SMEs and students: Learning from each other

In October 2011 the Department of Finance commissioned consult-ants Mazars to carry out a comprehensive survey of the levels of demand for credit amongst small and medium-sized businesses. On completion of the survey, a series of seven regional meetings were hosted by the Minister for Small Business, Mr John Perry T.D. supported by the Secretary General of the Department of Finance, Mr John Moran. The aim of these meetings was to examine further the actions which might be taken to improve access to credit for SMEs.

Participating business students from Dundalk Institute of Technology pictured at the EURES conference
on cross-border taxation hosted by Dundalk Chamber of Commerce

The first regional meeting took place in Dundalk on the 3 February 2012. One of the key findings of the Mazars survey was the need to increase the number of small and medium enterprises who prepare and maintain business and budget plans, making use of these plans as vital aids to business. Well prepared business and budget plans can add substantial weight to loan applications, increasing the probability of a successful application. During a discussion of this issue at the Dundalk meeting, it was suggested that final-year business students at the local Institute of Technology be given the opportunity to engage with local SMEs in an effort to expand and improve the business and budget planning practices of those businesses.

This suggestion led to eight member firms of Dundalk Chamber availing of the services of business students from Dundalk Institute of Technology. The students spent one week each with the local businesses in January 2013, imparting their knowledge of the most up-to-date business planning methods.

The firms were asked to report back and in all cases were extremely positive. Both students and businesses found it to be a productive experience. The students, it is hoped, benefited from practical experience while the businesses will obtain real benefits from the expertise provided by the students in the years to come.

Paddy Malone suggested engaging with accountancy/business students at the DKIT who would work under the supervision of an accountant in practice with one of their  small businesses.

Eight member firms of Dundalk Chamber took on 9 business students which include
TJ Briody, Connolly Kelly, CMF, Eddie Kirk, Farrelly Daw White, FMW, Frank Lynch, Malone

The firms were asked to report back and in all cases were positive.  Part of the week was spent in orientating and part on general accountancy work.  The students found it productive and did change their perspective of accountancy from theoretical to practical.  The ultimate targeted beneficiary, the SME owner will it is hoped  obtain benefit after the second week.
A common reaction from both students and firms was that the time allocation was not enough.
It is hoped that some of the firms might be in a position to offer contracts to the students following graduation.

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