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Pacific Rim Academy Sells Overseas Insight : Firms Contract for Specialized Classes

September 23, 1986|BILL BILLITER | Times Staff Writer

While studying a map in an Orange Coast College classroom recently, Michael G. Crow had a complaint.

"This map cuts off half of the Pacific Rim," he said to a fellow college professor.

Crow, director of the new Pacific Rim Academy at the Costa Mesa community college, prefers maps that show the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and all the nations it touches on.

An Asian history professor for 20 years, he now is in the business of helping businesses compete throughout the Pacific's vast territory.

To do that, the Pacific Rim Academy is designed to tailor an education program for the specific needs of an individual business, which would pay a fee for the service.

The academy, Crow said, is like any entrepreneurial operation: It sells a service. He said that when the academy negotiates a contract with a company seeking some form of education, the contract will provide for the cost, overhead and for a small margin of profit. The profits will go into the Orange Coast College Foundation, which will use the money for scholarships, equipment purchases for the college, instructional improvement and other academic needs not funded by tax dollars. Crow knows that there is a need for the services his academy offers.

Business in the Pacific Rim

"We had a survey that indicated there are at least 150 companies in the county that have interest in doing business with the Pacific Rim."

Other surveys, by local banks and industry groups, have tallied as many as 1,000 Orange County companies currently doing business with Pacific Rim nations--mainly in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, but increasingly in Central and South American countries that border the Pacific, as well as in Australia. Other Pacific Rim players include New Zealand, Singapore, Korea, China and the various Pacific island groups.

And that opens up broad vistas for Crow.

"Operationally, we will be like a 'brokering' enterprise," Crow said. "We will look at the highly specific training needs of our region's businesses and industries, and we will provide consultants and experts as necessary to effectively address those needs.

"For instance, if local firms require a crash course in Japanese business etiquette, Korean customs or conversational Chinese, we will put together training experiences tailored and timed specifically for those needs."

No Classes Yet

The Pacific Rim Academy opened in September. No made-to-order classes have been contracted, but Crow said two businesses are negotiating with the academy. In October, the academy will intensify its marketing campaign.

Walter G. Howald, a trustee of Coast Community College District, which governs Orange Coast College, conceived the idea for the academy.

"Community colleges must offer relevant education, and something like this is relevant to the needs of the world," he said.

Howald, a Newport Beach lawyer, has several international clients. He said that in dealing with these clients, it became obvious to him that public education in the United States needed to become more involved in training people for world trade.

"Americans, including me, have historically been among the most provincial people in the world," Howald said.

"In the past we could afford to be. But no longer. Now we have to be international in our thinking and in our education," he said.

Geared Around Business

Crow said Pacific Rim Academy classes can be offered at times and places convenient for businesses. "We can have classes here at the college, or we can go to their place of business, or we can teach them on the plane as they fly to Asia," Crow said.

The length and scope of classes also are subject to the needs of an individual business. "It can be a one-on-one for an executive or a class for a group of salespeople," Crow said. "Everything is negotiable."

The academy will use many professors who teach at Orange Coast and its two sister community colleges, Golden West in Huntington Beach and Coastline in Fountain Valley, he said. And, in addition to regular faculty, the academy will broker the services of international experts who can teach specific skills.

"For instance," Crow said, "we have an expert on the subject of building a hotel in Beijing (Peking). If some company needs to know about the red tape involved in starting a hotel in Beijing, this is the man who will do the teaching."

Other subjects are broader and more academic, he noted. Many expanding companies, he said, will need special courses in language, such as Japanese and Chinese.

Special Knowledge

But even in the English-speaking Pacific Rim countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, the business customs require special knowledge, Crow said. "The academy, for instance, might offer instruction on what is the best way to advertise in New Zealand," he said. "Ads that appeal to our Southern California beach culture won't work in New Zealand."

Crow, 44, a native of Los Angeles, is completing his Ph.D. at UC Irvine in American-Chinese relations. He has traveled extensively throughout Asia, and during his tenure at Orange Coast he has taught economic history as well as Asian history.

The academy's start is a modest one: Crow operates from a temporary, trailer-like building on the campus.

But Howald is convinced that the move to tailor community college education to the special needs of Pacific trade is an idea whose time has come.

"President Reagan has said we must expand our trade, and he's absolutely right," Howald said. "What we're preparing to do is to export our technical education."

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