GradStart – For Companies

How Will the GradStart Benefit My Company?

GradStart is a 24-month graduate placement programme. The objective of GradStart is to assist Enterprise Ireland’s indigenous companies to scale and grow their businesses through the introduction of good graduate talent to deliver clearly defined projects.

This offer will be specifically targeted at the graduate community and helping companies attract additional graduate resources.

The initiative will support companies with ambitious growth plans to employ up to three graduates at any one time, with a minimum Level 6 degree qualification on the National Vocational Qualifications Framework or equivalent.

The offer will be available to all Enterprise Ireland client companies who meet the programme criteria.

GradStart Offers Your Company:

  • Your company will be facilitated with the necessary tools required to effectively compete for graduate talent;
  • Utilisation of graduates to help deliver on defined company projects and embed capability and/or support the company achieve its goals;
  • An opportunity to recruit the best graduate talent;
  • Potential to improve the skills base and competence available in the business, particularly in SME’s;
  • An employment grant for up to three graduates at any one time;
  • Assistance from Enterprise Ireland to advertise and attract graduates;


Am I Eligible?

GradStart Graduate employment cannot commence until Enterprise Ireland has confirmed that the company’s application has been approved.

Eligible Companies (See Section 5 Applicant Eligibility page 4 of the Terms of Reference (ToR):

GradStart is open to all Enterprise Ireland SME companies[1]. The initiative is also available to eligible Udras na Gaeltacht clients.

Ineligible companies:

  • Partnerships
  • Companies who have received High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) Funding in the past 3 years


Small enterprises in the agricultural sector are excluded in line with State aid guidelines. Companies with charitable status, commercial semi-state companies, “not for profit” organisations, trade associations, company representation bodies such as Chambers of Commerce, Sports Clubs and other non-commercial bodies or associations are not eligible to participate in the GradStart.

Project Eligibility:

Eligible projects must meet the following criteria:

  • Applications from eligible companies;
  • A project defined by the company linked to their overall growth plan and be part of the strategic development plan of the company;
  • The company clearly demonstrates that it has an appropriate infrastructure (i.e. adequate work tools, desk/PC and support and access to work colleagues/supervisor or team leaders) to enable the graduate to fulfil the aims of the programme;
  • The company identifies an in-company mentor to work with and develop the graduate on a daily/weekly basis;
  • Activities that support the development of the graduate;

Ineligible projects:

Any projects related to Sales and Marketing activities

[1] Traded services are defined under the Industrial Development Act 1986 and Industrial Development Services Order 2010 (SI No. 81 2010) see

Eligible Expenditure

Eligible Company Employment Costs:

  • Salaries and wages of graduates approved under the GradStart (excluding Employers’ PRSI and Bonus).

Ineligible Expenditure:

  • Recruitment Costs
  • Bonuses related to the graduate’s salary
  • Employers PRSI contributions
  • Travel and subsistence in Ireland or Overseas
  • Any accommodation costs
  • Expenditure incurred prior to the date of receipt of the Application to Enterprise Ireland is ineligible

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 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 12 month placement
  • Have been awarded that qualification within the last four years, i.e. 2015, 2016, 2017 or 2018


What Funding is available from Enterprise Ireland?

GradStart is a 24-month placement support designed to embed higher levels of graduate capability in Enterprise Ireland’s client companies.

Enterprise Ireland will provide financial support of €15,000 or 50% of individual graduate salary costs (whichever is the lesser), with up to three graduates at any time.

The limit of two graduates per year is based on a rolling calendar year subject to maximum De Minimis of €200,000 in a three year period. The rolling period starts from the application submission date. The application submission date will also be the earliest date on which the new grant-aided employees may be recruited.

Graduates must be new graduates to the company, funding for existing graduates or employees will not be supported. If a company has hired a graduate under the Graduates 4 International Growth (G4IG) or Graduate Business Growth Initative (GBGI) offer, funding to retain that graduate will not be supported by this offer.

Graduates must have graduated in 2015, 2016, 2017 or 2018.

