When Cassy Kwong graduated with a four-year international bachelor of business administration (iBBA) honours degree in June, he was immediately hired by HSBC Securities in Toronto as an investment representative.
The entry-level position, which involves executing trades for clients but not giving advice, has already fulfilled the Chinese-born Mr. Kwong's short-term goal of working in international finance and is the first step toward his long-term objective of owning an international business.
Mr. Kwong's undergraduate degree, earned at York University's Schulich School of Business, combined with his fluency in four languages, might have seemed sufficiently impressive to land his position at financial services giant HSBC. But what sealed the deal, in his view, was the certificate in international trade and investment management that he earned at Schulich along with his iBBA.
"The certificate helped me stand out from the crowd," Mr. Kwong says, "because it not only equips me in terms of knowledge but also in how you deal with international clients."
In June, Mr. Kwong was among the first two recipients of the certificate in managing international trade and investment (CMITI), and a third student is expected to be certified in October. The program was developed in partnership with Export Development Canada. Schulich is the only Canadian business school to offer this certificate to its undergrads.
The program is one of the first initiatives at Schulich's Centre for Global Enterprise (CGE), which was established last November to provide research and resources to improve the performance of Canada's small and medium-sized businesses in global trade.
"We need in Canada more young people a) interested in international business and b) ready to work in international business," says Bernie Wolf, professor emeritus of economics and international business and director of the certificate program.
"Schulich is a very global business school as it is, but this is an add-on for undergraduates. It makes them much more marketable because they've got something that's unique."
The certificate program has an experience component – an internship or an exchange semester abroad, or both – as well as three required courses on global business. These are: managing international business activities; supply chain management; and a seminar in integrative international business. The students seeking certification also have to earn six credits from a list of international business courses.
Executives in international business were consulted during the certificate's development to ensure that what is taught in the classroom, and learned during the experience component, will be relevant to the boardroom.
There will be 41 of the iBBA undergraduates enrolled this fall for the certificate. The three courses specifically required for the CMITI are offered just in the third and fourth years of the iBBA program.
The seminar in integrative international business exposes students to senior executives operating in international business. "They talk about the successes and failures of their firms," Dr. Wolf says. "These are real-life situations involving marketing, finance, economics, etc. – how they all come together to make a decision and what you learn from it."
Sixteen students participated in the three-hour seminars last semester. Guest speakers included executives from Bank of Nova Scotia, Magna International Inc. and PepsiCo Asia, the latter discussing his firm's introduction of potato chips into China. Dr. Wolf also organized visits to a Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. distribution centre and a Magna auto parts plant.
For student Ajaypal Singh, talking with the Magna executive at the seminar and maintaining contact by e-mail, yielded an internship at its U.S. headquarters, starting Sept. 15.
"They are taking a risk on me, and I attribute it totally to the certificate and my development as a person over the past year," Mr. Singh says in an interview published on Schulich's website.
"The certificate is designed so that the students can hit the ground running when taking a position," Dr. Wolf says. "So many positions these days require a global mindset. That's what we're trying to establish among our students."
A second part of the centre's partnership with EDC is to create materials for a national curriculum in integrative trade for undergraduate business students, to be made available to all Canadian universities. The intent is to help develop business leaders who can successfully manage international trade, foreign investment and global supply chains.
(EDC also is partnering with McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal in developing a program for international competitiveness. This comprises a series of practical, industry-friendly case studies on international business and corporate competitiveness.)