A free course designed to develop, train, and encourage students to start and run small businesses soon will be offered to New York schools, Lt. Gov. Mary Donohue said Dec. 6.

In announcing the Youth Entrepreneurship Program, Donohue said she hopes the internet course will lead to new businesses in the state.

The course will be offered beginning in the spring to public and private schools statewide for students in grades eight through 12. The course, covering 30 to 50 hours, will teach about business plans, competition, securing capital and business ethics.

The program will be funded for as many as 2,500 students with $500,000 from the state Lottery Division. That will pay for supplies, contacting and helping teachers implement the program, and development of the software through the independent Institute for Entrepreneurship, said Lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman. The institute will track the use and progress of the program, said J. Felix Strevell, chairman of the institute.

Students will be able to take the course in a class or as part of a class or at home. The system will use a “smart card” that will provide a student with codes to access the program from any computer. In addition to learning how to use computer programs applicable to business, the course will teach such things as “articulating a vision,” how to sell partnerships, dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, conflict resolution, and other issues.

“I commend this program for combining two critical elements that together I believe will have a tremendous impact on the current as well as future vitality of our communities: education and entrepreneurship,” Donohue said.