Companies that intend to apply for funding under GradStart should contact their Enterprise Ireland Development Advisor in advance of submitting an online application for funding.

Project support is subject to:

  • Not exceeding the De Minimis limit of a rolling €200,000 over 3 fiscal years
  • All companies must identify a suitable in-company mentor
  • The mentor for each company must attend a one-day workshop on talent management which is delivered through Enterprise Ireland’s Excel series.

Note: GradStart is administered under De Minimis. Where companies have exceeded their De Minimis limits, they will not be eligible for these employment grants.

European Regional Development Fund

GradStart is eligible for funding by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Enterprise Ireland under the Border, Midland and Western Regional Operational Programme 2014-2020.

To be eligible for ERDF the projects must be carried out in one of the following counties (this may be different to the location of the applicant): Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan, Sligo, Laois, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath, Galway, Mayo or Roscommon.

Graduates employed in SMEs only are eligible. Graduates employed in Large companies are not eligible for ERDF co-funding.

Legal and State Aid Basis

The legal basis for GradStart is Section 25 of the Industrial Development Act, 1986, as amended, and Section 7 of the Industrial Development Act, 1998. The State Aid basis is Aid under De Minimis Aid – Commission regulation EU no. 1407/2013

Funding Approval Process

There are no call close dates. The process is not competitive. Applications will be evaluated by the company’s Development Adviser and put forward for recommendation by the appropriate Department Manager in Enterprise Ireland. Applications will be assessed using the criteria below for each project submitted:

  • The potential impact of the project on the strategic direction of the company;
  • The commitment of the company to enhance its capability;
  • The quality of the proposed infrastructure within the company to enable the graduate to fulfil the aims of this initiative;
  • Previous enterprise Ireland financial support and performance against targets;
  • All companies must identify a suitable in-company mentor;

Time period for approval and drawing down grants

There will be two claim periods. The first claim period will be on receipt by EI of the company signed letter of offer, graduate employment contract, copy of the graduates, qualifications and a tax clearance certificate. This claim will be for 50% of the approved eligible employment costs.

The second claim period for the remaining 50% of the approved eligible employment costs will be payable on completion by the graduate of the twelve month placement / fulltime employment in the company and completion by the mentor of a one-day Talent Management Programme delivered by Enterprise Ireland.

If the graduate leaves employment with the company within the twelve month period the grant will be paid on a pro-rata basis.

The company will need to provide a valid tax clearance certificate, proof of graduate payment, copy of graduate payslip, director’s statement and the relevant claim form.

Companies must incur and pay for all expenditure and submit claims for payment no later than the final claim date noted in their letter of offer. Any balance unclaimed after the final claim date will be cancelled.

Please see Section 12, page 8 of the terms of reference for further details.

Evaluation of projects that the graduates are working on

Enterprise Ireland will evaluate the company projects that the graduates are working on throughout the 24 month period. The programme manager for GradStart will make contact with the company and the graduate hired throughout the 24 month period. 

Company Responsibility

Companies are responsible for attracting interviewing and hiring their own graduate(s). Enterprise Ireland has designed and developed a dedicated graduate website – – where companies can advertise their own graduate job opportunities to attract graduates.


How do I Apply?

Company Application Process

All company applications for funding should be discussed with your Enterprise Ireland Development Adviser prior to submission.

You can apply via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System

Prior to applying please note:

  • Contact your assigned Enterprise Ireland Development Adviser to discuss your application
  • First time applicants will be required to register on the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System
  • All Udaras na Gaeltacht companies must apply directly to Udaras.


In-Company Mentor


The potential of graduates is huge, they have grown up in a world of information, they know how to get information and apply it. Theirs is a global community and their willingness to take risks, try new things, and propose new ideas and ways of doing things is of huge benefit to the companies that employ them. It is in this context that the benefits of mentoring are outlined.

The overall objective of mentoring the graduate is two-fold:

  1. It is a condition of this grant support that the company assigns a mentor to the graduate
  2. It is to enable the graduate to contribute to your company quickly, become effective in their role and gain success.

