College Teachers Return to School to Learn about Exporting

September 9, 2011

by Doug Barry, a senior international trade specialist in the Trade Information Center.

A Basic Guide to Exporting is proving to be an indispensible tool in teaching tomorrow’s business leaders how to expand into overseas markets. The importance of its role as a textbook was clear earlier this summer at the International Business Institute for Community College Faculty held on June 6–9, 2011, at the International Business Center at Michigan State University–Lansing.

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The Department of Commerce’s Trade Information Center (TIC) presented one of the institute’s keynote sessions, which focused on business ideas, product innovation, and global sales. Business instructors from community colleges who participated in the TIC session received copies of the book. The faculty members received instruction on how to use A Basic Guide to Exporting and related online teaching tools in both new and existing business courses. The TIC’s participation in the institute was part of the federal government’s outreach efforts under the National Export Initiative (NEI). NEI, announced by President Barack Obama in January 2010, calls for doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and supporting millions of jobs.

Forty-five percent of all U.S. college students are enrolled in community colleges, and the Obama administration recently announced a program to prepare more students for jobs in the manufacturing sector. The relationship between preparing more students for jobs in the manufacturing sector and increasing exports seems clear: the more products the United States makes and sells to buyers in other countries, the more jobs will be generated. Perhaps what is new is the central role to be played by community colleges.

Participants in the faculty institute, which is funded by a Department of Education grant, admitted that they knew little about international trade or exporting when they first arrived. But by the end of the week, they were buzzing with new teaching ideas. This enthusiasm could be transferred to as many as 8,000 students during the next academic year. Several of the instructors said they would immediately add an export plan writing module to their existing business-planning unit. Others said they would use the numerous case studies in A Basic Guide to Exporting to demonstrate how a small company with a good business idea, product, or service can make it big in the global market. Still others said they were astonished by the range and value of assistance available from the federal government and particularly liked what the U.S. government’s export portal, www.export.gov, has to offer.