By Frances Shuter Taylor
Published in the Capital Region Business Journal
The other day, I came across a telling statistic – one in five U.S. jobs is now linked to international trade. The assumption is that U.S. companies’ growth increasingly will depend upon overseas markets for sourcing components or raw materials, or for sales, or probably both.
What does this mean for us? For me, it indicates that our young people will need to be trained to compete in today’s globally connected marketplace. They must be prepared, no matter what field or line of work they choose, to be global players and citizens of the world.
The role of education
Historically, Wisconsin has given its high school and college students solid grounding in education and its relationship to our individual communities. Our institutions of higher learning know that educational content must evolve to be relevant to today’s, even tomorrow’s world.
At UW-Madison, my alma mater, faculty and staff are providing expanded opportunities for our students to become globally literate – to be exposed to global issues, to gain mastery of a world language, to study abroad, and to engage in academic international internships – regardless of their course of study.
Expanded study abroad opportunities now fit a variety of student situations. UW-Madison is also working with companies to promote internships with corporations that have an international component, whether offshore or stateside. Many more of these opportunities for our students would be welcomed!
The role of business
When I was an employer at the Bank of America, we hired young people coming out of top-flight business schools and especially appreciated and sought out graduates who had a global component to their skill base. The Midwestern work ethic was a bonus!
Many Wisconsin companies fully recognize the importance of global competence. They are already making contributions – recruiting on campus, meeting with students, providing scholarships and internships. But as Wisconsin continues to position itself, its companies, and citizens to be successful on a global stage, partnerships between business and education will become even more important.
Many of us are probably familiar with the Wisconsin Idea, the principle that education should influence and improve people’s lives beyond the university classroom. The idea has guided the university’s work for one hundred years. In like measure, could business reach out even more vigorously to UW-Madison and our other colleges and universities with opportunities to understand what it means to be internationally minded in a business sense?
Companies could provide speakers not just at School of Business functions, but in programs across the state’s campuses. Business could also volunteer to help organize company-sited sessions for students to understand the global components of their operations. Business can also help universities develop content that can bring real-world situations into the classroom.
Business and higher education must work even more collaboratively to ensure our graduates are fully equipped to operate in a marketplace that is both local and global. In so doing, we will assure that Wisconsin’s human capital, as well as its goods and services, are seen as the best in the world.
The more adaptable our students become, the better prepared they will be. And that global competence is increasingly the key to keeping Wisconsin in the forefront strategically and economically.
Frances Shuter Taylor is a former Executive Vice President of Bank of America and CEO of BA Asia, Ltd. Now retired, Fran currently serves on the Boards of TomoTherapy, Oak Bank, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the UW Foundation, and UW-Madison Division of International Studies advisory board. In May, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Wisconsin Alumni Association. The award, the highest honor bestowed by the WAA, recognizes graduates for their professional achievements, contributions to society, and support of the university.