Being a mentor is not an unnecessary, expendable task. It is an important task which can be very rewarding and can have a profound impact on the graduate and the company.

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring provides new graduates who may have less experience in the workplace with regular and objective feedback, valuable insight and support. They act as a confidential sounding board to the graduate and help them with any questions and generally become their ‘go-to’ person.

Company Benefits of Mentoring a Graduate

Some of the many benefits of mentoring a graduate include:

  • Enhancing strategic business initiatives
  • Encouraging retention – people who are mentored stay in a job / company longer
  • Reducing turnover costs
  • Improving productivity

Selecting a Mentor

When selecting a mentor try to select an experience employee who is naturally helpful, good with people and has the desire to help a graduate to manager their career and transition into your company.

Of course the mentor likely has a full-time job themselves however, the relationship offers reciprocal benefits for mentors willing to invest their time in developing another professional. As well as the personal satisfaction of sharing their skills and experience with a willing learner, being involved in mentoring also provides some tangible benefits that can reward mentors professionally such as:

  • Recognition as a subject matter expert
  • Satisfaction in sharing expertise with others
  • Exposure to fresh perspectives, ideas and approaches
  • Opportunity to reflect on own goals and practices
  • Development of personal leadership and coaching styles

To reap the benefits of mentoring will require that protégés and mentors are carefully matched. Mentoring is a shared job. The mentor is not solely responsible for creating a successful mentoring relationship. The graduate being mentored needs to be flexible, honest, open and receptive to feedback and insight. The graduate also needs to be willing to give the mentor feedback and talk about what is or isn’t working well in the relationship.

Benefits to the Graduate

The mentor experience is a very valuable and effective development opportunity for a graduate. Being offered the guidance, support and encouragement of a trusted and experienced mentor can offer the graduate a range of personal and professional benefits which will ultimately benefit the company through improved performance in the workplace.

Benefits include:

  • Develop a sharper focus on what is needed to grow and be successful within the company
  • Learn from a mentor’s real-world experience
  • Learn specific skills and knowledge relevant to achieving goals
  • Insider’s perspective on how things work in the company
  • Someone to bounce ideas off
  • Someone to provide impartial advice
  • Receive critical and timely feedback
  • Assist in career decisions


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.
  1. 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.
  1. Better communication between graduate and management can help the graduate to get their work done and receive recognition for it.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 less office politics involved.


FAQ – Get Answers

Attract Top Talent – Access New Markets – Get Financial Support

What is the definition of a graduate?

A graduate is someone who has graduated within the last four academic years i.e. they have been awarded their qualification either in 2015, 2016, 2017 or 2018.

What qualifications does the graduate need to have?

The graduate must hold a minimum Level 6 qualification achieved in one of the years stated above.

I hired two graduates earlier this year before the call for GradStart – I qualify under the criteria – can I claim funding retrospectively for these graduates?

No. GradStart is only open to graduates hired through the GradStart offer.

Can I hire more than one graduate?

SMEs can be supported for three graduates. Enterprise Ireland will provide financial support of €15k or 50% of individual graduate salary costs (whichever is the lesser).

Large companies and High Potential Start up (HPSUs) companies should refer to the terms of reference for eligibility criteria.

Who should I nominate as a mentor for the graduate?

The chosen mentor will need to allocate time to mentor the graduate on your business needs and be available for questions and direction.

I want to hire a graduate. How will the salary grant be paid?

Please see the first three paragraphs of Section 12 (pg8) of the Terms of Reference for further details.

What do I need to draw down the grant?

Please see paragraphs 4 & 5, Section 12 (pg8) of the Terms of Reference for further details.

Does Enterprise Ireland set the salaries?

No. It is up to each company to negotiate the salary with their chosen candidate.

This website uses cookies to improve our website, provide more personalised services to you and analyse our traffic. To find out more information about our use of cookies please read our Cookies Policy

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.