How to Get Your Product Into Retail Stores by Following These Tips When Approaching a Buyer

Ricki Rubin has over ten years of buying experience for Gump’s, Wendy Foster, Restoration Hardware, and Macy’s. Today she’ll share with us her point of view on the buyer/seller relationship, and tips on getting your product into retail stores.

Hi, Ricki. Welcome. Ricki, what is your main responsibility as a buyer?

Ricki: My main responsibility is to establish a strong assortment that’s compelling, new, and fresh, according to open to buy guidelines and seasonal deadlines and requirements.

Rachel: What are open-to-buy guidelines? What does that mean?

Ricki: As a buyer, we plan fiscally by month. We plan our receipt flow, how much we’re going to spend. We plan how much we expect to do in sales, and how much we anticipate marking down, based on employee sales or trade discounts or markdown markdowns-when a product goes to clearance-because we ultimately, as buyers, manage a business. So it’s essentially a business plan, and it flows, and every month end, the numbers roll. If we yield higher sales, it affects do we bring in more receipts the next month. It really helps us as the matrix to build the business.

Rachel: If you’re going from month to month, and you’re looking at how much money you have to spend, how do you decide what you’re going to bring in?

Ricki: It all depends. Every store is different. If I think about a home store, and I think about my experiences at Restoration Hardware and Gump’s, it’s about a theme in the store. We have a set floor installation date. We work with our visual directors, and build a theme and an overall color scheme and story, that commences at a certain point in time and elapses for, usually, six weeks. And not every item in a store falls into a theme, but it’s really a map to create a point of view in the store and keep things consistent.

Rachel: Can you give an example of that? Is that seasonal… or holiday?

Ricki: For example, at Gump’s, we did this rising Jaipur theme in the store. It started in July, and it was all about India, and we had a certain color palette, a lot of jewel tones, a lot of golds. It was a great guideline to know what to look for. However, the store isn’t completely eccentric on that installation because there’s other things going on in this particular business and at Restoration Hardware.

That store, when I was there, we definitely followed along a rotation or a floor set. So maybe our color scheme was a lot of blues and a lot of yellows for summer, and we found a lot of products that fit within that world.

Rachel: As you’re bringing these things in and you’re going through the six week rotation, how can somebody who’s trying to sell into your store be aware of that? Is that something that you’re very- that information something you’re very forthright with? Do you know what’s coming up for an entire year? How far in advance do they plan these installations?

Ricki: Well, it definitely depends on the store, and not every store, again, operates on an installation calendar. Because I also do clothing and apparel, we don’t follow that cadence. It’s just mindful, depending on the type of product that the wholesaler or the owner of the business, what kind of product and how that would translate into what a certain retailer is doing.

When it comes to clothing and baby, which I also have done and currently do, we basically go off a color palette and a seasonal flow. Right now I’m looking at Spring products. I see trends in the marketplace and then I go after, strongly, certain vendors or designers that are compelling.

Rachel: What’s the best way for somebody who wants to get their product line in front of you-I’m saying you, but I mean, in front of buyers. What is the best approach that they should take based on everything that you’ve told us and have experienced?

Ricki: If it’s somebody that’s new and has developed their own product, I think that knowledge is power. The most important thing is, of course, to establish, roughly, what is their cost price. What are the dimensions? What is the wholesale price? What’s the lead time to produce this product and deliver it in store? The buyer wants to feel secure, knowing they can count on that because we plan fiscally, which is established on the theme; there’s so much in financial planning.

And I think that it’s also important to reveal terms. How do I require getting paid? Am I okay with, this is a new retailer? Can I do in that 30? Or do I always require cash on delivery because I’m very new and I’m just getting established? But most critical is to understand when you can deliver, and how much your product costs.

Rachel: What is the best form of communication to get a buyer’s attention? And who’s responsible for paying for samples? Obviously, they send a sample. How often should they follow up with you? What’s the best way to approach you from a communication standpoint?

Ricki: I can say the first thing not to do is Mondays when the buyers are getting back from their weekend, and reviewing the week prior, which is the fiscal week that ends on Saturday. There’s a lot of analysis going on and a lot of catch up, and that’s critical time for reporting and assessing business, and then that helps lead to making decisions. So I would just avoid the Monday, and let the buyer get a sense of what’s happening in his or her business.

I think the best time is starting Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Not first thing in the morning, either. Because we all read our emails and deal with fires. Anytime after 10:00, I think, is appropriate. Most ideally, an email with a picture involved with all the information: wholesale price, style number, description of the product, why it’s compelling.

I think the best thing that I get are line sheets. But I understand that some people are new to the business and dealing with buyers. But that is my biggest advice is to establish a line sheet, which covers an image, dimensions, wholesale price, what the vendor style number is. Because I find it a waste of time, or pulling teeth sometimes, to chase basic information down when I could simply have it from the get go. Because we’re so busy and it cuts back on a lot of back and forth on emails. And then, the buyer could essentially lose interest if it’s such a chase to get the information.

