new graduates are adequately prepared for entry-level positions. Education providers, however, are much more optimistic: 72 percent of them believe new graduates are ready to work..

The same disconnect occurs with regard to education; 39 percent of education providers believe the main reason students drop out is that the course of study is too difficult, but only 9 percent of youth say this is the case (they are more apt to blame affordability).”

Clearly the need to improve skills to meet demand from employers and students is an urgent one. But how do governments and institutions respond? It seems a useful starting point is to understand what the future of graduate employment looks like. In a recent Ernst & Young report the authors forecasted globalisation to continue apace, but that businesses would face many challenges in adapting to a globalised marketplace – one of the most important being “Good people are hard
to find.”

As the McKinsey report identifies, there needs to be a closer coming together of the public and private sectors in how they approach their mission, how they operate, and how they talk to each other. Employability introduced into the curriculum at earlier stages, employers playing a more proactive role in curriculum design, opportunities for work experience, continuous professional education and so on.

But there is a lot more to becoming a global graduate than skills training.

What makes a global graduate?

Internationalisation at the core

A globalised economy by definition needs global graduates. Internationalisation of higher education is now a major policy priority of most governments these days as well as many major education institutions. This is not just about student mobility inbound and outbound – although that is a vital component.

The Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) produced an excellent report in November 2011 which identified the top three competencies of global graduates as:

1.    An ability to work collaboratively with teams of people from a range of backgrounds and countries:
2.    Excellent communication skills: written and oral;
3.    An ability to embrace multiple perspectives and challenge thinking.

All attributes which call for a global mind-set. This can best be developed within an international context, learning from other nationalities, experiencing the opportunities to study abroad, working with teams of students, belonging to larger international networks, and being taught by international faculty.

English Medium Delivery

English Language competence appears to be another core attribute of the global graduate. A Euromonitor report commissioned by the British Council  identified strong links between English language competence and national and individual economic benefits. Higher levels of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) are reported in those developing countries where English is the lingua franca. Startlingly, ability in English commands a 30% salary premium over a person’s career.

The INTO approach

Across the INTO network of partners, we strive to embed this commitment to internationalisation in all of our partnerships. It is part of our DNA. The universities with whom we work are those which challenge students to go beyond their intellectual and cultural boundaries. The presence of large numbers of international students on university campuses in the United Kingdom, North America and China bring unique perspectives to domestic students. For example our partnership with Nankai University brings opportunities for students to experience other cultures within the context of English medium degrees from one of Asia’s leading universities.

In our manifesto released in February last year, we identified the critical role that public and private sector have in addressing these global challenges. Developing global graduates in all parts of the world will require concerted efforts by institutions, governments and the private sector.

In some cases, this will mean the transformation of entire education systems, ensuring that public and private sectors are aligned and share a common understanding of core economic and social challenges. Delivering an education fit for purpose in the 21st century and one which equips the next generation with the skills, knowledge, confidence and experience to thrive in this world is one which affects us all. And as such, is simply too important to be left to public or private sectors alone.

Tim O'Brien

Author: Tim O'Brien

Tim is Vice President, Global Partner Development, INTO University Partnerships

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