King’s gets into the ‘business’ of global recruitment

King’s University College is pitting high school students and their virtual companies against each other in an attempt to recruit international students.

The Online Business Simulation Competition is designed as an introduction to business for high school students in India and China. Currently, about a dozen schools in India and 20 schools in China are participating in the program, now in its third year.

“We thought this was a great opportunity for students to experience what it is like to work with a business situation, work in a team/group circumstance and make decisions about business,” says Marilyn Mason, King’s registrar.

The added bonus is the program serves as a recruitment tool.

“It’s a way of identifying really able students and having good relationships with high schools,” she says.

King’s business professor Ken Bowlby, who designed the program, initiated it as part of his role as director, international program development, building on his experience teaching and consulting in China. As a result of its success, the program expanded to India this year.

“This is a very practical and focused program to work with leading high schools, teachers and students in two countries we’re working in and trying to recruit excellent students,” Mason says.

What the students are playing for is a chance to win a scholarship to King’s – a significant prize to help offset international tuition. The gold, silver and bronze scholarship prizes equate to $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000 respectively and can be applied toward tuition at King’s at a rate of $5,000 per year.

The students involved in the program are “students interested in studying abroad and doing something different,” she says.

To bring the simulation to life, each student is assigned a role in the ‘company,’ such as president, research director and marketing director. The program uses CAPSIM Foundation online simulation software, allowing teams to compete against five companies ‘managed’ by the computer. This means each decision they make will be weighted based on its plausible outcomes and is compared to the other competitors’ results.

During the eight-week program, students determine the company’s business strategy for the equivalent of eight years in the industry. They are asked to make decisions about their products, marketing, production and finances. These decisions are entered into the software, which processes the information and provides the teams with standard reports on how the business is performing.

While the focus of the program is on business, it attracts more than that.

“We attract students who are just interested in working in teams, and often in China and India that is not as much of the curriculum as it is in Canada,” Mason explains. “We meet students who are interested in all kinds of disciplines. … We are also finding students who are interested in coming to Canada for degree programs beyond management and organizational studies.”

King’s contracts local co-ordinators in India and China to assist the teams and school leaders, including offering personal visits, online chat sessions, e-mail support and conference calls.

One of the schools in China has applied the business skills learned during the competition to opening a store in the school selling supplies and student necessities.

“Those students, we find, are engaged in the program are really interesting and highly motivated students,” she says.

The program has helped raise awareness about King’s in China and India. There have been students from Chinese schools participating in the program who have enrolled at King’s.

So far, only a handful of students have taken advantage of the scholarship. But this doesn’t have Mason worried.

“It has been positive. But it hasn’t meant a huge increase in our numbers in China. It has just meant we have developed really good, close relationships with a number of high schools, their principals and teachers who are recommending students,” she says. “We are expecting it to continue to strengthen, but I think it’s already shown enormous benefit in being able to work with some very fine schools in China and India.

“We expect the number of students who will come to King’s as a result of this will slowly, but surely, increase.”