We’ve all been aware of the un and under-employment of recent college grads in Spain and Greece whose unemployment rates for people ages 15-24 is staggering at 55% and 58%. But what about the impact of the economic crisis in Europe upon the personal dreams and aspirations of college-age youth and recent graduates? This story in the NY Times paints a very bleak and sad picture: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/16/world/europe/youth-unemployement-in-europe.html?_r=0.
“Dozens of interviews with young people around the Continent reveal a creeping realization that the European dream their parents enjoyed is out of reach. It is not that Europe will never recover, but that the era of recession and austerity has persisted for so long that new growth, when it comes, will be enjoyed by the next generation, leaving this one out.”
The major shift in the workforce which is discussed has to do with employers moving away from hiring on a full-time basis to one where most prefer short-term contracts. This leaves little room for grads to pursue their careers within a company when the only work available pushes them into a cycle of short-term and low paying jobs without any prospect for advancement. Employers [with perhaps the exception being those based in Germany or Austria whose unemployment rates for those between 15-24 are only at 8% and 9%, respectively] cannot afford to hire full-time employees for fear of absorbing Europe’s generous labor benefit packages.
The article also illustrates the tremendous pain which grads suffer as they are forced to move away from their homes and families to seek employment in another country. Although there is much written about greater workforce “mobility” among youths in Europe, the reality of the forced migration of young and well educated talent seeking job offers – for low wages – has disrupted the lives of thousands of youths and their families. The story states that Spain has lost something like 100,000 university graduates and hundreds of thousands have moved to Germany, Britain and the Nordic states looking for work in engineering, science and medicine.
This chaos and disruption in the lives of so many young adults throughout Europe has untold consequences. Perhaps it will mean the delayed pursuit of careers and the resulting loss in wages along with a lack of skilled labor in important professional roles for many years to come.
We need to pay attention to what is happening to this current generation of students in Europe. The impact will be felt in our own society and global businesses.
As an alumnus of World Learning’s SIT Graduate Institute , I was pleased to read this story in the Boston Globe: http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2013/11/12/opening-doors-international-education/0HWb8zqtFuihyqlWupOp3K/story.html. A lot of the data the authors [senior administrators at SIT] cite will be familiar to professionals, although appearing in a mainstream media outlet, they needed to explain their point of view for a more general audience: that American students need to diversify their study abroad destinations to include more of the developing world. Something international educators have been trying to do for decades…
What I find troubling in the story is when they say, “As our students prepare for careers in our globalized economy, they need a more nuanced understanding of the world…” And “A deeper appreciation of these places [countries in the developing world] may well give students the experience and insights they will need for international and professional collaboration in the future.” Maybe.
Opening the door wider and having more undergrads walk through is a goal all international educators support. But it is not enough.
What is really needed is more money and staff on campus supporting deeper and more integrated approaches to advising students at the time they make their decision to study abroad (thus more engagement of the career office advising staff) along with purposeful methods of engaging students while they’re in-country and upon return to campus. I’ve written here about this before and in research for a forthcoming publication, I’ve identified many campuses that do just this –however, I think most campuses are understaffed to offer students the quality of advising which would realize the goals cited above my colleagues at SIT.
Adapting and making sense of a cross-cultural experience of any kind in a highly complex non-western culture is difficult and takes time; and it demands a more sophisticated effort by campuses to both prepare students for such an experience and to help them make meaning of their experience upon return to campus. Especially if one of the goals is to have students apply what they learned abroad in their job searches in order for their international experience to showcase their skills and capabilities in the workforce.
Only folks of a certain age will know that VISTA stands for: Volunteers in Service to America. Service in poor communities in the U.S., on reservations, in Appalachian towns, in rural Alaskan villages — was never as popular or sexy as service overseas. Now that we’re commemorating the 50th anniversary – which somehow seems like the wrong term to apply – of JFK’s assassination, I was thinking of the moment of choice for undergrads back in the day…
The reason I was dwelling on these two avenues for service has to do with the Open Doors stats just released showing that over 90% of U.S. undergrads never leave the U.S. at any point in their four years of study. And then I was thinking, so what. Instead of trying to push and push and innovate in all ways to increase the percentage who go abroad, why not work with the reality that most students remain in their home campus communities – and provide the means for them to develop their intercultural skills and competencies with in our borders. It’s cheaper. It’s less risky (for those families who would rather not have their children travel abroad). It’s just as important.
This quote is from the President of IIE upon release this week of their annual Open Doors report: ”Commenting on the fact that 90 percent of American undergraduates still do not study abroad, Dr. Goodman said, “We need to increase substantially the number of U.S. students who go abroad so that they too can gain the international experience which is so vital to career success and deepening mutual understanding.” Yes, but this lament occurs annually when the report from IIE is published. The movement of students to study abroad has increased at a glacial pace over the decades.
We have so many unmet needs in our nation’s poorest communities…there are innumerable opportunities for students to serve and learn at home.
This is an interesting news item from the campus paper of record: http://www.dailycal.org/2013/11/08/uc-berkeley-augment-study-abroad-model/
“Most of our graduates are going to be operating in a world in which they will have to interrelate with people who are not working in the United States,” Breslauer [Executive Vice Chancellor] said. “Our research has to be into global problems and has to focus on collaboration.” Hard to quibble with this statement at this point in the 21st century.
But I’m convinced that campuses with elaborate and well-funded inter-institutional partnerships with overseas universities are missing or ignoring – or both – the point of efforts like this to expand their internationalization policies and practices.
My current research for a new publication on campuses best practices regarding integrating both study abroad and career advising paints a picture of overworked and understaffed offices tasked with a myriad of complex tasks in managing study abroad programs. There needs to be a deeper evaluation of how models like this one from Berkeley and the other campuses cited, effectively equip students to evaluate the impact of their international experiences – both in the classroom and in terms of their career aspirations and job searches.
It’s not only about opening the door wider to international experiences, but it’s also about what happens to students after they walk through…
We hope that the fall semester has been progressing nicely at your institutions. As we approach International Education Week in mid-November, we invite you to utilize our resources to think about and advance your institution's internationalization strategy.
This month, several contributors added new resources.
AIEA has added a link to the organization's archived summaries of listserv responses to critical questions in the field.
Taken from a NAFSA webinar, Helping Students Translate ‘Study Abroad’ for the Job Search, in Spring 2013, which had close to 1,000 participants; go to http://www.nafsa.org/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=42998 for a free download.
There were three of us who teamed up to create this Guide and conduct the webinar: I worked with Vera Chapman at Colgate (in career services) and Curtiss Stevens (in study abroad) at the University of Texas at Austin. We crafted an integrated approach which may serve as a useful template for campus practitioners.
This is a model plan to help students consider the career implications of their decision to study abroad. If you use a different one on your campus, please share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org