YSU Students Complete Export Internships

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — For the fourth year, Youngstown State University participated in the Ohio Development Services Agency’s Ohio Export Internship Program. Seven YSU students and two from the University of Akron attended classes at the Williamson College of Business Administration, and completed internships in equipment manufacturing, pigment and coating manufacturing, software developers and display technology.

Students from YSU included Mitchell Barcey of Canfield; Ahmed Elkhafif from Cairo, Egypt; Faith Gaffney of McDonald, Pa.; Joshua Gianoutsos from Howland; James Greenawalt of Hubbard; Adam Hauser of Andover; and Hunter Miller of Poland. Jackson Gagne and Prad Georges were chosen from the University of Akron.

YSU is one of three Ohio universities to offer classes for the program, along with Cleveland State University Monte Ahuja College of Business and The Ohio State University Max M. Fisher College of Business, said Mousa Kassis, export assistance network director with the Ohio Small Business Development Center at YSU. Classes are open to 12 colleges and universities throughout the state. YSU usually hosts two to three students from Akron annually.

Curriculum at YSU focuses on four key areas: international management exports, international marketing exports, international finance and international supply chain, said Kassis, who teaches the courses.

Within those areas of study, Kassis instructs students on export compliance as well as information on the governmental agencies that regulate exports. The four major ones include the U.S. Department of State, which oversees the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the Office of Foreign Assets Control with the U.S. Treasury Department, the Bureau of Industry and Security, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Each year, classes are divided into three or four teams that are assigned to an Ohio company, he said. Regional companies that participated this year included Taylor-Winfield Technologies Inc., Columbiana Boiler Co., Eckart America Corp. in Painesville, PeopleKeys in Boardman and Kent Displays Inc. in Kent.

“We reach out to our business leaders and we invite them to a real class where students will conduct research for them according to their company,” Kassis said.

Students get to know the company and its products and research its industry. They must identify potential markets for the company to expand into as well as possible agents or distributors in three to five foreign countries that they choose, he said. The information is submitted to the company in a 30- to 40-page report.

Many of the companies “follow these to a tee because they never had this opportunity before,” he said. After the research is submitted, students are matched up with companies for summer internships.

This year, two of the students researched and authored an export compliance manual specific to the company they interned with. Another student was involved with negotiations to establish her employer in a free trade zone and helped submit its application. This was especially timely given the tariffs on steel and aluminum instituted by President Donald Trump, Kassis said.

“Many of our companies in the area were affected by steel tariffs,” he said. “One of the ways to mitigate that is through a trade zone.”

Another student actually took over as export manager for his employer when the staff export manager when on vacation for a few weeks, Kassis said. The student helped to process 17 export orders to five countries.

“We’re very proud of our students because when they hit that level, they’re ready to go after they graduate,” he said. “Companies don’t have to train them.”

Some of the most popular exports from the region include chemical and electric machinery, steel products, plastics and auto parts, he said. Some students also get involved in intermodal shipping through the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority.

Since YSU has been involved in the program, 20 local companies have participated, Kassis said. Of the 12 students who participated in 2017, half got full-time jobs in exporting jobs. This year, 15 of the 41 total students were offered internship extensions, nine of whom accepted.

Regional jobs available to graduates including compliance managers, export managers and general export department staff, he said. This year, YSU took steps to expand the program’s influence by recruiting international students.

“The strategic goal is if we train a foreign student in the U.S. export laws and regulations,” the student will return to his home country and find work with companies that do business with the United States, he said. “It will also help grow our business in this region.”

In addition, YSU is working to partner with universities in foreign countries to establish a student exchange program to provide students with export education in multiple countries, he said. In the 10 Ohio counties and six Pennsylvania counties that make up the region, “we have about 122 companies that have a headquarters or branch in a foreign country,” he said. The goal, he said, is to set up YSU students with those foreign branches to learn about the regulations and the culture.

“This way, you also have networking relations and knowledge of both countries in the same company,” he said. “That will create a very skilled labor force on an international level.”

On Thursday, YSU joined the other participating universities at an event in the Ohio Statehouse Atrium, where small-business owners, educators and government officials recognized the 41 students who took part in the export internship program this year.

Students worked closely with 38 companies across the state to help them enter new export markets or expand on existing ones, according to a release from the Ohio Development Services Agency. Since the program’s inception, 231 students helped generate an estimated $31 million in export sales for 136 Ohio companies. In addition, it’s led to 35 full-time job offers and 50 internship extensions.

“There’s a hunger around the world for products made right here in Ohio,” said David Goodman, Director of the Development Services Agency. “The Ohio Export Internship Program gives students real-world experience while helping Ohio businesses explore ways to introduce their goods in new global markets.”

The Development Services Agency is accepting applications for companies to participate in next year’s program. Interested companies can learn more at Development.Ohio.gov.

For more information on the Ohio Export Internship Program, contact Mousa Kassis, export assistance network director with the Ohio Small Business Development Center at YSU, at 330-941-2415 or mhkassis@ysu.edu.

Pictured: Seated from left are Hunter Miller, Faith Gaffney and Joshua Gianotsos. Standing: James Greenawalt, Prad Georges, Jackson Gange, Mousa Kassis, Ellen Chittester, Mitchell Barcey, Ahmed Elkhafif and Adam Hauser.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.