When Gov. Chris Gregoire put higher education on her list of exports for the state of Washington, Shoreline Community College President Lee Lambert liked what he saw.
“China is the biggest market in the world,” said Lambert, who accompanied Gregoire on her trade mission to China and other Asian countries this past September. “Shoreline is one of the best community colleges in the world. We have programs and education they want and need.”
Lambert, who traveled to China twice more this past fall, is on the road again, hoping to solidify partnerships with Chinese universities and industries that could bring needed resources to Shoreline in the form of students and cash. Just what might happen depends on what the Chinese are looking for, he said. In some cases, Shoreline could provide instruction to students, or perhaps training for Chinese instructors. Some could be face-to-face here or in China or it might be online.
“It takes time,” Lambert says. “You build relationships first, then do business.”
In Lambert’s briefcase for the trip that kicks off March 18, 2011, are potential proposals involving Shoreline’s programs for automotive technicians, registered nurses, English as a second language (ESL), study abroad and early childhood education. “But if they have something else in mind, I’m happy to discuss other programs and options,” he said.
Lambert is scheduled to arrive in Shanghai and meet with a Shanghai-based consultant, Margaret Zhang. Lambert and Zhang will travel to Nanjing Jilin Secondary Vocational School. Lambert said the Nanjing school has expressed interest in Shoreline’s automotive program, recognized as the national leader in manufacturer-based training and job placement.
“The Chinese automotive sales market is exploding,” Lambert said. “But, the technician and repair side hasn’t kept up. Some people there are starting to realize that and see the need and opportunity.”
Lambert is then scheduled to visit Qingdao University, where the ideas of bringing Chinese students here and sending domestic students there are on the plate during two days of meetings. “Internationalization is an important part of what we’re doing at Shoreline,” Lambert said. “One in three jobs in Washington is tied in some way to international trade. If we can help facilitate that through education and cultural understanding, our students are better off and the state benefits, too.”
From Qingdao, Lambert will travel to Changchun for meetings arranged by a Chinese automotive consulting firm. “They call Changchun China’s Detroit,” Lambert said. The area is the core of China’s automobile manufacturing industry and home to FAW, a major manufacturer. FAW produces vehicles under the Hong Qi and FAW Tianjin brands and has production agreements with Audi, Volkswagen, Toyota and General Motors.
Joining Lambert for the Changchun portion of the trip will be Annie Sun, a graduate of Shoreline’s Toyota technician program and currently taking business-related classes. “Annie had experience in the Chinese automotive industry before coming to the U.S.,” Lambert said. “Her ideas, experience and energy are helping to make this effort possible.”
After Changchun, Lambert will travel to Chengdu, where he will meet with officials from a Chinese automobile dealership as well as area schools about ESL and early childhood education opportunities. “Our ESL faculty and program are very good,” Lambert said. “Now, they’ve taken this idea of delivering ESL classes in an online environment and really run with it. They are developing innovative curricula that can meet the needs of students around the world.”
Early childhood education might not seem like an intuitive educational export, but Lambert said Shoreline’s program has drawn attention.
“We have a unique blend of on-campus parent-child center, a network of co-op childcare centers and a certificate and degree program,” he said. “Shoreline has hosted a number of Chinese educators and delegations over the past several years and they always take note of our early childhood education program.”
From Chengdu, Lambert will head for his final stop, Beijing.
“I’m scheduled for two days in Beijing,” Lambert said. “I’m planning on making some new connections. I’ve got several universities lined up, but I’ve also got some flexibility to be open to possibilities.”
Lambert is scheduled to arrive back in the U.S. on April 1 and on campus April 4.