FILE - John Husted

Ohio Lt. Gov. John Husted.

A state-sponsored internship program is helping to grow the next pool of talent in the global trade and commerce space.

The Ohio Export Internship Program (OEIP) “matches companies pursuing export initiatives with motivated students who have taken export-focused undergraduate coursework,” said Sara Zeigler, export assistance manager for the Ohio Development Services Agency.

The program currently partners with Youngstown State University’s Williamson College of Business Administration, Cleveland State University’s Monte Ahuja College of Business or The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business. Officials are expanding the program and plan to add the University of Dayton School of Business Administration to the program in 2020.

“This is incredibly important to the future of the state of Ohio. We have to build the workforce of the future,” Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. “Demographically speaking … over the next 10 years, we will have more people leave our workforce than come into our workforce.”

“It’s about talent. Technology is about talent. Globalization is about talent. That’s what our modern economy is,” Husted said. “The countries, the states, the communities, the businesses and the individuals who recognize that and proactively engage in a strategy that helps them win that future, those are going to be the folks, the communities, the states, the places that prosper. And to me, that’s what this program is about.”

Between 2012 and 2018, the program extended 63 internships and led to the creation of 44 export positions, Lydia Mihalik, director of the Development Services Agency, said. This year, 43 students participated in the program.

“Ohio exported more than $54 billion worth of goods in 2018, and that makes Ohio the ninth-largest exporting state in the country,” Mihalik said.

“The export internship program wouldn’t be possible … without the partnerships among our agency, Ohio businesses and, of course, our universities,” she added. “So, together, we are providing the students with the education and the experience they need in order to build a career.”

Through the program, students gain real-world experience in several disciplines, including sales and marketing.

“As a business owner, I am super excited for the (prospect) of new employees that are going to come into the Ohio workforce based on what we’ve seen in this program and the students that are coming out of these universities,” Ashley Thompson, vice president of 50 Strong, a Lima-based lifestyle brand, said.

Ohio officials have debated how to increase workforce readiness, and officials believe programs such as OEIP will help the state remain competitive.

“This will be our future – to have our students prepared and have them ready to hit the ground running as they get done with their undergraduate studies,” said Jim Tressel, president of Youngstown State University.