By Alyssa Patrick, Economic Development and External Affairs
SPOKANE, Wash. – The Washington State University Small Business Development Center’s research intern program recently was named a finalist for an award from the nationwide University Economic Development Association. Award recipients will be announced this week at the UEDA Annual Summit in Santa Fe, N.M.
“The internship is an opportunity for college students to become better prepared for the workplace while also helping Washington businesses make critical decisions,” said Tim Taylor, SBDC’s internship coordinator.
The internship was started to support a state economic revitalization grant the SBDC received in 2011 to grow new exports via a statewide export readiness program. Facing the daunting task of creating a program for businesses that had never exported before, the SBDC set up the research internship so students could help.
Interns gathered data on world markets specified by clients and answered in-depth questions specific to those markets. It was a natural move for the SBDC, which runs a variety of internship opportunities throughout the state.
In the first year, SBDC hired eight WSU interns who had strong research capabilities but lacked specific experience using proprietary databases and writing research reports for a business audience. The advisors wanted to provide their clients with the highest quality documents and their interns with rich skill development, so they developed a 2- to 3-week training and mentoring program. Students come from universities around the state to participate in the internships.
“More than just learning how to collect data, we learned how to filter out the important information,” said Craig Murchison, an intern for two years. “We were encouraged to focus on delivering actionable, relevant research in a timely manner.”
SBDC’s clients have directly benefited from that focus. Since its launch, the export readiness program has worked with 590 clients, and the interns have provided over 200 high quality, in-depth market intelligence research reports to help those Washington businesses launch or grow their exports.
Clients have reported more than $107 million in export sales and have created 373 export-related jobs since the program was started in early 2011. Clients routinely tell Taylor how beneficial they found the market intelligence reports the students did for their companies.
Rachael Barrett was an intern for 1½ years while earning her degrees in agriculture and food systems and economics from WSU.
“The internship gave me a lot of new perspectives,” she said. “Working with small businesses gave me a window into the real world, and working with other interns gave me insight into different disciplines I may work with.”
Barrett is pursuing a master’s degree in agriculture, food and environment at Tufts University, and she said the research she did for SBDC helped her realize her interest in trade and policy.
Taylor often receives emails from former interns about how the program helped them in an interview or in their jobs.
UEDA is a national association of higher education, private sector and community economic development stakeholders. The intern program was nominated for the UEDA award in the talent development category.
For more information about the Washington SBDC, go to http://wsbdc.org.
Terry Chambers, Washington SBDC international trade program director, 509-358-7894, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alyssa Patrick, WSU Economic Development and External Affairs communications, email@example.com, 206-219-2427