The Importance of Global Skills for European & Asian Students

Working in an international company is a goal almost every student has on their list. Amazing business trips, exciting projects, and unforgettable experience are what you get when you’re an employee in an international organization. But to be successful in a global workforce, you need to be competent enough in many areas.

Today I’ll tell you about one type of skills that is necessary to work in an intercultural company — global skills. This type of skills doesn’t have a clear definition, but there are certain things it’s always connected to (for example, communication with people of other cultures, religions, and languages).

Later, I’ll provide you with more information about about what do global skills include, but now we have another issue to tackle: international students often confirm the lack of global skills teaching in their institutions.

According to the 2017 study, many international students gain dissatisfying experience in the global education area.

From this article, you’ll find the answers to the following questions:

  • What are global skills?
  • How do European and Asian international students feel about global education in their institutions?
  • What should be changed to improve global awareness skills taught to students?

Workers at office

Global skills definition

Let’s start with the global skills definition. This isn’t the easiest term to describe as long as it includes a lot of aspects. To achieve such skills means to be successful in communicating with people of other cultures, understand and accept their customs and traditions, and being able to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts based on cultural differences.

These abilities are significant for specific professions or companies. For example, if you lack this kind of experience and knowledge, there are fewer chances to get a promising position at an international company. By learning these skills in universities, students get more opportunities at their jobs, can seek a higher wage, and get promotions faster.

The perspective to become a successful employee in their field pushes many students to learn and practice a lot, but the real problem lays in the education system that often provides international students with less experience than they need or want to gain regarding global skills.

Intercultural communication is also often underestimated as a necessary characteristic by job applicants. HR managers notice that a lot of interviewed specialists lack skills in communication with people of other culture or religion. This eventually lowers their odds to get a position in a progressive company even if they’re skillful in their profession or required business field.

International skills study

According to Global PAD Working Paper, global skills are an important part of education which often gets less attention from professors and tutors than other experiences. To illustrate this, an interview of more than 1200 students was held.

Among respondents, there were exchange students from 74 countries including UK, Ireland, Uruguay, and Germany. All of them were separated into European and Asian groups to determine the correlation between different countries.

The students studied abroad and developed professional and interpersonal skills in their universities. The point of the survey was to examine international students’ feelings about their global education and intercultural skills it gives.

The students’ experience is divided into four quadrants. One scale is determined by the importance of global skills to students, the other by experience universities give to them. In the result, researchers got four quadrants:

  • Stagnating — low importance and low experience
  • Dissatisfying — high importance and low experience
  • Nurturing — low importance and high experience
  • Flourishing — high importance and high experience

The results showed the following differences between groups of European and Asian students:

Analyzing this data, we can track the distribution of European and Asian students from all around the world. Here, you can see that European students are less motivated to develop intercultural skills on average, while Asian students are rather dissatisfied with the quality of education regarding this issue.

Along with that, more Asian than European students find their experience flourishing. That means, they more often are motivated to get global skills and gain this experience at the same time.

In the research, there are some comments provided by students. In this data, you can see that European students often don’t know what global skills are or how to develop them properly.

Another issue is that although many of them submit they’re developing intercultural skills, they’re not sure about proper means to do this:

  • Will the strategy, which their university choose, train them enough to compete on the professional scale?
  • Should they worry about gaining additional experience in this type of skills?

Such questions that take place in the interviews show the vague and insecure position global skills have in international courses.

Asian students, on the contrary, are usually aware of intercultural skills and motivated to improve them. They more often comment on the cultural diversity they have in their classes and how wonderful it is to know more about their classmates’ backgrounds.

Unfortunately, universities don’t always give enough training in this area, and the interest, which students have, isn’t satisfied. They also often notice that examples given in a class are stuck to one culture. This fact disappoints those who are motivated to improve intercultural skills.

According to ShiXiongDao (educational technology development, China), the biggest challenge for Chinese students is to change their mindset and fit into various cultures. They also notice that the number of international students from China increases every year, so there’s a lot of space for improvement.

Business meeting

Both European and Asian students who determine their experience as flourishing are usually sure they’ll need to communicate with people of other cultures, religions, and languages. That’s why they’re doing their best to compete with other job applicants in future.

As a result, we see that the correlation between European and Asian students’ is pretty amazing. While Asian students more often notice the lack of personal skills connected to culture diversity encouraged by institutions, many European students are surprised to know these skills are essential for working in an international company.

Still, both groups have a large number of students who are both motivated and satisfied with the knowledge they get in this area (42% of European and 56% of Asian students).

What can be done to fight ignorance and improve your intercultural skills?

Go to internships.

Internships are an excellent source of knowledge about different cultures and professional communication with their representatives. When working abroad, you always gain lots of experience that increase your competence in the international market.

To apply for internships, you need to investigate universities’ websites or search through specific boards. Almost every big corporation offers internships from time to time so that you can get into the company of your dream.

Global skills courses.

You can find additional courses in your university, workplace, or online to improve your intercultural skills. Try to narrow your need to one topic, for example, “working in India” or “intercultural body language”. After this step, you can contact agencies that offer these kinds of training.

Big companies often set free courses for their workers before business trips to specific countries. That helps to avoid misunderstandings and improve the quality of communication.

With the help of these two methods, you’ll improve your intercultural skills even if your university doesn’t give you as much experience as you need.

At the end of the post, I want to thank ShiXiongDao for the provided data and motivate everyone who are interested in the topic to read Global PAD Working Paper research.

Yvonne McQuarrie
Yvonne McQuarrie

Yvonne McQuarrie is a freelance recruiter and resourcing advisor from Portsmouth, England. Her passion lies in people and knowledge. She worked as a student advisor and recruiter for two years. Yvonne also has an outstanding academic background as a private tutor which allows her being an advocate for self-improvement and development.

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