Leadership Day is organized by Scott McLeod: Dangerously Irrelevant (blog on Big Think).
Summary of this post: Digital, linguistic, and cross-cultural skills are required for jobs in the global economy; what jobs are actually like in global business, and suggestions for schools.
Americans need computer literacy, foreign language, and cross-cultural communication skills. Badly.
Compared to most other countries, the U.S. has a much higher percentage of monolinguals. According to this article, 66% of the world’s children are bilingual, but only 6.3% of U.S. residents are: CNN: Some facts about the world\’s 6,800 tongues. Another article says it’s difficult to determine the numbers of polyglots globally, and that the number of speakers of other languages is increasing in the U.S., though we’re still way behind: How America Can Get Her Bilingual Groove Back.
Multilingualism and an understanding of globalization aren’t “nice to have” skills any more. Just about anything you can think of in the developed world (and the developing world is advancing quickly) is connected globally, and so education must be. But by and large, education is barely reacting to globalization. We must instead be pro-active.
What today’s employers need
- Sales teams who know what time it is in Vancouver, Geneva, and Bangalore. If a client in Tokyo wants to meet online on Friday morning, that’s Thursday evening for the salesperson in Boston. Or a European client may want to visit during a specific week number.
- Marketing communicators and course developers who understand that in Copenhagen, close of business is at 15:00 (3:00 P.M.), or that print shops in Stockholm may be closed on Saturdays. Therefore, the team in New York must deliver the documents (A4-sized PDFs, of course) to be printed locally in Scandinavia, taking the time difference into account. For long documents, it’s less expensive to print there than to ship; it’s also quicker and less complicated than getting the documents through customs (that is, if the documents need printing; so many are web-based docs, online help, etc.).
- Staff who expect their email inboxes to be full when they arrive in the morning (from colleagues, suppliers, and clients around the world), can recognize and correct linguistic and cultural faux pas before delivering materials to customers, and can communicate well with all these constituencies.
- Accountants and purchasing agents who handle pricing and expense reports in foreign currencies every day.
- Product designers and writers who understand the behaviors and values of people in target markets. Including globalization starting from the design phase is more efficient than trying to fix a mess later, when budgets dwindle and faux pas may have to remain, with reputation at stake.
- Software engineers who write code that supports internationalization (allows translation to occur). For example, you must avoid producing runtime error messages by combining parts of sentences, or translations will be impossible or wrong (subject-verb or noun-adjective agreements; words in the wrong order, etc.).
- Administrators and executives who enable processes, policies, and methods of communication, and impart a vision to allow a school, organization, or company to function smoothly worldwide.
- Local service providers such as teachers, trainers, lawyers, firefighters, doctors, customer service representatives, store clerks, plumbers, and architects who understand the needs of non-native speakers of English in the U.S.
- Meteorologists, epidemiologists, urban planners, healthcare professionals and researchers, philanthropists, environmental scientists, green designers, and financial analysts who must understand global trends and work with other specialists worldwide to solve global problems.
- Travelers (athletes, business people, military personnel, chefs, musicians, actors, etc.) who are comfortable working in any environment.
- Managers, political leaders, and diplomats who understand the subtleties of other cultures, or at least what types of cultural differences may exist. Experience living abroad is a huge advantage.
Computers, IM, mobile phones and other Internet devices have virtually replaced paper. Last year, my company moved into a new building. They put a few books in the built-in bookshelves, just for decoration, but got rid of the rest because the staff now uses online resources instead.
Without technology, you can’t even land a job interview. Last month, while I was on vacation (staying with my in-laws, who are over 80 and don’t have Internet), I went to coffee shop with Wi-Fi to search for jobs on the Internet and send email. I received calls on my cell phone requesting interviews while I was at the beach, the zoo, and my in-laws’ house.
What about tomorrow’s jobs?
Students need a good skill base and the ability to adapt to the ever-quickening pace of change. Business leaders say they need workers with soft skills. See Tony Wagner’s book, The Global Achievement Gap , Daniel Pink’s books, A Whole New Mind and Drive, and Kim Cofino’s presentation on going-global.wikispaces.com. Experience living abroad particularly hones 21st-century skills such as these:
- Adaptability, flexibility, thinking out-of-the-box, synthesis of ideas from different sources.
- Trying new ways of doing things without being afraid of making mistakes.
Scott McLeod’s TEDx Talk analyzes the global employment landscape:
Meantime, there are practical things we can do.
In the classroom
Are your kids learning this, using these systems, especially by connecting with people across the globe?
- The metric system (distance, temperature, paper size, mass, volume, pressure, area, etc.). Guess which 3 countries haven’t adopted it? Countries that have not officially adopted the metric system.
- Dates and times. Time zones, start of the week on a different day, a week may be counted as 8 days, etc. Many countries use 4/12 for December 4 and 17:00 instead of 5:00 P.M.). See what-time-is-it-where-you-are.
- Holidays. Language exercises often prompt students to practice dates by using U.S.-centric images such as Christmas trees (not representative of all Americans, either) or fireworks for July 4th. Holidays vary by country, not language. Why not teach the holidays of target countries?
- Cross-cultural communications skills (face-to-face, presentations, email, formal writing…) including listening and observation skills, to understand the needs of people from different cultures.
- Using the correct accented characters: Special Character Codes for Windows or Special Character Codes for Mac.
Connecting with students and teachers globally
You can do interdisciplinary projects using foreign language, social studies, and science skills, for example. Use Skype, GoToMeeting, ePals, it’s learning, or these free resources for teachers:
A Peace Corps volunteer can come speak in your classroom. Or you can connect students with kids abroad who are working with a Peace Corps volunteer. There’s a lot more here!
Teachers can choose from existing projects. Students at schools in several countries work together to solve a common problem (keeping water clean, etc.) together. The organization’s motto is: “Learning with the world, not just about it…”
Preparing teachers and administrators
To understand globalization and the use of technology, find a way to connect with the global business community:
- Use Professional Development time or a summer job opportunity to shadow or work in a global business.
- Talk with business leaders about what employees must understand and be able to do now and in the future. Connecting via Internet lets you talk with people in multiple locations simultaneously.
- Ask parents whether their employers would support such corporate citizenship initiatives.
Also use some PD time to connect with other schools, to share examples of what works, and help each other resolve problems.