2013 STEP Practicum
In September 2013, eight university students involved the Saskatchewan Economic & International Development Officer Program (SEIDO), in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan’s Hanlon Centre for International Business Studies, completed a four-month, part-time country access / market research practicum with the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP).
“STEP recently undertook what we consider to be an important project to deeply examine opportunities in eight new and emerging markets. These were countries that we felt offer long term export potential for Saskatchewan exporters,” explains STEP Executive Director Brad Michnik. “Information and insight was needed on these markets to gain a better understanding of what the countries offered for industries that Saskatchewan has export strength in. We have had a long and ongoing relationship with both the Hanlon Centre and SEIDO Program, so we turned to them for this work.”
Michnik says the practicums are a win-win situation. “STEP gets some valuable market intelligence and at the same time the students gain valuable international marketing experience, which will benefit them and the province in years to come.”
“I was interested in this position because Saskatchewan does not have a formalized student program for international trade. It was a great opportunity to witness what trade officers do behind the scenes,” says university student SEIDO Student Officer Meahgan Sweet. Sweet and several other students were mentored by Yi Zeng, STEP's director for Asia. “We had an initial debriefing with our STEP appointed trade officer. But essentially, we had full control over these projects and were simply advised by the STEP trade officers,” she says.
After completing the country access / market research component, students prepared reports detailing recommendations on sectors and opportunities for Saskatchewan and its companies.
Emmanuel Ojukwu’s student background is in business economics, and he says the internship was a great opportunity to apply the technical knowledge he had gathered in school. “Our education provides us the chance to deal with a lot of hypothetical situations and one of the greatest takeaways from a project of this nature is that we use real data and make real recommendations that are taken into account when visiting these regions,” he says.
Along with Asia, students researched the Republic of Bashkortostan, Uzbekistan, Panama and Costa Rica. U of S student and SEIDO Student Officer Carolyn Aziz says the research could be difficult. “I learned to use every resource available and to ask for feedback and help. There were often times where I couldn't find much information on my regions and it would result in frustration and a sense of defeat,” she says. “My supervisors either gave me additional sources or reassured me that there was a scarcity of information due to cultural norms.”
“Seeing firsthand the operation of a trade office has given me insight into the role of research and networking in many fields, from news to government to industry,” says Luke Sather, another SEIDO Student Officer. “Targeted trade intelligence provides the most current and most valuable information to a client, to enable their success in business decisions. It was a valuable practicum for understanding research as a component of customer needs, which is profoundly different from the academic environment of research assignments and theoretical solutions.”
Opportunities have now been presented to qualifying students to accompany their STEP mentors to these countries and allow them to see their fact-finding mission at work. The students’ travel will be subsidized largely by STEP, the Hanlon Centre for International Business Studies, and the Saskatchewan Economic & International Development Officer Program. Michnik and SEIDO Program Coordinator Nicholas Kokkastamapoulos, who helped select candidates and facilitate training, are working out the logistics and itinerary details.
When asked his thoughts about the STEP practicum, Kokkastamapoulos responded, “Time and time again, our university students take up the challenge of extracurricular projects and practicums that will build their work experience and portfolio. It is a delight, not only to know that international business is included in many of these student's career ambitions, but that the Hanlon Centre and the SEIDO Program are in a position with various partners, especially STEP, to collaborate and provide a platform for which students get relevant first-hand knowledge and experience. I am very proud of these students, and this intake showed they will make great international business leaders one day. I look forward to another student project with STEP to train the next group”.
Watch the SEIDO Program website for information on the next STEP Practicum intake.
* Please note this article has been updated to reflect the new name change of the “Saskatchewan Economic & International Development Officer Program” (“SEIDO”), from its former program name as the “Saskatchewan International Trade Officer Program” (“SITO”).
The Saskatchewan Economic & International Development Officer Program (SEIDO) allows university/college and high schools throughout Saskatchewan the opportunity build global business knowledge, related skills development, and training opportunities for a career in global business, international trade and development. For more information, please contact Nicholas Kokkastamapoulos (SEIDO Program Coordinator) at the Haultain Institute for Global Business Studies at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by telephone at (306) 715-2260. Thank you.