Rachel: Basically, make it easy for you. They want to get their product into your store. They should come prepared with the materials that they need from the start. They’re well organized and they have a line sheet. If they do all of these things and you’re interested in the product, do you ask for a sample, or is it protocol for them to provide a sample? What is the process?

Ricki: If this is someone that’s not established and it’s an emerging line or an emerging item idea, I think that the most considerate thing to do, if the designer wholesaler wants to sell to this retailer, is to suggest providing a sample. Even if they want it shipped back, they should pay for shipping there and provide a shipping label to return it if they need it back, or just to ship it complimentary for the buyer to keep and consider. Eventually, if we carry that item and go forward with it, we’ll put it into stock.

Rachel: What if you’re not interested in a product? How do you usually handle that?

Ricki: I am so appreciative of someone going through the effort to send me a sample and take the time, and I respect that they have sincere desires to be in the store, that I definitely get right back to them. Sometimes it’s even a phone call, or an email, depending. If I don’t feel it’s a fit based on style or point of view, I’m very honest, and sometimes I offer a different retailer as an alternative.

Rachel: What is your decision-making process? If you have it, how long would you hold on to it for, to decide if it’s a good fit or not? Do you know right away when you get a product, like, wow, that’s great. Or are you thinking for future installations, like, wow, we’re going to be doing this theme later in the year, it might be a better fit for that time? Or, what’s the word if it’s not an installation; it’s just reoccurring… you tell me.

Ricki: Installation is unique to where I’m currently at. I would say floor change, or if it’s apparel or baby, it’s just flow.

Rachel: Flow. Okay. That’s the word I was looking for.

Ricki: Merchandise flow. It’s funny because there’s no clear-cut answer at all. It’s relative to the type of retailer it is. But when it comes to apparel and baby, I really operate by is this unique, does this look like anything else, will it cannibalize anything else, is this a great addition, do I believe in it? And I do need to know is this something that’s reorderable. How long will it take to get it? Do I have to pay upfront?

There’s just a few things. It could be something I bring in right away because my business is strong, and I need new merchandise. Or, right now, for example, I’ve really wrapped up 2012 in apparel, for instance. I’m looking at Spring products, and if it’s compelling, and it hangs with other things that I’m finding, then absolutely I’d want to pursue it and lock it down.

Rachel: You mentioned payment a little bit. What is an incentive to get somebody, if it’s a new, up-and-coming designer or wholesaler, and they have a product that they don’t feel like they can afford to wait 30 days to be paid, what are some incentives they can provide to you, saying, you know what, I’m going to need payment upfront, but I can do this?

Ricki: Oh, a discount.

Rachel: Okay.

Ricki: That speaks volumes.

Rachel: Okay. It’s… go ahead.

Ricki: Because the intent, as a buyer as well, is we all have margin requirements because every single retailer ends up marking something down. And it’s all relative to at the end of the day, how much they are marking down, and that’s what we’d like to avoid. That eats at our profits, so we intentionally try to find items that hopefully won’t go on sale, or at least have a strong margin percentage, so then we can protect our profitability at the end of the season.

Rachel: What percentage discount do you feel is reasonable?

Ricki: In all fairness, I would say, okay, how many units am I buying? It is a partnership and it needs to be fair for both parties. For example, recently I bought a lot of beautiful leather goods from a certain vendor, and because I was a certain volume, he granted me a 20% discount, which is exceptional. However, recently I paid upfront for some apparel, and I was happy with a 3% discount. It’s very relative, but for a new, new business, I think, the most courtesy [sic] thing to do is to offer a 5% discount. because the margin for the retailer is boosted by that.

Rachel: How far in advance are trends determined?

Ricki: It all depends on, of course, home versus apparel. I think there’s different cadences and different time frames. But, for apparel, I’m heading into fashion week in New York, and so the trends are pretty much established with the runway shows that happen one to two weeks prior to the real trade show activity.

I’m going for the trade shows, and not the fashion shows, for my business trip. I will read about it in Women’s Wear Daily. I’ll read about it in blogs because there’s a lot of editors and writers conveying what they’ve seen on the runways, and there’s a lot of overlap going on. It’s paramount once you get to the trade shows you do see those colors popping all over the place.

Crochet is something I saw a lot recently for a trade show, so it was an indication that that’s huge for Spring. There’s lots of fabrication, a lot of fit silhouette and color scheme consistencies that are across all lines, from high- to low-price points.

Rachel: How do you test a product? How do you promote it then, if it’s not well-known from prior?

Ricki: In my current job, and in my previous job, I did a lot of product trainings. Once I have a few things, or even one product, I’ll hold a sales associate meeting before the store opens-or after the store closes, depending on the store, in my experience-and really go into it. Sometimes I have the actual designer or the person representing the product come in and really share the most appropriate product knowledge out there, or I will learn it from them and convey it.

