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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Other countries primed to grab U.S. jobs, September 9, 2007, 2D.

The book, “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman, chronicles the rapid expansion of global business in recent decades.  The increasing development and use of information technology has fueled that growth.  In many ways, it is now just as easy for organizations to communicate and collaborate with partners on the other side of the world as it is someone next door.  Additionally, today’s information and computer technology has empowered individuals to start and run businesses with widespread reach and few start-up costs.

Among the causes of the explosive growth in global collaboration described by Friedman is the migration of knowledge-based jobs to Russia and other former Soviet states, China, and India.   The combination of low wages, massive numbers of highly educated and skilled workers, and information technology has allowed many types of work, that until recently could only efficiently be done locally, to be sent overseas to foreign workers.  Friedman says that although the workforces in India, China, and the former Soviet states still lag behind the United States in many ways, they are gaining on us quickly and intending to pass us.  His book is a warning to Americans that we must change our education system and national priorities to emphasize science and mathematics or else we will soon find ourselves lagging behind other countries in innovation and creation of new technology and world-changing research and development.

Friedman describes that the people who want our jobs are primarily from China, India, and the former Soviet states.  The immense populations and numbers of highly educated and skilled workers in those countries dwarf the highly trained human resources of the United States.  When you realize how hungry the people in those countries are to improve their living conditions through jobs in high technology and knowledge-based work and how much their governments and cultures emphasize and encourage people to pursue science and mathematics education, one cannot help but think that someday Americans will be looking at those countries through our front windshields rather than out our rearview mirrors.

This past summer, I spent my sabbatical from HSU teaching business courses at The International University in Vienna, Austria.  I had students from many parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa in my classes.  The mix of people, cultures, and languages made for fascinating teaching experiences.  My students were eager to learn business, economics, and e-commerce and to improve their English language skills (for many it was a third or fourth language) for use in future positions in their own companies, in organizations in their home countries, and in multi-national firms.  The majority of my students were from the former Soviet states, China, and India—the people who Thomas Friedman writes about in his book.  It was extremely fascinating to learn about and discuss Friedman’s ideas with students (undergraduate and graduate) from those particular parts of the world.

Over the next several months, I will use this column to share some of the insights gained from my sabbatical experiences teaching at The International University in Vienna.  Auf Wiedersehen.

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2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved