Cultural competence. Global mindset. Intercultural sensitivity. These are not simply contemporary catch phrases, they are indicators of the current business world and are, in essence, the prerequisites for success in today’s global market.
“Business leaders want to hire graduates with international skills and perspectives, who are comfortable working across languages and cultures,” said President of Universities Canada, Paul Davidson. “As a trading country, our future economic prosperity will depend on giving our students these critical global skills.”
Mary Vaughan, Dean of Business and IT at College of the North Atlantic (CNA) in Newfoundland and Labrador, agrees.
“This is precisely why we have incorporated international and experiential learning into our programs at CNA,” she explained.
“We leverage every opportunity to have our students engage in practical experience where they can apply the skills learned in their programs. Our Business Case competition is an excellent vehicle for that – we host an annual competition provincially, and they are able to take that experience to the national stage at the Vanier competition in Montreal and then internationally through our campus in the Middle East.
“Students are not only challenged with cases that will push them further in their capabilities, but it also provides a cultural experience that brings a different context to the field of business – one with a global perspective,” said Vaughan. “This can only serve to enhance their employability skills no matter where in the world they choose to work.”
Stephanie Pretty is a graduate of the Business Management – Accounting program at CNA. She was part of the winning team in the provincial Business Case in 2010, which then moved on to the international competition in Doha, Qatar, in a competition with colleges and universities from throughout the Middle East.
“It was the single most culturally significant and greatest educational experience I have ever had in my life,” said Pretty. “I am indebted to College of the North Atlantic for this invaluable experience. It has certainly added tremendous value to my complete education experience.”
She went on to attain her Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation and today is working in the Department of Finance with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, soon to embark on a new phase of her career as Manager of Financial and Information Systems. Stephanie and others like her are redefining “employability” by not only bringing hard skills to the table, but also attitudes and aptitudes that prove very attractive to any company.
Workopolis, Canada’s largest online job site, surveyed hundreds of employers and analyzed millions of job postings to determine what skills are in highest demand in Canada
. Of the 256 employer respondents, a third planned to increase their staff complement within a year, but some 68 per cent claimed they found it difficult due to the lack of qualified applicants.
“According to the employers we surveyed, it is on-the-job experience, interpersonal skills, and technical abilities that they want. And the soft skills outweigh the technical,” the report stated.
Soft skills are those other than core knowledge and technical skills, those general and innate talents like adaptability, time management, problem solving, critical thinking, organization, interpersonal and communication skills, and team mentality.
And these skills equal employability.
The Conference Board of Canada, in conjunction with the Corporate Council on Education, has identified employability skills as, “The academic, personal management and teamwork skills… that form the foundation of a high-quality Canadian workforce both today and tomorrow.
“Skills development is more than a training of hand and eye; it is pre-eminently the cultivation of flexible habits of mind.” 
What better way to cultivate flexibility of mind and adaptability, than to study abroad? Having a global mind-set encompasses the ideals of soft skills development – they cannot be learned from a book, they must be experienced. And they are in high demand.
Exploring the Process of Global Citizen Learning and the Student Mind-Set
confirms that increasingly, universities and employers are identifying a need for graduates to have an intellectual and global mind-set that goes beyond disciplinary competencies and national boundaries.
In fact, according to an article that appeared the Globe and Mail
June 15, 2016, some 82 per cent of employers that hire recruits with international and intercultural experiences say these employees enhance their company’s competitiveness. 
Even if graduates with international experience choose to stay in their countries and not work abroad, these global-minded people have the coveted competencies that benefit their employers.
We need them. And institutions like College of the North Atlantic are producing them.
“With employers increasingly seeking out students with international experience, providing opportunities for student mobility is essential for colleges and institutes,” said Denise Amyot, President and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada. “Thanks to their focus on experiential learning, they are recognized internationally for providing students with hands-on training that helps them quickly find a place in the job market. I am glad to see this approach expand beyond our borders for the benefit of both international partners and Canadian students.”
CNA has been hosting international students for decades, but with the establishment of its international campus in the Middle East State of Qatar in 2001, a robust relationship has evolved that allows for cross-cultural exchange opportunities for both countries.
Khalid Al-Musallem just returned home to Qatar after a six-week student exchange experience at CNA’s Prince Philip Drive campus in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. The Business Management student at College of the North Atlantic-Qatar (CNA-Q) has lived and studied in other places such as France and the US. He says studying in other cultures has given him a valuable perspective, one that has forever changed his view on other parts of the world.
“You come to realize that we are all the same. No matter the country or culture, we all love our families and we seek to be good, productive members of society,” said Khalid. “People are the same everywhere.”
Khalid’s global mind-set stems from the cultural sensitivity he has attained through his experiences in different cultures. According to the research of Dr. Jane Jackson, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, it’s not just business practices that are affected by intercultural sensitivity. In her case study
of Chinese advanced foreign language students who took part in a five-week sojourn in the UK, those who acquired higher levels of intercultural sensitivity and awareness displayed more empathy for others.
“The impact of globalization extends well beyond the realm of business and enterprise,” she said. “It affects the cultural fabric of societies and educational institutions. It is a powerful force for change in practices and ways of conceptualizing the world and one’s place in it.”
Institutions that give their students this opportunity for growth are not just producing graduates with promising careers, but shaping lives and the very world in which we live.
Public Relations Specialist
College of the North Atlantic
 Exploring the Process of Global Citizen Learning and the Student Mind-Set, Journal of Studies in International Education,
July 2015; vol. 19, 3: pp. 225-245, first published on September 11, 2014
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