I think product knowledge is huge. It pays off. If the sales associates are behind your product, and they can give some interesting facts and romance it, then it’s compelling to the customer, and they’ll buy it.

Rachel: How do customers walk through a store?

Ricki: The first thing they do is they walk in and look directly in front of them. So I’m hoping in every other store as well, that all the new [inaudible 14:11] is in the very front of store. Then, as time goes by, the items trickle their way towards the back. The next thing the customer does is they turn to the right, so the front, center, and to the right is the most prime real estate.

Rachel: Okay. Interesting. Do sellers who are selling into the store have any negotiation of where their product goes, or you as the buyer determines all of that?

Ricki: Well, I can’t speak for department stores. When I was at Macy’s, there was a lot more decision making with brands that were so powerful and influential in the store. I haven’t been in that realm in, I think, almost eight to ten years, but being in the last two experiences, it’s up to the store. Buying the merchandise, investing in the purchases, they have every right to decide where the product goes.

Rachel: Your experience with sales reps…

Ricki: There are pros and cons. I think that the most important thing is that the sales rep-it’s kind of funny-they should act like the owner of the company, and the owner of the company should act like the sales rep. Because there needs to be a separation of the emotional side when selling to the buyer, and then the sales rep needs to act like they are fully responsible and are completely passionate about what they’re selling. If there is a way to merge the two, that’s the ideal situation.

There’s actually a lot of sales reps that behave like that, and I’m grateful that I work with. I think the most frustrating is if I work with certain creative types that represent their product, and they don’t have the business plan or approach, so it doesn’t become a clean cut interaction, and it takes a few steps with the constant emails or a lot more time invested. However, it could be fully enjoyable because they’re likeable personalities, but as far as getting business done when someone has a busy job…

Rachel: What advice do you have for somebody who’s looking to hire a sales rep to get into retail stores?

Ricki: I would say to make sure that this sales rep is willing to work really hard, hit the road, take the ball running. If they want to say, “Hey, I think we should be in this trade show in Los Angeles. Or, we haven’t reached out to the East Coast,” and find a way to establish a relationship and a network to represent the line in a place that attracts a lot of buyers.

I would look for someone willing, who has the time and energy to bounce around by travel. And they’re willing to carry if these things are heavy, they’re strong and able and willing to carry things and transport them to even stores locally and stores in Southern California from Northern California. There’s sales reps that I admire, that have energy and desire to make it happen.

If they’re representing a home accessories or furniture line, it’s all about a glossy tear sheet, with all the dimensions, a clear cut image, the ability to say these are available in the show room, a way to see it in real life, but a very good representation of what they represent.

Rachel: Okay. Let me ask you. How is a look book different from a line sheet?

Ricki: It’s pretty much the same. A line sheet, I would say, is just a more common term for things that are clothing or small items. And there’s tear sheets. Tear sheets are look books for home collections and home furniture. It’s something that I experience and see because it needs to be romanced, and they’re huge products.

Rachel: Let me ask you, how many sales reps or individuals, designers, do you usually manage at one time? Is it different from store to store?

Ricki: Yes. Right now I manage, probably, hundreds. My last job I probably managed maybe 150. But Restoration Hardware has very-at the time, they’ve changed a lot since I’ve been there-but there was a lot of mostly in-house design, so they source and have product development as their main thing. Then Macy’s, I managed a bunch of-or not a bunch-very few huge volume vendors. It’s very unique.

Rachel: In all of your experience, and I know you’ve done both home and apparel and different things, what are some of the top trade shows that you find have been exceptional in finding really good products?

Ricki: I would say, if it’s apparel, then I think Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York are great, domestically. Depending on where this person lives that’s representing their line, and if they’re starting from the beginning, then they should attend the closest one in proximity.

Rachel: And what are they called? What kind of trade shows are they called?

Ricki: There’s so many, so it depends on-you should marry up your item with the overall sense of the trade show, so it would take some good research. Of course, clothing if it’s a mainstream, or even a unique line but that’s not super overpriced. There’s shows like Moda, ENK.

If you have a real, amazing, contemporary, edgy line that your ultimate goal is to sell to Barney’s, I would say go to Designers and Agents. If you have a great home decor product or a great accessories product, even a New York gift show is a great avenue for this. It all really depends, it’s very specific to the type of product that someone is selling.

Kitchen Remodeling Hardware and Glass Knobs From Amerock Hardware

Amerock has decades old tradition in providing trendsetting furniture and bath hardware. Since 1929, the company has presented the world with futuristic designer hardware that can last for a lifetime.

When you are looking for remodeling hardware, you need something that goes well with your current furniture. And Amerock has hardware that comes in all possible sizes and finishes. Amerock is the topmost brand when it comes to kitchen hardware and the company secures highest number of orders for remodeling hardware and fittings. Amerock is quite popular for its special range of decorative kitchen cabinet hardware that consists of unique designer pulls and handles.

