Trade secrets: College teaches ins and outs of international business

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 28A

The next time you chow down on Tahitian breadfruit or enjoy a glass of Tibetan yak butter tea, think about the people who helped bring it to your table – the business people who managed to wade through the thicket of international tariffs and troubles to deliver it to North Texas.

It’s not an easy job, and Richland College is busy training some of the men and women who do it.

“We help people get the skills and information they need to be successful,” program coordinator Pat Joiner said.

Richland’s International Business and Trade program, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year, doesn’t take the more academic approach some business schools do.

Instead, it focuses on preparing students for the nitty-gritty, day-to-day work of importing and exporting. State officials have used the Richland program as a model for similar programs across the state, Ms. Joiner said.

“It’s applied, as opposed to theoretical,” she said. “Getting goods into the United States, getting goods out of the United States.”

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to more than 1,500 international companies, and 85 percent of jobs in Texas are related to international trade, Ms. Joiner said.

Lowered trade barriers worldwide could boost those numbers, and as international trade’s share of the North Texas economy grows, the people who do the trading will need to learn the nuances of shipping, customs, insurance and other regulatory matters. Programs such as Richland’s are among the few opportunities to learn the ropes.

“There’s hardly any way to acquire that knowledge other than systematically covering it in a class,” Ms. Joiner said.

Students have several tracks from which to choose, from a quick certificate program that can be completed in less than a year to an associate’s degree program. Most classes are conducted in the evening and cost $84. For those seeking a quick introduction to issues of international trade, weekend “fast track” classes are available.

The international focus of the program has attracted a diverse student body.

“The majority of our students were born in a foreign country,” Ms. Joiner said.

Students from East Asia, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union make up large parts of the student population.

Foreign business people also have been attracted to the program.

“We have a group of about 20 Chinese businessmen coming in the spring to take English-as-a-second-language courses along with a curriculum in business,” she said.

Starting in the spring 2002 semester, the college will expand its offerings to include programs in global e-commerce and international market research.