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OPE: Office of Postsecondary Education
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International Education Programs Service

Best Practices: CIBEs Meet the Current Training Needs of U.S. Businesses

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The gap between the global business world and the business classroom is wide and needs to be bridged by focusing more on collaborative approaches. A recent article in The Economist suggests that what U.S. business leaders need is a more practical, hands-on approach to training, which recognizes management as a craft1. Data analysis and strategy building merely augment the intuitive approaches to business transactions. Therefore, what makes or breaks a deal is the texture of human interaction, which is challenged by the diversity of cultures in the world of global business.

The challenge of developing effective global business leaders is compelling. Recognizing this need as a driving force behind the global competitiveness of U.S. firms, the U.S. Congress passed legislation in 1988 to provide funding to institutions of higher education to create Centers for International Business Education (CIBE). Specifically, Congress expanded Title VI of the Higher Education Act to include authorization for CIBEs via the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 to promote the nation’s global competitiveness. The U.S. Department of Education administers the CIBE program.

To address their mission, CIBEs have, since 1989, been engaged heavily in developing outreach programs for U.S. business executives, public policy makers, academics, and students. The current four-year cycle of funding for the 30 CIBE schools features more than 900 programs targeted specifically to achieve global competitiveness. The delivery format ranges from conferences to workshops, to seminars, to publications, to online resources. With such rigorous programming, CIBEs serve an integral part of both maintaining and increasing U.S. businesses’ global competitiveness in an international marketplace challenged by security issues, global complexities, and ideologies.

One element of its focus, CIBEs stress that an effective global business leader has great insight into the culture and language of the particular marketplace in addition to cutting-edge business skills2. Language skills serve as an integral part of a manager’s ability to “connect” with his/her employees and the particular market. Improving the language skills of business executives, faculty, and students involves many different facets of programming. CIBEs have created a series of innovative language programs to address the integration of business languages with business skills and knowledge. A number of these programs have been the product of collaborative ventures between CIBEs, Title VI National Resource Centers, Title VI Language Resource Centers, business language faculty, K-12 faculty, and U.S. businesses.

One such program, initiated by Michigan State University’s Center for International Business Education and Center for Language Education and Research, brings together business executives and language faculty in a three-year program to provide cutting-edge guidance on business language issues pertinent to U.S. businesses’ global competitiveness. Another venture with the two Centers and the State of Michigan involves publishing career development materials for K-12 parents, with the goal of informing parents about career options for their children and the training requirements for different business jobs. The Annual Business Language and Culture Conference series sponsored by all 30 CIBEs is yet another exemplary initiative reaching out to more than 100 business executives and language faculty every year. Rotation of the conference locale among CIBEs helps achieve a different regional focus within the general theme of business language and culture, with the intent that the specific training needs of a particular region are better met as well as increased accessibility to those regions.

The 30 CIBEs offer a wealth of resources for business executives, public policy makers, academics, and students. As but one example of the 900 CIBER-initiated programs, the globalEDGEtm web portal created by Michigan State University’s CIBE receives more than two million hits per month (http://globaledge.msu.edu/) from individuals and organizations trying to become or stay globally competitive. globalEDGE™ targets U.S. business executives and public policy makers as well as business and language faculty and students with cutting-edge programs that proactively maintain American competitiveness in the global marketplace (globalEDGE™ is the number one worldwide online resource on global business knowledge3).

Another example of a CIBE program is University of Washington's Technical Japanese Program (TJP), Business Japanese Online (BJO).  Using innovative technology developed by TJP, this unique program teaches advanced business conversation skills entirely over the Internet. Through extensive practice and role-playing with online classmates in real time, students learn to communicate and interact effectively with their Japanese peers. Business Japanese Online is designed to meet the needs of professionals who do business with Japan or who are interested in Japanese language and culture.

In addition to specific program initiatives by CIBEs, partnerships among CIBEs and non-governmental organizations such as the Academy of International Business (AIB) also serve as catalysts for bridging the gap between research and education. Instrumental to serving the current U.S. business needs for training, researchers must understand the challenges faced in the global marketplace. For example, the Annual Emerging Research Frontiers in International Business Conference brings together the highest regarded researchers in the field to analyze upcoming trends in business and chart upcoming research territories based on those findings. The conference is a collaborative effort between all CIBEs, AIB (http://aib.msu.edu/), and the Journal of International Business Studies.

Finally, the focus of the collective group of CIBEs is constantly evolving to be cutting-edge for the times. For example, rapid globalization of markets, increasing intensity of international competition, and global security issues dictate new modes of thinking and acting for business executives as well as business educators. CIBEs serve a key role in continually increasing U.S. businesses global competitiveness by developing programs that are appropriately proactive and sufficiently responsive to U.S. businesses needs. For more information, please visit CIBERWeb at http://ciberweb.msu.edu/. CIBERWeb features information on upcoming events as well as publications that inform the community regarding CIBE activities and programming.

1 Special Report (May 22, 2004), “But Can You Teach It?” The Economist, London, Vol. 371, Iss. 8376, pg. 81.

2 Kranhold, Kathryn; Dan Bilefsky; Matt Karnitschnig; and Ginny Parker. (May 18, 2004), "Lost in Translation? Managers at Multinationals May Miss the Job's Nuances If They Speak Only English," The Wall Street Journal, pp. B1.

3 Based on search rankings by Yahoo! (yahoo.com) and Google (google.com) on August 17, 2004 using the search term "international business."

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Last Modified: 01/21/2011