Amerock’s exquisite antique collection is something worth admiring. There are classic looking weathered brass finish pulls of various designs that can look great on all sorts of wooden cabinets and drawers. The special olden look works as a symbol of durability and tradition. If you are an art lover then you better check out the new assortment of Amerock’s classic collection. It will undoubtedly increase the aesthetic value of your kitchen beyond your expectation.

Many people undertake kitchen remodeling if they are considering the option of selling their homes. This allows them to quote higher prices because everyone loves a well furnished home. And especially a well kept kitchen gives a fairly good impression about the entire condition of the home. Hence, many people even leave their portable cabinets and furniture behind, if the buyer prefers so.

Amerock as a brand name stands for quality and durability and certainly a kitchen decorated with a set of Amerock hardware will encourage a potential buyer to own the property. Interior renovation and reconstruction is a costly affair. Besides cost, it can cause lot of inconveniences and wastage of time. For this reason alone, buyers look for houses that are well maintained and do not require any sort of refurbishing or repairs. A well modeled kitchen reduces their post-purchase interior maintenance almost to nothing.

One of the easiest ways to give a fresh and gleaming image to your kitchen is to have its cabinets and drawers decked with crystal glass knobs from Amerock. Glass knobs have a special aura that cannot be attained in case of wooden or metal knobs. They absorb and reflect light form the surroundings, making your kitchen interior brighter with their gentle inner shine. Look out for some old fashioned glass knobs, smoothed and soft looking. They are real beauties and can go well with all kinds of wooden finish. A variety of designs are available to choose from that are made of yellowish and brownish tints. Even though colored glass knobs look attractive, plain round ones give an entirely different impression.

The Beautiful And Unusual World Of Antique Gothic Furniture

The Gothic era was primarily about espousing creativity via impressive structures, stunning art and beautiful furniture and generations since have been reaping the benefits of that! If you can find any antique Gothic furniture to purchase then the likelihood is that it is up to nine hundred years old as that particular era began in the 12th Century. It was widespread in France and the rest of Western Europe and lasted until the 15th Century, when the Renaissance was born in Florence, Italy.

Cathedrals and churches played a large part in the foundation and establishment of the Gothic era and thus many of the expert craftsmen were or were trained by monks. As a result, a lot of care and attention went into the creation of their now antique Gothic furniture. In fact, there were two distinct periods of Gothic influence, between 1150 and 1500 and then again between 1840 and 1860, give or take a few years on both dates. It is therefore more difficult to put an age on some antique Gothic furniture. Either way, it is extremely valuable.

Finding antique Gothic furniture is not especially difficult if you know where to look. Many antiques store in cities and towns will have some sort of antique Gothic furniture on their inventory. They often feature it because it is valuable and extremely old for the most part. The intricately carved designs attract many buyers from all over the world. This demand also ensures that the value of such items routinely rises every year and so will give you a significant return on your investment.

There are some stores that market antique Gothic furniture reproductions at a fraction of the cost. These designs also appear to be popular because the replicas are so close to the real thing that the untrained eye cannot tell the difference.

Locating and purchasing antique Gothic furniture is relatively simple when compared with the tender loving care that it actually needs to maintain its value and status. Individually owned pieces will need specialist care every few years to keep it in perfect condition. This may involve restoration work on scratches, marks and routine degradation but it can work out to be quite expensive.

When maintaining authentic antique Gothic furniture as part of a routine, you should never use any form of polish or chemicals as this can cause a weakness in the wood, especially if any polish gets into the hand crafted areas where it will fester and stain the wood. Many dealers will be happy to provide maintenance advice when you initially purchase the antique gothic furniture because no responsible dealer would be willing to let such damage occur to a valuable antique.

Antique Gothic furniture can be quite imposing and so may fit into the tapestry of your home in small doses. It is beautiful but has a darker quality that any individual should make the most of. If you value your antiques you will find a place to highlight its natural beauty and enhance your home at the same time.

Globalization: How It Has Affected Philippine Education And Beyond

Education before the 20th century was once treated as a domestic phenomenon and institutions for learning were once treated as local institutions. Prior to the 20th century, education was usually limited within the confines of a country, exclusively meant for the consumption of its local citizens. Scholars or college students did not have to travel miles away from their countries of origin to study and to gain skills which they needed in order to traverse the paths of their chosen careers. Moreover, national borders served as impenetrable walls in the name of sovereignty. Gaining a college degree and the skills entailed with it were merely for the purpose of staunch nationalistic service to one’s land of origin. Furthermore, knowledge of the valleys and the oceans encircling the world map, as well as foreign languages and international political regimes were not much of an imperative. Intercultural exchange was not massive and sophisticated, if not intricate. Acceptance and understanding of cultural diversity were not pressured upon anyone, as well as the lure to participate in a globally interconnected world. In other words, before the 20th century, scholastic work were predominantly simple and constrained in the local, the domestic, the nearby. They were limited to one’s own village, one’s own region, one’s own country. A student had his own neighborhood as the location where he is to be born, to be educated, and later to be of service to – the local village which is his home, his community, his country.

