Over 60 microbusinesses throughout Belfast have benefited from a graduate recruitment scheme that has given small business owners the chance to start exporting goods abroad.
The Aspire programme has been in operation since 2012 and has received over £1.8m of European Union Interreg IVA funding. The project involved small businesses and local councils within Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon.
Aspire’s cross-border programme allows graduates to embark on a 12 month work placement at a small business. SMEs that are part of the programme do not have to cover the costs of the employees’ wages, meaning that business owners gain a valuable employee at minimal expense.
As part of the programme, graduates also received help from a specialist mentor, giving them a greater chance of receiving further employment after the year-long placement.
The scheme has been a success for both the small businesses and the graduates involved. Over 70 per cent of all employees received the opportunity to secure full-time employment after 12 months.
Many of the microbusinesses involved in the scheme have benefitted also. With more employees working within their business, SME owners had the oppurtunity to develop partnership links with companies in the UK, the United States and the Middle East.
‘‘Aspire has acted as a career springboard for our local graduates who are now well placed to take advantage of the exciting and innovative opportunities available across our region,’’ commented councillor Darryn Causby, Lord Mayor of Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon.
‘‘I have no doubt that the Aspire Programme will continue to contribute to the area’s economic growth and success, as the benefits of the Programme are imbedded into our local micro enterprises, the lifeblood of our regional economy.’’