The new frontier — The world
Suddenly, everyone seems to be dissecting what’s happened to America’s can-do spirit, economic strength and world leadership in the past decade.
“Outsourcing Innovation” was the chilling cover headline on the March 21, 2005 edition of Business Week. Fortune soon followed with “Can Americans Compete?” as the magazine’s July 25, 2005 cover story.
Pundits quote from Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East, a book by Clyde Prestowitz, former trade negotiator under President Ronald Reagan. Warning that the book would “make unhappy reading for Americans,” The Economist — the influential international business magazine published in London — cited the book’s alarms over the declining standards in American schools and dollar-straining trade imbalances. “All in all,” the review concluded, “the economic transformation of China and India will mean the demise of America and a looming global economic crisis.”
Laboratories in Asia are doing world-class research and development, often for U.S. companies like Microsoft, Google, Motorola, Siemens, I.B.M., Intel, General Motors and Oracle. And this global economic explosion is not limited to Asia. Countries like Brazil, Russia, Costa Rica and Ireland are booming as a result of the phenomenon known as global sourcing.
"When three College of Engineering alumni learned in 2004 that the university had received a 3M Vision Grant to explore ways to prepare students for the new world of global outsourcing, each of them — whose work takes them overseas — wrote to offer assistance. All three say American students must be educated in new ways and exposed to more international experiences. All agree that Americans must realize this country no longer dictates the rules of competition. And all fear that American jobs will continue to be exported unless Americans make a sea change soon.
“We have no choice but to adapt,” says Kevin McGarity, Eng ’68, senior vice president for global marketing and sales for Texas Instruments Semiconductor Group for more than 15 years. He retired in 2000 to become an international consultant for the semiconductor industry. “Outsourcing has been a fact of life in the electronics industry for a long time,” he says. “It has helped U.S. companies stay competitive and taught them early how to be global companies. It is not uncommon for U.S. semiconductor companies today to have 70 percent of their business or markets outside the country.
“There is nothing inherently wrong or immoral about outsourcing,” McGarity says. “The fundamental solution in my mind is placing an early emphasis on education and more specifically on math, science and engineering. Universities like Marquette have to address it at the undergraduate level.”
He believes the engineering curriculum can no longer focus on engineering disciplines alone. “The way business is carried out is different today,” he says. “America no longer sets all the rules. One learns very quickly that how you interact with customers and colleagues in Korea, Japan or greater China is different from the way it’s been done here. I’m not sure what the curriculum changes should be, but they should somehow include a focus on internationalism. Maybe it’s time to make language a requirement for an engineering degree. Most of my international colleagues spoke at least two languages fluently, and there were times when I honesty felt inadequate that I only spoke English.”
American business is no longer judged against companies in our region or country, according to John Reinbold, Eng ’73. “Now we are judged against a worldwide source of vendors,” he says. “The only way to compete today is to continually strive for excellence — and be open to new ideas and cultures.”
Reinbold is a sales engineer for Stainless Foundry & Engineering of Milwaukee, a privately owned provider of castings used in industries ranging from petrochemical and nuclear, to pharmaceutical and food, to military and instrumentation. His job requires travel to Europe, Australia and Asia, as well as North America. He agrees that colleges need to restructure curricula to help students compete in the new world market.
“Every student should be required to study at a foreign university for at least one semester,” Reinbold says.
“Engineering students need to learn more about business economics. You can have the best product in the world but if you can’t sell it, you can still lose your job or go out of business.”
Joe Rogers, Eng ’73, views the world these days from Shanghai, where he directs the intellectual property office for Alcatel, a French telecommunications company. Rogers, who earned a law degree in 1986, files patent and licensing applications for inventions created in China and monitors for infringement.
Although business is conducted in English, he is working in a significantly different culture and every day can be a challenge. “When I was asked a business question in the West, I could usually quite easily provide an answer. Not here. There are no stock answers. I get asked questions I’d never be asked in America. It makes you think of things in a new light,” he says.
He, too, thinks an attitude change is necessary.
“Many Americans view the world from too narrow a perspective. People need to have a global perspective. People do things differently in other countries, and the American way may not necessarily be the best way any more. I’d like to see us take the best practices of the United States, France, China, India, wherever and pool them. That would be synergistic,” Rogers says.
Needed: a jobs revolution
In the past decade or so the United States began lagging other countries in some areas of technology. We now rank 16th in broadband connectivity, well behind many former Third World countries.
What caused this precipitous decline? America, in fact, created the global marketplace, primarily through technological leadership. The United States developed the Internet as well as the graphical interfaces that free computer users from learning complex command languages and make it easier to move data from one application to another. The worldwide proliferation of satellite communications and fiber-optic cable connected anyone with a computer even in remote parts of the globe to a world of equal opportunity.
A 2004 book, The Jobs Revolution: Changing How America Works, notes that as recently as 1991, fewer than 50 percent of U.S. jobs required skilled workers. By 2015, 76 percent of American jobs will demand highly skilled employees. If that talent isn’t here, companies will be forced to turn to better-educated workers in other countries.
Regardless of outsourcing, the book notes that the emerging work force must be flexible, ready to spend a lifetime learning new skills because new kinds of work will continually be created and old ones will vanish.
“None of the top 10 jobs that will exist in 2010 exist today,” the book says, quoting former U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley. Those jobs will require technology that’s still being developed. The most important thing a student can do today is learn to learn. The book adds, however: “Rather than focusing on specific technologies or specific problems, we need to equip students with those concepts that are common to all problems, all technologies, all skills, ranging from workplace engineering to ethics to entrepreneurship.”
The article in Fortune concurs: “No one is saying that Americans can’t adapt and win once more. The No. 1 policy prescription, almost regardless of whom you ask, comes down to one word: education.”
With 3M Grant, Marquette Begins Work on Closing the Gap
"Many Americans view the world from too narrow a perspective. People need to have a global perspective."
Marquette has received a $50,000 3M Foundation Vision Grant to develop curriculum aimed at increasing student preparation to compete in a world economy. The grant is one of only five awarded to private U.S. colleges and universities by 3M.
We must take a different approach to preparing students to meet new challenges,” says Dr. George Corliss, professor of engineering, “but we also must make sure they are able to seize the opportunities the world market presents. The issue of global sourcing is not as simple as our politicians would have us believe. In fact, it is quite complex, and this grant will help Marquette develop new ways of building on our foundation as a Catholic, Jesuit university to prepare our students to be competitive in the decades to come.”
Marquette faculty members Dr. Kate Kaiser and Dr. Monica Adya (both College of Business Administration) joined Corliss in writing the proposal for the grant. The team has grown to include Dr. Sheikh Iqbal Ahamed and Dr. Craig Struble, assistant professors of mathematics, statistics and computer science in the Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Mark Polczynski, director of the engineering management program in the College of Engineering; and Paula Stroud, a graduate student.
Since the grant was awarded, Marquette has:
Established a global sourcing advisory board of senior management of 10 area firms to guide activities;
||Hosted a technology workshop that attracted 120 participants with keynote speaker David Arkless, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Manpower;
||Incorporated issues of global sourcing in classes in each of the colleges of Engineering, Arts and Sciences, and Business Administration;
||Began forging partnerships with universities in China, India, Poland and Ireland to better understand the impact of offshore development; and
||Worked to increase awareness of global sourcing issues with faculty colleagues.