Nevertheless, the world has been in a constant state of flux. In the 20th century onwards, the phenomenon called globalization rose and became the buzzword. Anything which pertained to the term globalization was attributed to modernization, or anything that is up-to-date, if not better. Part and parcel of this trend is the advent and irresistible force of information technology and information boom through the wonders of the Internet. The idea of cosmopolitanism – a sense of all of humanity, regardless of race, creed, gender, and so on, living in a so-called global village – is another primary indicator of globalization. Moreover, international media as well as trade and investment have been unbridled and have occurred in a transnational nature. Finally, globalization has involved the uncontrollable movement of scholars, laborers, and migrants moving from one location to another in search for better employment and living conditions.

Apparently, globalization seemed to be all-encompassing, affecting all areas of human life, and that includes education. One indicator of this is the emergence of international education as a concept. Internationalization of education is manifested by catchphrases like The Global Schoolhouse, All the world’s a classroom, One big campus that is Europe, Think global. Act local, and Go West. Students from the world over have been ostensibly persuaded to learn about the world and to cope with technological advancements, if not to become a Citizen of the World. Moreover, globalization and international education are at play, for instance, when speaking of Singapore being branded as the Knowledge Capital of Asia, demonstrating the city-state as among the world’s academic powerhouses; De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines entering into agreements and external linkages with several universities in the Asian region like Japan’s Waseda University and Taiwan’s Soochow University for partnership and support; the establishment of branch campuses or satellites in Singapore of American and Australian universities like the University of Chicago and the University of New South Wales, respectively; online degree programs being offered to a housewife who is eager to acquire some education despite her being occupied with her motherly duties; students taking semesters or study-abroad programs; and finally the demand to learn English – the lingua franca of the modern academic and business world – by non-traditional speakers, like the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Korean students exerting efforts to learn the language in order to qualify for a place in English-speaking universities and workplaces. Apparently, all of these promote international education, convincing its prospective consumers that in today’s on-going frenzy of competition, a potent force to boost one’s self-investment is to leave their homes, fly to another country, and take up internationally relevant courses. Indeed, globalization and international education have altogether encouraged students to get to know their world better and to get involved with it more.

Boston College’s Center for International Higher Education director and International Education expert Philip Altbach asserted in his article “Perspectives on International Higher Education” that the elements of globalization in higher education are widespread and multifaceted. Clear indicators of globalization trends in higher education that have cross-national implications are the following:

1. Flows of students across borders;
2. International branch and offshore campuses dotting the landscape, especially in developing and middle-income countries;
3. In American colleges and universities, programs aimed at providing an international perspective and cross-cultural skills are highly popular;
4. Mass higher education;
5. A global marketplace for students, faculty, and highly educated personnel; and
6. The global reach of the new ‘Internet-based’ technologies.

Moreover, European Association of International Education expert S. Caspersen supported that internationalization influences the following areas: Curriculum, language training, studies and training abroad, teaching in foreign languages, receiving foreign students, employing foreign staff and guest teachers, providing teaching materials in foreign languages, and provision of international Ph. D. students. Nevertheless, globalization’s objective of a “one-size-fits-all” culture that would ease international transactions has not seemed to be applicable to all the nations of the world. In the words of Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, globalization’s effects are dualistic in nature. Globalization itself is neither good nor bad. It has the power to do enormous good. But in much of the world, globalization has not brought comparable benefits. For many, it seems closer to an unmitigated disaster. In Andrew Green’s 2007 book, “Education and Development in a Global Era: Strategies for ‘Successful Globalisation’”, he asserted that optimists would refer to the rise of East Asian tigers – Japan, China, and South Korea – as globalization’s success stories. But these are just a minority of the world’s two hundred nations. A majority has remained in their developing situations, among these is the Philippines.

In terms of international education being observed in the Philippines, universities have incorporated in their mission and vision the values of molding graduates into globally competitive professionals. Furthermore, Philippine universities have undergone internationalization involving the recruitment of foreign academics and students and collaboration with universities overseas. English training has also been intensified, with the language being used as the medium of instruction aside from the prevailing Filipino vernacular. Finally, Philippine higher education, during the onset of the 21st century, has bolstered the offering of nursing and information technology courses because of the demand of foreign countries for these graduates.

