Preparing youth to be part of a cultural competent workforce

Cultural competence, the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures, helps to ensure the needs of all community members are addressed.

Chinese tea ceremony demonstration for youth during the Chinese Language and Cultures session at 4-H Exploration Days. All photos by D’Ann Rohrer, MSU Extension.

Chinese tea ceremony demonstration for youth during the Chinese Language and Cultures session at 4-H Exploration Days. All photos by D’Ann Rohrer, MSU Extension.

In this millennium, supervisors increasingly understand and appreciate cultural diversity. They are looking for employees who have had diverse experiences. If you are raising a child, how are they being prepared for the culturally diverse world and level of cultural competency employers are looking for? Michigan 4-H Global and Cultural Education is one way to prepare all youth for the workforce, today and in the future.

Interacting effectively with people of different cultures requires careful study of differences in behavioral expectations. When we talk about differences between cultures, we are speaking in general terms since all cultures vary in behaviors. Cultures affect the way people act and what they expect from others. Getting work done with and through other people will require an understanding of differences among national cultures. Students in culturally diverse communities and schools are already starting to develop strategies to be productive.

In “Appreciating Cultural Diversity,” author Scott Williams, Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State University, discussed Hofstede’s Model on how to measure differences between cultures. According to the model, cultures are in different places on the following four continuums.

  • Individualism versus collectivism. In cultures that are highly individualistic, people are expected to be self-reliant and independent, and focus primarily on caring for themselves and their immediate families. In cultures that are highly collectivist, people are expected to serve the groups to which they belong (e.g., extended families, businesses or churches).
  • Power distance. Power distance is the degree to which people accept large differences between the most and least powerful members of society in terms of privileges, wealth and well-being.
  • Uncertainty avoidance. Countries that are low in uncertainty avoidance are relatively comfortable with events and people that are unpredictable. Countries that are high in uncertainty avoidance are less comfortable with events and people that are unpredictable.
  • Achievement versus quality of life. Cultures that are high on the achievement end of this dimension value competition, assertiveness and materialism. Cultures that are high on the quality of life end of this dimension value other’s well-being, positive relationships among people and the quality of their work life more than they value achievement and wealth.

Kid playing German game

German game, Topfschlagen (hit the pot), being played by youth at the Guten Tag! German Language and Cultures session at 4-H Exploration Days.

Raising youth to be more aware of cultures, the ways to communicate effectively with diverse communities and the willingness to observe others cultural cues will give them an advantage for future employment. Where do they think they are on the above scales? Do youth think their generation is in a different place on the scale than their parents or grandparents? Why?

Growing culturally competent youth in a world that keeps getting smaller as businesses interact globally every day is critical. Help youth understand how decisions made in one country affect businesses and families in other parts of the world. Increasing youth’s attention to natural disasters on one part of the globe and how it has a domino effect on other parts of the world will strengthen their professional prowess.

4-H grows culturally competent youth. If you would like to learn more, visit the Global and Cultural Education page or contact D’Ann Rohrer, state coordinator and Michigan State University Extension Leadership and Civic Engagement team member, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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