YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Richard Hall, a graduate student in financial economics at Youngstown State University, pours over his desk at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber – his new office adorned in YSU Penguin regalia.
“I’m definitely excited about working here,” Hall said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to assist in bringing new business opportunities to the area and help develop the workforce and the economy.”
He’s the first participant in a partnership announced Thursday between the Chamber, YSU, Eastern Gateway Community College and Kent State University at Trumbull that opens up internship opportunities at the economic development organization.
The program provides three offices reserved for interns from each school — all decked out in their institution’s colors and mascots.
“We do use a lot of interns in our work. They help us out immensely,” said Thomas Humphries, the Chamber’s outgoing president and CEO.
Humphries said the idea hit when the Chamber was renovating its new offices on the fifth floor of the City Centre One building over the summer. “What we wanted to do is provide a space for them,” he said.
All three institutions contributed toward covering the costs of renovating the office space, he said.
Chamber vice president and COO Sarah Boyarko said the presence of three higher education institutions within the Chamber’s offices sends a positive message to companies looking at the Mahoning Valley as a location to expand or start operations.
“They are part of every request for information we share with companies,” she said of the three schools. “They are at the forefront of everything we do to ensure that the companies we bring to the market or the companies we are working with to expand, have access to workforce.”
She said the Regional Chamber has committed to hiring one student from each institution over two semesters. “So, we’ll have six interns throughout the year,” she said.
The interns will gain experience in fields such as marketing, economic development, graphic design and potentially government affairs, Boyarko said. “We can also expose these students to our membership and the business community directly,” she said.
Eastern Gateway President Mike Geoghegan said providing a skilled workforce for the 21st century is a central goal of the community college, located downtown.
“We’re all about removing barriers to students, to acquire degrees and workforce credentials to meet the needs of the growing opportunities here in the ‘Voltage Valley,’ ” he said, referring to the moniker given the region because of its emerging identity as a hub for the electric-vehicle industry. “We are working every day to create training opportunities for our students.”
Daniel Palmer, interim dean and chief administrative officer at Kent State Trumbull, noted that the internships allow students to gain valuable business experience with an organization whose goals are aligned with the three schools.
“We think it’s a perfect relationship between the chamber’s efforts and the efforts of the local universities to create the dynamic workforce to meet the needs of the Valley,” he said.
Palmer said Kent State Trumbull’s first intern should be selected sometime in February.
YSU President Jim Tressel added it’s vital that the region possess a strong pipeline of skilled talent to meet the demand of new and growing industry.
“We’re not going to be short on opportunities in this region,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the workforce developed to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Pictured: Richard Hall, YSU intern, in his new office at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.