In terms of student mobility, although gaining an international training through studying abroad like in the United States is deemed impressive, if not superior, by most Filipinos, the idea of practicality is overriding for most students. Study-abroad endeavors are not popular among the current generation of students. The typical outlook is that it is not practical to study overseas obviously because of the expenses – tuition fees, living costs, accommodation, and airfare. Although financial aid may be available, they are hugely limited. There may be several universities that offer merit or academic scholarships, talent scholarships, athletic scholarships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, full or partial tuition fee waivers, but actually there is certainly not a lot of student money. Apparently, international education is understood as a global issue, a global commodity, and above all, a privilege – and therefore, it is not for everyone. Hence, studying in America is a mere option for those who can afford to pay the expenses entailed in studying abroad.

The Philippines is a Third World country which is heavily influenced by developed nations like the United States. Globalization may have affected it positively in some ways, but a huge chunk of its effects has been leaning to the detriment of the Filipinos. Globalization has primarily affected not only the country’s education system but even beyond it – economically and socially. These include brain drain, declining quality in education because of profiteering, labor surplus, vulnerability of its workers overseas, and declining family values.

For one, the Philippines is a migrant-worker country. This phenomenon of sending its laborers (also known as Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs) abroad to work and to send money back home has been intensified by globalization. Brain drain – or the exodus of talented and skilled citizens of a country transferring to usually developed nations for better employment and living conditions – is one problem that has been stepped up by globalization. The Philippine foreign policy of labor diplomacy began in the 1970s when rising oil prices caused a boom in contract migrant labor in the Middle East. The government of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, saw an opportunity to export young men left unemployed by the stagnant economy and established a system to regulate and encourage labor outflows. This scenario has led Filipinos to study courses like nursing which would secure them employment overseas rather than in their home country. For more than 25 years, export of temporary labor like nurses, engineers, information technology practitioners, caregivers, entertainers, domestic helpers, factory workers, construction workers, and sailors were sent overseas to be employed. In return, the Philippine economy has benefited through the monetary remittances sent by these OFWs. In the last quarter of 2010, the Philippine economy gained roughly $18.76 billion in remittances which largely came from OFWs based in the United States, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Italy, Germany, and Norway.

Second, the demand for overseas employment by these Filipino professionals has affected the quality of the local education system in the form of fly-by-night, substandard schools which were only aimed at profiteering. A Filipino legislator, Edgardo Angara, once aired his concern over the spread of many schools which offer courses believed to be demanded in foreign countries and the declining quality education. Angara observed that the Philippines has too much access to education versus quality education. For instance, for every five kilometers in this country, there is a nursing school, a computer school, a care-giving school, and a cosmetic school. Angara suggested that lawmakers and educators should find a happy formula for quality education.

Third, labor surplus is another dire effect of globalization. In 2008, the phenomenon of brain drain started to subside in the Philippines. This period was when the United States started to experience a financial turmoil which was contagious, distressing countries around the world which are dependent to its economy. In the Philippines, it has been surmised that the demand for nurses has already died down because the need for them has already been filled. For instance, the United States has decided that instead of outsourcing foreign nurses, they have resorted to employing local hires to mitigate its local problem of rising unemployment. As a result, this incident has receded the phenomenon of a majority of Filipino college students taking up nursing. And the unfortunate result is the labor surplus of nursing graduates. This dilemma which has been caused by a Third World country such as the Philippines trying to cope with globalization’s feature of labor outflows has left Filipinos on a double whammy. Over 287,000 nursing graduates are currently either jobless or employed in jobs other than nursing. Nursing graduates nowadays suffer job mismatch, taking on jobs which are different from their field of specialization like working for call centers, serving as English tutors, if not remaining unemployed because the Philippine hospitals have little to no vacancies at all which are supposed to be occupied by the large number of nursing graduates. Furthermore, these professionals are accepted by hospitals or clinics as volunteers with little to no monetary benefits, or as trainees who are burdened with the policy of forcibly paying the hospitals for their training.

Fourth, a dilemma that globalization has burdened the Philippines is the vulnerability of its overseas workers. For instance, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, and Taiwan, have had no choice but to lay off and repatriate their Filipino guest workers in light of the global financial crisis. Furthermore, the threat of Saudization is a present concern in the Philippines nowadays. Presently, around 1.4 million OFWs in Saudi Arabia are in danger of losing their jobs because the Arab nation is implementing a Saudization program which will prioritize their Arab citizens for employment. To date, with more than 1.5 million OFWs, Saudi Arabia is the country which has the greatest concentration of OFWs. It is the largest hirer of Filipino Workers and has the largest Filipino population in the Middle East. As Saudi Arabia hosts a majority of OFWs, the problem of these Filipino workers losing their jobs and returning to their homeland where employment opportunities are scarce is a national threat. Furthermore, the current national instability in countries like Syria and Libya has threatened the lives of the OFWs, who still have chosen to stay in their foreign workplaces because of economic reasons which they find weightier vis-à-vis their safety.

