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Partnership Between State and OSU Trains Export-Focused Interns

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Partnership Between State and OSU Trains Export-Focused Interns
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Small and medium-sized companies in Ohio are looking to expand their business overseas but often don’t have the expertise to do so. Business students across the state are interested in foreign travel and culture, but rarely find the opportunity to utilize those interests in Ohio. A unique partnership between the state government and OSU is trying to fix both of those problems at once.

In 2012, OSU’s Fisher College of Business and the Ohio Development Services Agency teamed up to form the Ohio Export Internship Program. Students who participate in the program are trained in how to conduct international exports and are then matched with Ohio businesses that offer export-focused summer internships.

Tim Sword, president of Greater Columbus Sister Cities International since December, started the program after working with the state of Ohio for 18 years. Sword said his main reason for starting the program was because he believed increasing exports would create and protect Ohio jobs but found that many companies simply weren’t exporting.

“What’s keeping each individual company from doing that is, the answer would be different reasons, but ultimately it was focus,” said Sword.

The internship program, said Sword, was intended to help businesses by training students to be export-focused employees, something that Ohio businesses are severely lacking. At the same time, Sword said the program helps students, “because when you talk to students, they’re interested in all things international but the opportunities to do that are pretty limited, particularly in college.”

Sword is now one of the co-instructors of the program, but classes are taught primarily by the students themselves, as well as experts in related fields who are invited to attend and deliver brief lectures. About 60 students have gone through the program since it was first launched and not all of them from OSU. Sword said the program is mainly marketed toward business students, but said the “dream student” is one studying business and engineering, since Ohio companies are often looking for someone with a technical background.

“The primary focus of the program is to really consider all the necessary steps for a company to export from Ohio to various countries,” said Sword. These steps include conducting market research, forming an export plan, taking legal considerations into account, as well as securing transportation, documentation and government assistance.

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Although the students in the program share a mind for business, they were attracted to the program for a variety of reasons. Some came to the internship program with an interest in specific regions of the world. For Dorianeh Stanford that was Latin and South America, and so she has a preference for working in whatever business sectors are important to that region. Other students take the opposite approach. Sean McCleery, a student at OSU, specializes in operations management with an interest in manufacturing. This led him to focus on Germany and Central Europe, where manufacturing is a major industry.

Other students had more personal reasons for participating the program. Arjun Jagadeesh from Wright State University said he wanted to learn more about how U.S. ideas on exporting can be applied to his native India, as well as learn how to export services from India to other countries. Heather Bond from Tiffin said she lost her job when the company she worked for moved to Mexico. This event inspired her to learn how to keep jobs in Ohio, which means helping Ohio businesses learn how to export. Bond said right now companies don’t have the knowledge required to export goods and services overseas and there are fewer resources available to help those companies outside of the major cities.

While the students have varying reasons for entering the program, they are confident that the skills they’re learning will be especially useful in life. Emily Little from Bowling Green State University said that by helping students consider the world as a globalized culture, the program puts them ahead of others in the job market. She also said that companies recognize when a student has knowledge that other students or even employees don’t have, and that “it’s cool to have them ask for your card” instead of the other way around.

For more information, visit development.ohio.gov/bs/bs_oxip.htm.

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