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About GradStart

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GradStart is 2-year placement programme where graduates work on defined projects in ambitious, export-focused Irish SMEs to assist them scale and grow their businesses. Irish SMEs, which are client companies of Enterprise Ireland , deliver significant economic benefits to Ireland and are crucial to the long-term sustainability of the Irish economy. These companies are flexible, innovative and ambitious, led by highly skilled, creative and hard-working entrepreneurs. Some of the most interesting graduate opportunities exist in Irish companies. GRADSTART is designed to connect graduates with dynamic Irish SMEs.

The placement is 24 months in duration, during which you will receive a salary from your host company. This salary is negotiated between you and your host company.

While completing this 24 month placement you will complete a project defined by the company that will link to the role you have been assigned. During your placement, you will be assigned an in-company mentor to work with you on this project In addition to working with you on your assigned project, this mentor will be there to support you in your development within the company.

The programme will benefit you by providing you with:

  • Excellent placement opportunities in dynamic and ambitious Irish companies
  • The opportunity to develop and use a broader range of skills
  • The potential to accelerate career development
  • Competitive graduate salary
  • Invaluable experience with an in-company industry experience mentor
  • A practical graduate development opportunity

This programme is financially supported by Enterprise Ireland

Eligible Graduates:

GRADSTART is open to all graduates of any discipline who meet the following criteria:

  • Seeking graduate entry level positions;
  • Have a recognised 3rd level qualification degree not less than Level 6 on the National Vocational Qualifications Framework, or recognised equivalent; or a postgraduate degree not less than Level 9 on the National Vocational Qualifications Framework, or recognised equivalent;
  • Have a valid work permit to work in Ireland (if required) for the duration of the 24 month placement
  • Have been awarded that qualification within the last four years, i.e. 2015, 2016, 2017 or 2018

Ineligible Graduates:

  • Graduates who cannot provide evidence of having reached the required academic standard on the National Vocational Qualifications Framework or demonstrate equivalence;
  • Graduates who do not, at the time of application, have a valid work permit to work in Ireland;
  • Graduates who are more than two years post-graduate i.e. graduated prior to 2015
  • Graduates recruited or on the company payroll prior to the grant support date; graduates transferred from another location of the company to the grant aided company location; graduates performing a sales role for the grantee company; graduates supported by the Job Plus Programme administered by the Department of Social Protection.

How to Apply?

All GRADSTART opportunities for graduates will be advertised on this site – see ‘GRADSTART Opportunities’

Graduates should identify the opportunities they are interested in and apply directly to the relevant company via this site (

The company has complete responsibility for recruitment and if any feedback is required you may contact the company directly.

5 Great Reasons for a Graduate to work for an SME

Enterprise Ireland’s SME clients are a key component of the Irish economy and crucial to economic recovery. They are drivers of entrepreneurial activity, innovation, export market growth, competitiveness, and employment. While SMEs are often smaller in size by comparison to large companies and multi-national corporations, SMEs can offer many benefits to graduates in their career due to their size.

5 Great Reasons…..

1. The job role is broader and more varied. SMEs tend to be less rigid in structure and job roles are usually less defined. In SMEs, the approach is more hands-on, giving graduates more exposure and responsibilities. This offers graduates more opportunities to develop their skills in a broad range of roles which might not be possible to do in bigger companies. As a result, the graduate will broaden their skill set and plump up their resume further.

2. There’s often less emphasis on hierarchy, which can create an open work environment – graduates may have greater opportunities to interact frequently with middle and senior management. Working in closer proximity with management allows graduates to share thoughts and ideas and give feedback on company matters.

3. Better communication between graduate and management can help the graduate to get their work done and receive recognition for it.

4. Go further, faster. The bigger the company, the more competition there is. Hard work in an SME will not go unnoticed, especially if the graduate has proved their worth. Graduates who started working for SMEs often realise that they make more of a contribution to the company than their peers in large organisations.

5. Everybody knows your name….the smaller workforce in SMEs means that the culture is more personable and is often more informal and friendly. Everybody generally knows everybody else and there is fewer office politics involved.

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