Finally, globalization has resulted to social costs which involve challenges to Filipino families. Possessing close family ties, Filipino families sacrifice and allocate significant amounts of financial resources in order to support their kin. Filipino parents have the belief that through education, their children are guaranteed with promising futures and achieving decent lives. Thus, given the limited employment opportunities in the Philippines which are unable to support the needs of the family, one or both parents leave to work outside the country. As a result, Filipino children, although their educational goals and well-being are sustained, would have to survive with one or both parents away from them. They would then have to deal with living with an extended family member such as aunts, uncles or grandparents who are left to take care of them. This has deprived Filipino children of parental support and guidance as they are separated from the primary members of their family.

In reality, even though Filipino families have experienced the monetary benefits of a family member uprooting himself from the country to work overseas, this trend has not been enjoyed by the majority of Filipinos. The poorest of the poor cannot afford to leave and work overseas. Also, with volatile market forces, the value of the US dollar which is used as the currency of OFW salaries vacillating, rising gas prices and toll fees in highways, and the continued surge in the cost of living in the Philippines, in general, globalization has precluded long-term economic growth for the country, with the masses suffering a great deal. Moreover, with human capital and technological know-how important to growth, the Philippines suffered with globalization by losing its professionals to the developed countries which, on the other hand, experienced “brain gain”.

Indeed, globalization has both positive and negative effects, but in the Philippine case, it is more on the negative. It is justified to say that globalization is an “uneven process” and that most least developing countries did not grow significantly in light of globalization. Those which predominantly benefited are the affluent and powerful countries of the Western world and East Asia.

The Philippines was once considered as the “knowledge capital of Asia”, particularly during the 1960s and the 1970s. Its system of higher education was marked by high standards comparable to its neighboring countries, much lower tuition fees, and the predominant use of English as the medium of instruction. The Philippines, consequently, was able to entice students from its neighboring nations, like the Chinese, the Thais, and the Koreans. However, presently, this once upbeat picture has now been replaced by a bleak one because of several problems which has long confronted the system like budget mismanagement, poor quality, and job mismatch, thereby seriously affecting its consumers and end products – the Filipino students. Making matters worse is globalization affecting the graduates of Philippine universities by luring them to choose to work overseas because of the greater monetary benefits vis-à-vis the disadvantage of leaving their families home and not serving their countrymen. Now that the world is undergoing financial turmoil, the Filipino workers would then have to cope with these dire effects of globalization.

Strategies to Transform From a Trainer to a Workforce Educator

Corporate training has tremendous potential to promote learning in organizations. There are two primary elements that are responsible for how much potential is realized within the corporate training classroom, and those elements are the materials provided and the method of delivery. An instructional designer, or someone in a similar role, can develop engaging materials but if the delivery is not well executed, the training will not be as effective as it could. In contrast, if the training materials have not been designed in the most engaging manner, or the material is technical in nature, it is the trainer who can still create positive classroom conditions that are conducive to learning.

There are two types of trainers that can be found within organizations that choose to invest in learning and development. The first is a trainer who adequately delivers the required training materials and meets the minimum requirements for their role. The other type is a trainer who has evolved into someone who has a much greater impact on the learning process within a training classroom, a trainer who has transformed into a workforce educator. While it may seem that both are performing the same function, and to some degree they are because they work with the same materials, one disseminates information and the other brings the class to life and connects the information to participants in a meaningful manner. Becoming a workforce educator does not happen automatically and requires making a conscious decision as a trainer to improve upon existing skills, acquire additional knowledge, and develop new instructional strategies.

The Work of a Corporate Trainer

In general, a corporate trainer will view training from an outcome-based, task-oriented perspective. Participants are required to attend assigned classes and their willing compliance is expected. The role of a trainer involves preparing to instruct participants for what they are expected to learn or complete by the end of the class, whether it involves acquiring new knowledge or developing new skills. They also understand that the primary responsibilities for their role include providing materials, giving instructions, showing processes and procedures, and answering questions. A trainer knows that the learning objectives or outcomes, whether or not they have been directly involved in developing them, determine what must be accomplished and the final results at the end of the class are somewhat within their control since they demand involvement but they cannot force participants to learn.

Of course there are certainly exceptions to this general rule and there are trainers who have taken workshops and classes to advance their knowledge of corporate training methodologies and processes; however, someone who holds a task-centered view of learning still fits within the typical definition of a corporate trainer. Professional development is available through a variety of resources, which includes professional associations devoted to this field. However, professional development requires more than a membership to an organization or group, it must also involve a genuine interest in the growth of the trainer’s own skills. It is easy to believe that if classroom observations and/or performance reviews are adequate, and students respond in a mostly favorable manner to the training instruction, that no further learning and development is needed. That belief only sustains a trainer’s current role and mindset, which can limit their future potential.

Corporate trainers may also be called facilitators or instructors. The words instructor and trainer are generally thought to have the same meaning and they are used interchangeably. Some organizations refer to their trainers as facilitators as it suggests that a trainer is guiding the class rather than leading the process of learning. While that is certainly possible, taking this type of approach still requires advanced instructional experience and strategies, which would change the role of the trainer beyond someone who delivers materials and expects that participants will comply with their instructions. Unless a trainer has acquired advanced knowledge of adult learning and pursued their own professional development, what they are usually most skilled at is the art of corporate training.

