Graduate placement programme designed to help SMEs scale and grow

Local Enterprise Office GradStart programme offers eligible Cork City companies financial support to hire top graduate talent.

 Local Enterprise Office Cork City GradStart

Local Enterprise Office Cork City is encouraging businesses to avail of a graduate placement programme that could cover 50% of the employee’s salary and help participating companies scale and grow.

The GradStart programme offers eligible Local Enterprise Office client companies employing a minimum of 5 staff financial support to hire top graduate talent for new positions within the company and develop a talent pipeline.

One graduate can be hired at any one time for a two-year period by eligible city-based companies operating in the manufacturing or internationally traded service sectors.

LEO Cork City Business Advisor, Anthony Russell, says the financial supports being offered are designed to enable SMEs to hire top graduate talent and attract graduates to the SME sector. Speaking about the programme, he said, “GradStart is an excellent initiative offering financial support to eligible Cork companies in hiring top graduate talent. This Enterprise Ireland funded initiative is a very practical support for eligible companies in the manufacturing and internationally traded service sectors”.

Roles in any discipline other than direct sales and direct marketing positions are eligible for support and graduates must have graduated within the last four years. Recruiting companies must also define the project aligned to their growth plan for each graduate to complete during the placement and graduates must be assigned an in-company mentor to support their development during the placement period.

LEO Cork City can pay up to €15,000 per year on a maximum allowable salary of €30,000 per year or 50% of individual graduate salary costs, whichever is lesser. Where a company has a clear requirement for a graduate with a language proficiency (for international trading) up to €21,000 can be paid per year on a maximum allowable salary of €30,000 per year, or up to 70% of individual graduate salary costs, whichever is lesser.

Cork manufacturing company, Northside Glass, was successful in applying for the GradStart programme last year. They recruited IT graduate, Dean Hornibrook, for a two-year placement commencing last January.

Claire Hanifin, NSG, Financial Controller said, “GradStart has been a fantastic opportunity for our business. It enabled us to offer a competitive salary to recruit skilled graduate talent, which in turn has meant we’ve been able to develop our online presence and the IT side of the business. Dean has helped us create Covid Sneeze guards, he’s also creating an online store, bringing us to the next level for e-commerce - we can now sell online. We wouldn’t have been able to do these things without the GradStart programme and the support from LEO Cork City. It’s been hugely beneficial, and I’d recommend the programme to any company.”

GradStart placement trainee, Dean, said the programme has been mutually beneficial. He commented, “The GradStart programme allowed a business that traditionally would not have invested in technology to give me an opportunity. It has been invaluable to me personally and I could not endorse the programme enough. It has enabled me to work in a sector in which I can make a positive impact to how the company operates while also providing mentorship, training and hands on experience of business operations.”

Applications for GradStart funding can be made throughout the year and all enquiries should be directed to Anthony Russell, Business Advisor, LEO Cork City by email: or by telephone at: (021) 4961828 prior to submission.

For more information on the GradStart programme visit or