First entrants in export excellence programme graduate

The first group of ‘graduates’ from Invest Northern Ireland’s ‘E2’ Programme have been awarded Certificates in Export Excellence, for work carried out on export related projects on behalf of several local firms.

E2 is a unique graduate export development programme launched last year by Invest NI as part of its focus on encouraging small and medium sized enterprises to explore opportunities in new markets outside Northern Ireland.

Completing export projects on behalf of their companies were Chris McEntee, who worked with ICS Computing, Belfast; Gillian Uprichard, LexZander, Lisburn; Mark Lyness, Smiley Monroe, Lisburn; Rachel McGuigan, Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Rachel Nicholson, Moneypouch, Belfast.

They carried out a broad range of projects aimed at helping businesses to improve overall export capability, including researching new markets outside Northern Ireland and identifying new product development opportunities.

Commenting on the programme, Alan Hingston, Invest NI’s Director of Trade said: “E2 places a university graduate with a participating company for a defined period to carry out a specific sales and marketing project, and backs this up with a training/mentoring scheme for both the graduate and the company which is provided by marketing and management experts.

“The programme has been shaped specifically to help SMEs gain knowledge and increase capability in areas such as bespoke market intelligence, including information on competitors, distribution, pricing and legal requirements.

“Participating businesses also receive support in preparing for exporting and sustaining activities in these new markets. E2 is open to first-time exporters, relatively new exporters, and established exporters that are either focusing on a new product or export market, or, that wish to develop their export capabilities,” he added.

Mr Hingston added:  “The Certificate in Export Excellence is a professional qualification which recognises practical experience in exporting, such as the development of an export plan, as well as participation in a structured training and mentoring programme. The focus is on enabling the graduates to gain practical knowledge and experience that will help them in developing careers in exporting and also on assisting smaller companies to explore business opportunities outside Northern Ireland in a structured way.  Encouragingly all of the first group of graduates have now been offered full-time employment.”

Phil Trimble, Operations Director of Smiley Monroe, a Lisburn manufacturer of rubber and plastic products for the materials handling industry, endorsed the E2 Programme.

Mr Trimble said: “We asked our graduate to help us pinpoint new opportunities for our products in Great Britain beyond materials handling and quarrying in which we are already well-established. We asked the graduate to look at how we could develop business for our CNC rubber cutting expertise for example in industries such as agricultural machinery, marine and aerospace. He produced a wealth of research data and recommendations which will be immensely useful as we move forward.

“Overall, our participation in the E2 Programme was extremely worthwhile. We benefited enormously from having a talented graduate available to focus on new business areas. It isn’t always easy for a smaller company to deploy someone to undertake detailed and essential market research over a number of months,” he added.

The programme is delivered by consultants Parity, which specialises in graduate management development, and Envision, export marketing specialists.