What it Means to Be a Workforce Educator

The word facilitator is really not enough to adequately describe a trainer who has transformed from someone who delivers information to someone who educates. A corporate classroom is still going to be instructor-driven, given the nature of how most training occurs, which means the instructor is going to do something more than facilitate a process. Unless students are given the materials in advance, allowed to prepare for discussions before the class begins, and given an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned through written projects, a trainer is going to do more than guide the participants – they are still going to lead and direct the class. However, what can change the process of corporate training is a trainer who has purposefully transformed and become a workforce educator.

An educator is someone who has developed a different view of how employees as participants are involved in the learning process. In addition, an educator understands that learning begins within the mind of the participants, not with the materials they need to deliver. They are not going to just give participants information that must be assimilated – they understand the basic process of adult learning and through knowing some of the most important adult education principles they will help students learn, apply, and retain new knowledge. A workforce educator will develop instructional strategies that are learner or employee focused, and they will partner with the instructional designer or person who is involved in curriculum development to make certain that all learning activities support the participants’ overall progress and development.

There is another important distinction made between a corporate trainer and a workforce educator. A corporate trainer believes they know enough and are well-equipped to train employees. In contrast, an educator is someone who is focused on their own professional self-development. Regardless of whether a trainer was hired because of their experience rather than their academic accomplishments, they possess a genuine interest in learning how to educate adults. They continue to learn from classes and workshops they attend, they read materials and resources that further the development of their own knowledge base, and they use self-reflection after each class to assess the effectiveness of their instructional strategies. It is possible to be a natural educator without having an advanced degree in adult education because what matters most is the pursuit of some form of ongoing professional development, along with a willingness to continue to learn and adapt for the benefit of the employees as students.

Strategies to Transform from a Trainer to an Educator

The most important characteristics needed to make the transformation from trainer to educator is a mindset that is focused on teaching rather than telling participants what they need to learn, along with an attitude of ongoing development and a willingness to learn. An educator is someone who views themselves as a lifelong learner, even if they have not acquired advanced education. There are many resources available now for educators, especially online, which will anyone to acquire the knowledge necessary to improve their craft. But if someone believes they have already learned enough or know enough about learning, that thinking is going to cause them to get stuck and their developmental capacity becomes limited over time.

Once a trainer has decided they want acquire additional knowledge about adult learning, they can begin to conduct research and read about some of the most important adult education theories. This is going to serve as a pivotal turning point in an educator’s career, becoming well-informed about the process of learning as an adult. One theory that can inform the work of an educator is andragogy, which is about the process of teaching adults who already have experience and knowledge that shapes how they are involved as students or participants. Additional topics and theories that are important to research include cognition, learning styles, critical thinking, transformative learning, student motivation and engagement, multiple intelligences, constructivism, academic skills and academic preparedness, and self-directed learning. There are numerous online websites and blogs devoted to adult education, along with articles about adult learning that can be found online or in print through an online library database.

Ongoing professional development can continue by connecting with other professionals, and LinkedIn is a helpful place to begin searching as there are numerous groups and associations that can be found through this professional networking website resource. As a member of a LinkedIn group it is possible to become involved in discussions and share resources with like-minded professionals who have similar interests in adult learning. Another helpful social networking website that can be used for sharing resources with educators worldwide is Twitter. Your ability to connect with the right audience will depend upon the manner in which you establish your profile and indicate what your professional interests are. The purpose of being involved in ongoing research and connecting with other educators is to inform your work and help you develop instructional strategies that are effective in creating conditions in the classroom where learning can occur. The more you transform and improve your instructional style, the better outcomes your students are likely to experience as a result of attending your corporate training classes.

Corporate Training is Necessary, Workforce Education is Developmental

Corporate training will always be necessary for any organization that needs to provide skill set training or relevant job-related knowledge. There are many individuals who have made a successful career from their work as a trainer, skillfully delivering information in a manner that reduces employee resistance to the training process. Those same individuals may believe that they offer the best possible classroom experience and no further training is required, and they may well be correct. However, everyone who is involved in corporate training has an ability to become more than a trainer, regardless of whether they provide technical training, soft skills training, or other developmental forms of training. Workforce education changes the perspective of a trainer and focuses on the potential of every employee. An educator can help employees obtain the maximum possible benefit from the training classes, while helping them transfer what was learned in the class to their job. This brings out the best in the trainers and the participants as employees, as both experience the transformative nature of learning and being fully engaged in the process. The result of a trainer becoming a workforce educator is that they will likely be more effective in their role, which means that employees (as participants) will gain more from the learning process while improving their retention of knowledge and engagement at work.